The Texas Rangers have been AL West champions in each of manager Jeff Banister’s first two seasons, and their 95 wins last year were the most in the American League.
That is a lot to celebrate. But not nearly enough after another AL Division Series loss to Toronto and again coming up short of that elusive World Series title.
“I think that burns deeper than just the prospects of being good. You’ve got to have talent, but desire overrides a lot of that,” Banister said. “Still burns deep. Incomplete mission.”
Texas heads to spring training in Surprise five seasons removed from their only World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.
Adrian Beltre goes into his 20th major league season only 58 hits shy of 3,000 in his career, and after winning his fifth Gold Glove last year. But the third baseman, who will turn 38 days after the opener, is still looking for his first World Series ring.
“We do have a team that can compete, obviously,” Beltre said. “Find a way how to get it done. Not only get to the playoffs, but go all the way.”
Even though Gold Glove-winning first baseman Mitch Moreland, All-Star center fielder Ian Desmond and Carlos Beltran all left in free agency, Texas may be in better shape heading into this spring than a year ago.
Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, their two aces, are set to start a season in the rotation together for the first time. Sam Dyson had 38 saves after taking over as the closer in mid-May, while Tony Barnette and Matt Bush excelled in their MLB debuts as 30-something relievers.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is set for a full season in Texas after being acquired in an Aug. 1 trade. Carlos Gomez, who came even later than that after his release from Houston, hit eight homers in 33 games and now moves to center field, where he won a Gold Glove in 2013 for Milwaukee.
“A lot of reasons that we have to believe that we are better, but that’s all on paper,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “It’s got to play out on the field.”
The Rangers expect to fill out their rotation with former Padres right-handers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Cashner, a Texas native, finished last season in Miami, while Ross was on the disabled list the rest of the year after starting the Padres’ opener. Ross is still rehabbing from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in October. Texas didn’t re-sign veteran starters Colby Lewis or Derek Holland.
ROOKIE TO WATCH
Left-hander Yohander Mendez was the organization’s top minor league pitcher last year and will likely be at Triple-A Round Rock, but made his big league debut last September.
Up the middle, Texas has shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor. Andrus, at 28 the team’s longest-tenured player going into his ninth season, hit a career-best .302 last season. Odor, who just turned 23, had plenty of big shots last year with 33 homers — and that punch to Jose Bautista’s jaw.
The Rangers have no plans for a full-time DH, giving Banister flexibility to use that spot to give different guys a break from the field while staying in the lineup. “We have a third baseman (Beltre) that’s a little prickly about getting days off, and it’s a little easier to convince him to take half a day,” Daniels said.
Mike Napoli is expected to officially rejoin the Rangers at the start of spring training for a third stint with the team, filling the pressing needs for a first baseman and another big bat in the middle of the lineup. Former AL MVP and five-time All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton will be in camp on a minor league deal and working out at first base after missing last season following three operations on his left knee.