Banister, Rangers embracing underdog role

Manager expects long-shot status to drive team; Odor looks to rebound; Beltre discusses milestone

February 20th, 2018

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister came up with a simple slogan to describe his first-day speech to his players.
"Hungry dogs run faster," Banister said.
The Rangers may be hungry dogs after going 78-84 last season and failing to win a division title for a third straight year. But they are also considerable underdogs going into 2018, based on what they did this offseason and being in the same division as the Astros.
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"Outside expectations, there is nothing we can do about," Banister said. "It's what our internal expectations are. We play well in the underdog position, we have shown that."
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Banister said the message is to get back to the style of baseball the Rangers played when winning division titles in 2015-16. It was the style that helped the Rangers rebound from a 95-loss season in 2014 to win a division title.
"A relentless style of baseball that puts pressure on the other team," Banister said. "It's not always pretty, but do whatever is necessary to win the baseball game. Don't care who gets credit, it's an all-in Texas mentality."
Banister said the Rangers were humbled last year.
"The most important thing is how you respond after being humbled," he said.
Banister expects big year from Odor
did not have a good year in 2017, despite hitting 30 home runs. His slugging percentage dropped from .502 in 2016 to .397, his .252 on-base percentage was the second lowest by a Major League qualifier since 1995 and his .204 batting average was the second lowest in club history.

Banister said he is expecting Odor to respond just like he did in 2015. Odor was the Rangers' Opening Day second baseman, but was optioned to Triple-A after a month of hitting .144. He was recalled on June 15 and hit .292 with a .527 slugging percentage the rest of the way.
"The skill set hasn't gone away, it didn't erode, he didn't get injured," Banister said. "He didn't lose it. The desire, drive to work at it, to get better, what his work ethic will be … I am banking on all of these factors allowing him to be the player we know he can be."
Beltre not interested in milestone
had to endure much attention and buildup as he approached 3,000 hits last year, and was visibly relieved when it was over.

Guess what? He is now just 38 home runs away from 500 in his career. Only five players have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs for their careers: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro.
Beltre laughed, shook his head and waved it off when it was brought up in jest on Tuesday.
"Shut up!" he said, walking away.
Rangers beat:
• General manager Jon Daniels has left camp to return to Texas and address a family matter.
• Pitching coach Doug Brocail said relievers and Tony Barnette were particularly impressive in their batting practice sessions. Said Brocail, "Jepsen was the Pitcher of the Day and Barnette looked extremely well."
was pulled out of the morning workouts because of back spasms. It is not considered serious, but temperatures were in the 40s for the morning work.
• Left-handers Matt Moore (sore right knee) and (broken bone, right elbow) are being limited in their pitcher's fielding practice, but are still going through their throwing programs.