Orioles Preview - Page 43 - The Rangers

Orioles Preview
- Page 43
The Rangers

Associated Press


The Rangers have an optimistic new manager, a converted middle infielder taking over for a retired star at third base and a rotation filled with starters who have missed significant time after surgery.


First-time manager Chris Woodward is now in charge of a team coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time in a decade, with a lineup full of 20-something position players and a rotation bearing promise—if they can all stay healthy.


“I told those guys it doesn’t matter what people say on the outside, that internal belief is there, and they already have it,” Woodward said. “I guess I’m most optimistic because they have it, they have it already.”


Woodward, a former utility infielder, was the third-base coach the past three seasons for the Dodgers, who went to the World Series the last two seasons.


While out of contention in the loaded AL West, the Rangers used much of last season to focus on the development of younger players. Shortstop Elvis Andrus, now 30 and going into his 11th season, is the only Rangers player remaining from their consecutive World Series teams in 2010 and 2011.


The primary additions include right hander Lance Lynn (three-year, $30 million contract) and two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (one year, $3.5 million) to play third after Adrian Beltre retired.


Lefty Mike Minor, the only returner from last year’s rotation, will be the opening-day starter. After starting for the Braves from 2010-14, he missed two seasons after surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He returned as a reliever for the Royals in 2017 before the Rangers made him a starter again.


Lynn is 21-18 with a 4.04 ERA in 64 games over the last two seasons since missing 2016 following Tommy John surgery. That is what sidelined Edinson Volquez and Drew Smyly all of last year.


Young sluggers: Joey Gallo has more homers than singles (88 to 82) in his big-league career, and Nomar Mazara, who turns 24 in April, has already had three consecutive 20-homer seasons. Woodward said if the young outfielders become consistent contributors, it will have a ripple effect through the lineup.


“If they’re doing things right, they’ll be on base a lot, they’ll be slugging a lot, they just present a lot of pressure on the opposing staffs, ”Woodward said.


Gallo, 25, has had consecutive 40-homer seasons despite hitting only .208 with 403 strikeouts the last two years. A big focus for Mazara, who hits a lot of grounders, has been to get more balls in the air.


New faces: Along with the rotation changes, the Rangers added veterans Shawn Kelley, Zach McAllister and Jason Hammel in the bullpen.


Rookies to watch: Hard-throwing right hander Connor Sadzeck will likely start the season in the bullpen. The 6-foot-7 Sadzeck allowed only one earned run over 91⁄3 innings in 13 appearances last season in his big-league debut. Yohander Mendez, a 24-year-old lefty, was expected to provide some starting depth but will miss the first half of the season with a strained ligament in his elbow.


Final season: With a retractable-roof stadium being built across the street, this will be the 26th and final season for the Rangers in their current ballpark that opened in 1994. Kenny Rogers pitched a perfect game in the first year of the stadium.


Photo: Rangers general manager Jon Daniels will be dealing with lots of question marks this year.