SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The time has come for the Rangers to stop with the talk about rebuilding for the future, the restructuring of the coaching staff and the front office, and the long-term goals of the organization.Spring Training is here. Pitchers and catchers reported to the Rangers' facility in Surprise
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The time has come for the Rangers to stop with the talk about rebuilding for the future, the restructuring of the coaching staff and the front office, and the long-term goals of the organization.
Spring Training is here. Pitchers and catchers reported to the Rangers' facility in Surprise on Tuesday and the focus needs to fall directly on the immediate task of getting ready for the 2019 season.
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That's what 63 players will be worried about once the full-squad workouts begin Monday and the Cactus League commences with the first game scheduled for Feb. 23 against the Royals.
"Major League camp is about getting guys prepared now," general manager Jon Daniels said. "The larger organizational goals are one thing, but big league camp and the mindset of our players looking to improve today and getting out there and executing today is something totally different."
Enter new manager Chris Woodward.
Yes, he has been around all winter, talking with players individually, overseeing the mini-camp and voluntary workouts, assembling the new coaching staff, fulfilling all the necessary public-relations assignments and saying all the right things required of the new guy in charge. Like almost all new managers, he has been able to enjoy the inevitable feel-good honeymoon period with players, coaches, executives and staff that goes with a new hire.
Now he will step on the field in front of the entire squad and the Rangers will start getting a real feel for what their new manager is about.
"We just want to let them know what we expect from them on a daily basis and what it takes to compete," Woodward said. "I don't want there to be any gray area on what we are expecting. They are pretty aware of that but once we start getting into games, it will become clear how I lead them through that."
Obviously, health is paramount in Spring Training. But so is developing the right attitude and message for the ballclub.
"You want to make sure they come into camp ready to play when they step on the field," Woodward said. "Whether it's the first pitch of Spring Training or the last pitch of the World Series, I expect the same competitive fire, the same preparation. Obviously, it's not going to be as efficient early on because they are still getting their legs under them. But I want them to come prepared and ready to compete."
There will be much talk in Spring Training about new technology, new analytics and new teaching methods. There are several members of the Rangers' coaching staff and front office who come from a different background than the traditional proving grounds for old-school baseball guys. Woodward said the Rangers will have their share of meetings and he wants his players to be receptive to new ideas. But much of that will be done in the background and won't be obvious out on the fields.
Analytics, data and embracing new technology were not primary reasons why Woodward was hired.
"[Woodward] to me has some similarities from a resume standpoint as Ron Washington," Daniels said. "Grew up in a different era as a coach than Washington did. Exposed to a lot more as far as modern data and how to utilize it to develop players and develop strategies.
"But the biggest thing is [Woodward] has unbelievable energy, a tremendous passion for the game, the ability to connect with everybody, fans, players, coaches, front office, media. Very optimistic. Very upbeat ... think his experiences will allow him to relate to the people he needs to relate to."
Washington was ultimately successful with the Rangers because he was able to motivate his team to play hard and execute winning baseball on the field. Jeff Banister was able to do the same thing when the Rangers won division titles in 2015-16. That's still what all of this comes down to and it starts in Spring Training.
"I want them to know when we step on the field, what's expected out of all of us," Woodward said. "I'm excited to watch these guys compete. I have been watching them the whole offseason and I can't wait to see them get into games and see them compete as a unit."
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.