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Rangers ready for challenge of facing champs

Club looking to Hamels to set pace for '18 on Opening Day vs. Astros
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

The Rangers are out of the Arizona desert and ready for their first true challenge, facing the defending World Series champion Astros to open the 2018 season.

The two teams meet at 2:35 p.m. CT on Thursday at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers were 7-12 against their AL West and intrastate rivals last season, including 2-7 at home. Texas needs Opening Day starter Cole Hamels to get it headed back in the right direction, after it finished with a 78-84 mark last season following back-to-back division titles in 2015-16.

The Rangers are out of the Arizona desert and ready for their first true challenge, facing the defending World Series champion Astros to open the 2018 season.

The two teams meet at 2:35 p.m. CT on Thursday at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers were 7-12 against their AL West and intrastate rivals last season, including 2-7 at home. Texas needs Opening Day starter Cole Hamels to get it headed back in the right direction, after it finished with a 78-84 mark last season following back-to-back division titles in 2015-16.

Projected Opening Day Lineup

1. Delino DeShields CF
2. Joey Gallo 1B
3. Elvis Andrus SS
4. Adrian Beltre 3B
5. Nomar Mazara RF
6. Shin-Soo Choo DH
7. Robinson Chirinos C
8. Rougned Odor 2B
9. Ryan Rua LF

SP Cole Hamels

Key roles
• DeShields, who will lead off, is a threat to score 100 runs and steal 50 bases. He had an outstanding spring.

• The Rangers have yet to designate or identify who their closer will be. Alex Claudio, Jake Diekman and Keone Kela are all options, and the Rangers will possibly use multiple relievers in that role.

• The Rangers are going to give Rua an opportunity to be the everyday left fielder, rather than using him in a platoon situation.

Injury updates
• Right-hander Tim Lincecum will start the season on the disabled list with a blister on the middle finger of his right hand.

• Right-hander Tony Barnette will begin 2018 on the disabled list with stiffness in his lower back.

• Left-hander Martin Perez will also begin the 2018 campaign on the disabled list while he finishes his recovery from a broken bone in the tip of his right elbow. He is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday and possibly start for the Rangers on April 5.

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.

Texas Rangers