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Woodward: Lynn will be Opening Day starter

@Sullivan_Ranger
June 25, 2020

ARLINGTON -- Lance Lynn will be the Rangers' Opening Day starter. Manager Chris Woodward made the announcement Thursday in a media conference. He announced it even though the Rangers have yet to receive or reveal their upcoming 60-game schedule that begins July 23 or July 24.

ARLINGTON -- Lance Lynn will be the Rangers' Opening Day starter.

Manager Chris Woodward made the announcement Thursday in a media conference. He announced it even though the Rangers have yet to receive or reveal their upcoming 60-game schedule that begins July 23 or July 24.

Rangers FAQ: Details on the upcoming season

It may seem like Woodward had three months to think about it, but he was actually one day away from announcing it in March when Spring Training was shut down because of the pandemic.

Woodward said the decision was between Lynn and left-hander Mike Minor, who was the Opening Day starter last season.

“Both had really good years last year and carried our ballclub,” Woodward said. “They both deserve it, but at the end, I felt like since I gave it to Mike last year, I’ll give it to Lance this year.”

The decision is significant. Every decision Woodward and his staff make will be significant this season. What is known as summer camp begins on Wednesday as the Rangers prepare for a 60-game season that offers little or no margin for error.

The Rangers' goal is to win the World Series and Woodward made it clear: Players must be ready to perform quickly or risk losing playing time. Texas doesn't have much time to wait out hitters or pitchers who fall into a slump.

“In a typical season, you give guys the benefit of the doubt to figure things out,” Woodward said. “We don’t have time for that this year. We have to hit the ground running. There is less [leeway] for guys. We feel that way from a team standpoint and feel like guys have to approach it that way individually. How I manage games: If a guy isn’t doing well, he’s not going to last long.”

The Rangers will start out with a five-man rotation with Lynn and Minor joined by Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Left-handers Joe Palumbo and Kolby Allard, and right-hander Ariel Jurado are the first line of reserves.

Each has been throwing through the shutdown and is expected to get three “outings” in summer camp. That should put them in a position to throw approximately 90 pitches their first time out of the regular season.

“They are on track for that,” Woodward said. “They’ve done a really good job of doing everything we asked and [being] prepared for this moment. They are all ready to go.”

The bullpen will require far more deliberation, beginning with the number of relievers on the roster. Clubs have 30-man rosters for the first two weeks, so the Rangers will have the flexibility of going with 8-12 relievers from the beginning.

José Leclerc is the closer with Rafael Montero and Nick Goody in front of him as the right-handed setup relievers. Right-hander Jesse Chavez is over his spring shoulder soreness and should be in the bullpen as well. Brett Martin is the leading left-handed candidate. Joely Rodríguez was locked in from the left side but is sidelined with a strained lat muscle and not expected to be ready for Opening Day.

Right-hander Jonathan Hernández and left-hander Taylor Hearn intrigue Woodward because of their young talent and dominating stuff. Both could figure in as either spot starters or three-to-four-inning middle relievers. Right-hander Luke Farrell, who was outstanding in Spring Training, is another versatile arm.

First base remains open, Woodward said. Ronald Guzmán and Greg Bird, both left-handed hitters, are competing for the spot, but Woodward brought up the possibility of third baseman Todd Frazier moving to first either part or full-time.

That would happen if Woodward feels Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Nick Solak or Matt Duffy have earned playing time at third. Switch-hitting Blake Swihart and Sam Travis, a right-handed hitter, remain wild cards.

Woodward said if someone like Solak or Kiner-Falefa comes out swinging, it will be hard to keep them out of the lineup. Danny Santana enters summer camp as the center fielder, but his versatility gives the Rangers options. So does veteran utility player Rob Refsnyder, another option that intrigues Woodward.

“The two things I look at are guys who are fearless when they are on the mound and on the field,” Woodward said. “If they are fearless and competitive, some of these guys are going to play bigger roles than you think. I'm excited to see some of those faces coming soon.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.