Inbox: How set are Rangers on Leclerc closing?

May 27th, 2020

What is the Rangers' confidence level with Jose Leclerc as closer? He was inconsistent last year in the job and seemed to continue a trend of Rangers closers who pitch well one year and then struggle the next. It seems like that’s an annual Rangers tradition.
-- Patrick A., Arlington

The Rangers clearly love Leclerc in the back of the bullpen, but manager Chris Woodward occasionally talked about using him earlier in the game as a multiple-inning weapon. Rafael Montero has been mentioned as a possible closer. The Rangers were also hoping to get a better look at Cody Allen in Spring Training, but he had some minor arm issues that limited his chances. It will be interesting to see where Allen is once baseball resumes. He lives in Tarrant County, Texas, is feeling good and has been throwing at Globe Life Field during the pandemic.

I don’t debate that Nolan Ryan is the best right-handed starter in Rangers history, but leaving Darvish out of the Top 5 I disagree with, when his numbers compare even if he did miss time. Can you explain your reasoning?
-- Mike W., St. Louis

Yu Darvish pitched well for the Rangers when he was healthy, and if you go strictly by numbers, he belongs ahead of Colby Lewis in the Top 5. Lewis made the list behind Ryan, Charlie Hough and Fergie Jenkins simply because he pitched on four division championship teams, including two that went to the World Series.

That leaves Darvish vs. Kevin Brown, and it comes down to whatever numbers you want to crunch. Brown had a 5.9 to 4.6 advantage in Wins Above Replacement, according to STATS, mainly because he pitched longer in Texas than Darvish. The reality is it just feels like the Rangers should have gotten more out of Darvish and Brown during their time with the Rangers.

If play begins this year, who will be the center fielder, and will he be the starter next year on Opening Day?
-- Tim W., Sulphur Springs, Texas

Danny Santana should be the Rangers' center fielder this season. All those Spring Training experiments with Nick Solak and others will likely need to be pushed aside out of expediency in getting a team together as quickly as possible. One of the big player-development setbacks for the Rangers this year will be Eli White and Leody Taveras missing time in center at Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco.

How many Spring Training sites have the Rangers had in their history?
-- Buzz K., Arcadia, Fla.

The Rangers and Washington Senators trained at Pompano Beach (Fla.) Municipal Stadium from 1961-86. It was not an ideal situation. The Rangers moved to Port Charlotte, Fla., in '87, turning down a chance to go to Port St. Lucie, Fla., which became the Mets' new home. The Rangers went to Surprise, Ariz., in 2003. There was a brief flirtation of a six-team arrangement in Las Vegas, but it was dependent on the Dodgers, and they weren’t that interested. The Rangers also negotiated with the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation in Arizona, but that mercifully broke down. Fort McDowell is so far east of Phoenix, up in the mountains, that almost every Cactus League road trip would've been an ordeal.

What is the best-case scenario and worst-case scenario for third base and first base this year?
-- Helen H., Arlington

The best-case scenario at is veteran Todd Frazier providing middle-of-the-order run production at third base and either Ronald Guzmán or Greg Bird doing so at first. Matt Duffy and/or Isiah Kiner-Falefa are the alternatives at third base with Sam Travis and Blake Swihart representing depth at first. Travis had a hamstring problem early in camp but was coming on strong at the end. He is another player who could benefit from a fresh start when baseball resumes.

Would the rules committee ever consider a bounced ball into the strike zone to be a strike? Maybe more fun. Maybe just once per at-bat. Maybe use it in Minor Leagues as a gimmick to draw fans.
-- Ian G., Forney, Texas

I think that is called cricket.