Texas Rangers: 5 Things Fans Want to See in Spring Training
The Texas Rangers had quite the offseason after missing the playoffs last season for the first time in four years.
And because of that, there is new hype surrounding the club as spring training begins. Manager Ron Washington will be showcasing his new players in the Arizona sun over the next month as he finalizes his roster.
There are plenty of storylines and things to watch this coming March for Rangers fans. New acquisitions and position battles will provide plenty of buzz as the countdown to Opening Day reaches its final stage.
Here are five things for Rangers fans to be excited about in spring training.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
You can follow Trey on Twitter @ treydwarren
The Return of Colby Lewis
Colby Lewis has not pitched for the Rangers since July 2012.
Surgeries on his elbow and hip have kept Lewis off the mound for nearly a year-and-a-half. Fans have been waiting that long for the return of arguably the best postseason pitcher in franchise history.
With one spot in the rotation open and the uncertainty of Matt Harrison’s return, Lewis has the chance of making the Opening Day roster. He will be battling for a rotation spot with Tommy Hanson, who made his debut with the team on Feb. 27.
A strong showing in spring training will make Lewis' comeback complete when he is pitching in the first week of April with the Rangers.
Prince Fielder and the Long Ball
Prince Fielder was brought to Texas to provide left-handed power for the club.
It didn’t take him long to get going, hitting his first long ball of spring training on Feb. 27 in the very first game. Fielder hit a screaming line drive over the right-field wall at the Surprise complex against the Kansas City Royals.
I was present for the game and let me tell you: It got out in a hurry. It took two at-bats before Fielder received his first standing ovation from the fans behind the first-base dugout.
It’s just the first game of spring training and there is a long way to go. But it is a great start for Fielder, who had a career low in the home run department (25) in 2013.
The Battle for the 9th-Inning Job
Fans won’t be watching Joe Nathan trotting out of the bullpen in a Ranger uniform anymore.
The job will most likely be given to Neftali Feliz, Joakim Soria or Tanner Scheppers. Fans will get to see the three of them do battle for the next month as Washington figures out his bullpen. The two pitchers who don’t get the job will find themselves in setup roles.
And that is something to be excited about for the upcoming season. There are multiple candidates who could be plugged in to different spots of the final innings of any ballgame. If it doesn't work out for the manager, he can move on to the next one.
The Projected Opening Day Lineup
All the offseason changes have resulted in a revamped offense with the potential of scoring plenty of runs this season.
And because of that, fans are waiting to see the projected Opening Day lineup. It will include Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre, which alone should make opposing pitchers uneasy facing this team.
Getting to see the new offense in spring training will just be a preview of 2014. The upgrades will become more evident when the starting nine play all nine innings.
Run Support for Yu Darvish
The lineup leads into the next thing fans should be excited about: run support for Yu Darvish.
The Rangers lost four 1-0 games that resulted in losing decisions for Darvish. The team lost six other games that Darvish started and the offense scored three runs or less. Run support was inconsistent for Darvish in 2013, as well as the rest of the pitching staff.
The rotation and bullpen were the biggest reason the Rangers were able to win 91 games last year.
The upgraded offense should allow Darvish to win more than 13 games this season, the number of wins he had in 2013. It may even lead to his first Cy Young Award, something Texas fans have never seen in the club’s history.