The Texas Rangers did plenty of housekeeping during the offseason.
Prince Fielder was brought in to provide a power bat from the left side. That deal sent Ian Kinsler to Detroit and opened up a spot for Jurickson Profar at second base. Shin-Soo Choo was signed to fill out the outfield and take over the leadoff spot.
As a result, there are only a couple of things that manager Ron Washington has to take care of during spring training.
Here is the club’s to-do list.
Pick a New Closer
Now that Joe Nathan is gone, the team is looking for a new player to slam the door in the ninth.
Luckily for Texas, there are three guys who could potentially take over: Joakim Soria, Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers.
Soria was the former closer in Kansas City before Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2012 season. Before that, he completed 160 saves in 180 opportunities from 2006-11. He averaged 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and had an ERA of 2.50 during that span.
Feliz closed for the Rangers from 2010-11 before moving to the starting rotation the next year. He too had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2012 and did not return until September of last season. The 25-year-old converted 74 of 84 save opportunities and struck out 8.8 batters per nine innings.
Scheppers was the setup man for Texas in 2013 and did a nice job. He appeared in 76 games, which was the most of any Ranger reliever. He posted a 1.88 ERA and earned 27 holds in 76.2 innings. Scheppers throws the hardest of the three pitchers but needs to upgrade his slider.
It is an issue most teams would love to have. Washington will have the month of March to choose his closer.
And if it doesn’t work out, he still has extra options.
The club still needs one more starter to fill out the rotation.
Yu Darvish is obviously at the top, followed by Martin Perez, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison. However, per Drew Davison of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (h/t Dayn Perry of CBS Sports), Harrison was shut down from baseball activities on Feb. 20, which may hurt his chances of being ready in April.
Texas signed Tommy Hanson on Feb. 14 as another option for the rotation. He is looking to make a comeback from a disappointing 2013 campaign in which he also missed time due to the death of his brother.
|Candidates' career #'s for No. 5 spot in rotation|
Colby Lewis is a fan favorite and has a shot of filling in the No. 5 spot. He has not pitched since 2012 after elbow and hip surgeries stalled comebacks to the big leagues. The 34-year-old signed a minor league deal back in November and received an invitation to spring training.
Nick Tepesch is another option for the Rangers. He made his debut last season in April and started 17 games for the club, going 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA. He won the No. 5 spot out of spring training last year.
It is also unlikely the Rangers will go with one of their top prospects to start the season. Alex Gonzalez split time between Low-A Spokane and High-A Myrtle Beach in his first year in the organization. Luke Jackson also spent most of his time in Myrtle Beach, but he had a small stint with Double-A Frisco.
Either way, this is another position Washington has a full litter to choose from. Spring training will be a battleground for two premium spots on the roster.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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