Woodward mulls decision on OD starter

February 27th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As of Wednesday, Rangers manager Chris Woodward has exactly a month to make up his mind about who his Opening Day starter will be, and this year, he has three deserving candidates.

Woodward could go with last year’s Opening Day starter, , or returning workhorse
, who led the team with 16 wins in 2019. And then there’s offseason pickup , who started every Opening Day for the Indians from 2015-19 and won the American League Cy Young Award in '14 and '17.

“I kind of have an idea,” Woodward said. “But when you have three guys of that caliber, two of them aren’t going to be happy that they’re not starting Opening Day. It’s a good problem for us to have.”

So it remains to be seen who will start March 26 in Seattle. But due to an early off-day, Woodward said whoever it is will probably start the first game in Globe Life Field history as well, in the home opener against the Angels on March 31.

Lynn is scheduled to start in Tempe against the Angels on Friday, while Minor will pitch a simulated game in Surprise on Saturday. Kluber will pitch Sunday against the Dodgers in Glendale. All three have already pitched live batting practice against teammates on the back fields of the Rangers’ complex.

“I don’t think it really matters, unless from their standpoint, the psychological factor of actually getting in front of a crowd,” Woodward said. “Those guys are pretty locked in. If you were to ask Mike and Lance and Kluber, when they’re pitching in a sim game, they’re about as intense as they are when there’s 60,000 people in the stands.”

Santana gets more work in center

The current favorite in the race to be the Rangers’ starting center fielder, , started there Wednesday for the second time in three days after being pulled from Friday’s game with left calf tightness. He led off and went 1-for-2 with a walk in the 4-3 loss to the Rockies.

Santana, a super-utility man who started at seven positions for Texas last season, has played more games in center (147) than at any other position over his six years in the Majors. He also has the most experience in center of any current Ranger, now that Delino DeShields is gone.

Santana is “always impressive, as far as his athleticism, his ability to run,” Woodward said. “For a center fielder, you’ve got to have some speed, obviously. I feel like from what saw last year and what I’ve seen in the past, [he’s a] good route runner, has a good feel, not a whole lot of panic when the ball’s in the air. Really good at just, on the run, catching it. Seems to be fine around the wall and he’s got a cannon for an arm. All the characteristics are there of an elite center fielder. I think just getting him out there, getting him to be there more often will help him get even more comfortable.”

He said it

“That was pretty cool. Michael Young was sitting next to me, I said, ‘Hey, these three guys coming up, these guys could all be in the starting lineup in a couple years.’ It’s pretty encouraging just knowing all three of those guys and the work they’re putting in right now.” -- Woodward on Tuesday’s ninth inning, when top prospects Josh Jung (No. 1), Sam Huff (No. 2) and Leody Taveras (No. 5) batted in succession

Rangers beat

• Catcher left the game Wednesday after two innings because he was feeling ill, but Woodward said he was OK after the game. replaced him behind the plate.

• Right-hander made his first spring appearance, allowing one hit in a scoreless third inning. Vólquez signed a Minor League deal in December and is bidding to make the roster at age 36 after spending five months on the IL last year. Vólquez signed with the Rangers in 2001 and spent his first three MLB seasons with Texas.

• Right fielder went 2-for-3 Wednesday, putting him at .500 (5-for-10) in four games this spring. He slashed .340/.412/.553 in 159 at-bats at Triple-A Nashville last season, but hit .213/.306/.373 in 75 at-bats with Texas late in the year.

Up next

Right-hander will make his first Cactus League appearance for the Rangers, starting against Cubs righty Colin Rea in Surprise at 2:05 p.m. CT on Thursday. Phillips made 22 Minor League starts last season, including 16 starts for Double-A Frisco, where he was 7-9 with a 4.73 ERA.