Are the Rangers concerned about their Spring Training record? It has been the worst in the big leagues.
-- Kelly D., Fort Worth, Texas
On Friday night, the Rangers had a 7-4 lead over the Padres going into the bottom of the seventh, and Anthony Gose came in for his first appearance since being returned from the Astros. He is a converted outfielder still learning to pitch, and he gave up five runs. The Rangers went on to lose.
Many of these games are decided in the late innings after the regulars have been replaced. The Rangers' poor record may be more of a sign about their lack of depth in the upper levels of the farm system more than anything else. But they knew that going in. One club official privately predicted at the beginning that they wouldn't have a good spring record.
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The Rangers were 10-19 in Spring Training in 2010, 13-16 in '11 and 9-19-5 in '15. They won the American League West all three years. Conversely, the Rangers had winning spring records from four straight years from 2000-03, and then they finished last in the AL West. That was when they had a lot of great young offensive talent coming through the system -- Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Travis Hafner, Kevin Mench -- and pounded opposing teams late in spring games.
In your opinion, who has really stood out so far in Spring Training?
-- James P., Highland Village, Texas
Delino DeShields has clearly been the camp MVP. He has played well in center field and has really seized the leadoff role. He uses his speed well and is drawing more walks. DeShields looks primed for a big year at the top of the order, and 100 runs scored should be the baseline goal.
Any idea who will be the closer? Is there a chance they could sign Greg Holland?
-- Paul F., Fort Worth
The Rangers haven't designated a closer yet, but right now, the best bets are left-hander Jake Diekman and right-hander Keone Kela. Alex Claudio has shown he can handle the role, but Texas likes him earlier in the game. Timothy Lincecum is obviously a candidate, but he won't be ready by Opening Day.
Kela has some similarities to John Wetteland, who was the Rangers' closer from 1997-2000 and is now in their Hall of Fame. Kela has the same fierce disposition and great stuff. It took Wetteland a while early in his career to figure things out before becoming a great closer. It wouldn't be surprising if Kela is following the same path.
As for Holland, so far there hasn't been any possible interest in him. We'll see what happens if the Rangers have bullpen issues early in the season, but right now, there are no plans to sign Holland.
Do the Rangers have any interest in Jose Bautista? He could fit well into their lineup.
-- Brian C., Oklahoma City, Okla.
Bautista's representatives have been trying to get the Rangers interested in the free-agent slugger all winter and have been unsuccessful. The Rangers are committed to Ryan Rua as their left fielder, with Willie Calhoun and Drew Robinson still in the picture. The Rangers are passing on Bautista.
Why hasn't the Julio Pablo Martinez signing been made public by club?
-- Joe D., Pharr, Texas
The Rangers reached an agreement with the young Cuban outfielder early in camp, but there was a lot of paperwork and legal red tape to plow through before the deal can be made official. It will get done.
Has anybody stood out this spring on the Minor League side?
-- Carl K., Arlington
The reports from those who have been watching closely say right-hander Michael Matuella is healthy and really throwing the ball well. This is a guy whose arm issues kept him from being one of the top picks in the 2015 Draft. The Rangers took him in the third round and have been patient through all his trials. Now, it looks like that patience has the potential to pay off big.