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10 things to watch in Rangers camp

February 11, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday with the first full-squad workout next Monday.Right now, the Rangers have 63 players coming to big league camp although there is certainly more room for late additions in their Spring Training complex they have shared with the Royals since 2003.Here

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday with the first full-squad workout next Monday.
Right now, the Rangers have 63 players coming to big league camp although there is certainly more room for late additions in their Spring Training complex they have shared with the Royals since 2003.
Here are 10 things to watch for as the Rangers build up to Opening Day on March 28 against the Cubs.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
1. Chris Woodward and the new regime: This will be Woodward's 24th Spring Training in professional baseball but his first as a manager. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu will be his right-hand man in making things run smoothly, but Woodward will set the overall tone of the camp with his outgoing, enthusiastic personality. Also on the spot are hitting coach Luis Ortiz, his assistant Callix Crabbe, pitching coach Julio Rangel and bullpen coach Oscar Marin. All are first-timers in their critical new positions. 
2. Who will lead them? The Rangers are without third baseman Adrian Beltre, so everybody has been asking who will be the new team leaders. Garrulous Elvis Andrus and highly-respected Shin-Soo Choo seem the likely candidates but real leaders usually evolve into those roles naturally without it being forced. Nomar Mazara is a guy whose opinion carries weight in the Rangers clubhouse.

3. Where do the Tommy John guys stand? There has been much offseason talk about the progress that Edinson Vólquez, Shelby Miller and Drew Smyly have made in returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Now the Rangers get to measure it under real conditions. The Rangers hope they come back as strong as No. 2 starter Lance Lynn did while with the Cardinals in 2017.
4. Do the cuffs come off Mike Minor? He was a tremendous story last season as he made a successful transition back to being a starter for the first time since 2014. But the Rangers limited him to 157 innings, and Minor chafed at the excessive care being shown. Will the Rangers turn him loose in 2019?

5. Will the Rangers carry seven or eight relievers? This is an interesting call because an eighth reliever could signal a bigger strategic philosophy. Woodward and the Rangers have been discussing how much they will use the "opener" this season even with a set rotation. Having a reliever go 1-2 innings to start the game is a real trend in the game and the Rangers are certain to explore it even with what appears to be a set rotation.
6. Where do Yohander Méndez and Ariel Jurado stand? They were once the two most promising pitchers in the upper end of the Rangers' farm system and both were given an abbreviated audition last season. The results were mixed, and the Rangers are leaning toward having them begin the year in the Minor Leagues. But with Jonathan Hernandez, Joe Palumbo, Taylor Hearn and Brock Burke coming up behind them, Mendez and Jurado will have to work hard to keep their spot in the depth chart.
7. How secure are DeShields, Guzman? The Rangers enter camp with Delino DeShields as their center fielder and Ronald Guzmán at first base. They could secure their standing with a strong spring and will be given every chance to showcase their considerable talents. But the Rangers have never been inclined to guarantee anything to a young player. Let's just say Joey Gallo has the ability to play center and first base.

8. Speaking of Gallo … He is always fun to watch, whether it is in Spring Training or the regular season. His batting practices alone are must-see theater. But he will be a challenge for any new hitting coach. The quest is for Gallo not to get frustrated by extreme shifts and to cut down on his strikeouts, but not at the expense of his tremendous power capability.
9. Hunter Pence vs. Willie Calhoun: They are vying for a spot as a reserve outfielder, but the Rangers may not have room for both if they carry eight relievers. Pence fits better as a right-handed hitter but Calhoun remains a highly regarded young player who has shown he can hit and is getting better defensively.
10. How will the catchers be deployed: Jeff Mathis is the No. 1 catcher but he hasn't started at least half of his team's games since 2008 (90). Isiah Kiner-Falefa started 32 games as a rookie last season. With Jett Bandy and rookie Jose Trevino among those in reserve, it will be interesting to see how the Rangers get to 162 games with all their catchers.

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.