Rangers face 3 questions for new season

February 17th, 2016

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' official reporting date for pitchers and catchers continues to be widely ignored.

Pitchers and catchers report on Thursday and have their first workout on Friday, but most of them are already in camp working out. This is the Rangers' 14th season in Surprise, and while the complex has held up to this point, the players are enjoying the benefits of major renovations this spring.

"It's really, really nice," pitcher Derek Holland said.

 • Comeback candidates | Newcomers | Prospects | Looking ahead

Holland has been here since last Wednesday. Other pitchers working out included: Martin Perez, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Anthony Ranaudo, Nick Martinez, Sam Freeman, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela, Tom Wilhelmsen, Tony Barnette and Nick Tepesch. Yu Darvish is here, too, going through his rehabilitation program.

There are many position players here, even though the first full-squad workout isn't until Feb. 24. Among the position players here are Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Delino DeShields, Shin-Soo Choo, James Jones, Josh Hamilton, Joey Gallo, Robinson Chirinos, Kellin Deglan, Bobby Wilson and Brett Nicholas.

The team is eager to get started. In the final countdown to Spring Training, here are three questions looming at Rangers camp.

1. Who will be the fifth starter?

This is a timeless question that comes up every year in almost every club's camp: the last spot in the rotation.

The Rangers are overflowing with candidates. Declaring a leader is subjective, but Martinez was 7-7 with a 3.96 ERA in 21 starts and three relief appearances last season. He was third on the team in innings pitched (125).

Gonzalez also comported himself well as a rookie, going 4-6 with a 3.90 ERA in 10 starts and four relief appearances. Then there are righties Ranaudo and Phil Klein, who made two spots starts each for the Rangers last year. Veteran left-hander Cesar Ramos, in camp on a Minor League contract, has made 241 career relief appearances and 10 starts. He will be stretched out as a starter.

Tepesch, who made 39 starts for the Rangers in 2013-14, is also in camp on a Minor League contract. He missed all of last season because of Thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder.

The mystery pitcher is A.J. Griffin, who was 21-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 47 starts for the Athletics in 2012-13 before he missed the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

2. Are Hamilton and Profar healthy?

It's another timeless question, but the Rangers need to know if Hamilton can get through a season despite his left knee issues. There is also the possibility of other physical issues coming up.

• Hamilton hopeful, but knee still barking

Profar is also a player to watch after missing most of the past two seasons because of a torn muscle in his right shoulder. The 22-year-old said he is feeling good and ready to go, but with the Rangers already having a set lineup, it appears he will likely start the season as the shortstop at Triple-A Round Rock.

3. How will the bullpen be constructed?

Bullpen competition is another annual Spring Training question, but the Rangers are in a unique situation.

First of all, they are overflowing with legitimate candidates who in other years would be a lock to make the team. The locks this spring appear to be closer Shawn Tolleson, right-handers Sam Dyson, Kela and Wilhelmsen and left-hander Diekman.

That leaves only two spots in a competition that will include right-handers Tanner Scheppers, Barnette, Luke Jackson and Steve Johnson, and lefties Freeman, Andrew Faulkner and Alex Claudio. Rookie right-hander Scott Williams is another candidate.