ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are getting closer to playing baseball in their $1.2 billion ballpark.
“I’m glad we're going to get a chance to get out there and play,” general manager Jon Daniels said. ”We've been focused so much on protocols, and everything we need to do, to do it safely. That’s probably my biggest thing I have on my plate. I haven't had a chance to think about it from a bigger picture. I think we all would have chosen, in a perfect world, it would have been a little sooner in the summer, but I’m glad that piece of it is behind us.“
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The Rangers were 78-84 in 2019, and they went to Arizona in February with the idea they would contend for a spot in the postseason. Much of that optimism was centered around the rebuild of their starting rotation, with the additions of Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to go with Mike Minor and Lance Lynn.
They will have to do it over a 60-game schedule. The Rangers were 32-28 over their first 60 games last year after going 24-36 in 2018 and 28-32 to start the '17 season.
Prior to that, the Rangers had winning records over their first 60 games in 10 of 13 seasons between 2004-16. In two other seasons ('08, '14) they were 30-30. Their best start in that stretch was 37-23 to open the '16 season while they were 21-39 in '07.
Here is what fans need to know at the outset.
Where will camp take place, and when?
The Rangers will utilize Globe Life Field, beginning July 1. That was the plan even before the Rangers closed their Spring Training facility in Surprise, Ariz., for precautionary measures. The Rangers will have 60 players in camp. The workouts will be divided between three groups and spread throughout the day. The Rangers will also use the weight room and other facilities still intact at Globe Life Park across the street.
When and where is Opening Day?
MLB anticipates Opening Day occurring July 23-24, per its official release. The official schedule will need to be approved by players -- expected in the next week or so -- before being released. So, for now, we still don’t know if the Rangers will start at home or on the road, or who their opponent will be for the opening series.
Which teams will be on the schedule?
In order to reduce travel, regular-season play will consist of 40 intradivision games with 10 games against each of the Rangers' normal American League West foes -- the Angels, Athletics, Astros and Mariners -- plus a total of 20 games against the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rockies and D-backs from the National League West.
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How are my team’s injured players doing?
The Rangers revealed a new concern on Wednesday. Left-hander Joely Rodríguez has a strained lat muscle that occurred at the beginning of May. He is in a throwing program and not expected to be ready for the start of the season. Daniels said Rodriguez shouldn’t be too long after that.
Outfielder Willie Calhoun is fully recovered from the broken jaw he sustained after getting hit by a pitch in the final week of Spring Training. Catcher Jose Trevino is also good to go after dealing with a fractured knuckle on his right index finger in Spring Training. Right-handed pitcher Jesse Chavez had a weak shoulder in Spring Training but is at full strength for a spot in the bullpen. Catcher Jeff Mathis is also expected to be ready after ending Spring Training with a pulled left hamstring.
What are some competitions to watch when camp resumes?
The Rangers left Spring Training undecided about first base with Ronald Guzmán and Greg Bird as the primary candidates. Sam Travis and Blake Swihart were also possibilities. Back in March, the Rangers also toyed with the idea of Todd Frazier playing first against left-handed pitching with Matt Duffy, Nick Solak and Isiah Kiner-Falefa as third-base possibilities.
Who will play center field?
Danny Santana. All those Spring Training auditions for Solak, Eli White and Leody Taveras were fun, but the Rangers won’t have time to experiment with only a few weeks to get ready for a shortened season.
How do the roster rules affect the Rangers?
Expanded rosters will work like so: Teams can field a 30-man Opening Day active roster, which they must reduce to 28 players at the season’s two-week mark. Two weeks later, on Day 29 of the season, they must reduce that roster to 26 players. They will carry 26 players for the rest of the season.
The Rangers will need all the depth they can get, especially on the pitching side. They had several pitchers battling for a spot in the bullpen and, at least initially with expanded rosters, there will be room for more to make the active roster.
Teams are expected to be allowed to keep a total of 60 players -- the standard 40-man roster, plus 20 additional players on a taxi squad. Teams can take up to three taxi squad players on the road (if three, one must be a catcher). The regular injured list will be for 10 days in 2020 for both position players and pitchers, as in 2019. MLB is also instituting a special COVID-19-related injured list for players who test positive, have confirmed exposure or are exhibiting symptoms. There would not be a minimum or maximum number of days players can spend on this list; any player who tests positive will not be allowed to return until he tests negative twice.
Players optioned or outrighted off the roster must remain that way for a minimum of 10 days before they can be recalled.
What happens to non-roster players?
A big question is what happens to players who came to camp on Minor League contracts and don’t make the Opening Day roster.
Any non-roster invitees who make the team will have to be added to the 40-man roster as well as the active roster. If/when an NRI is removed from the active roster, he can be optioned to the taxi squad, if he has options remaining. If not, that player will need to clear waivers before being eligible for the taxi squad. Players with requisite service time can elect free agency in lieu of a taxi squad assignment. Released players become free agents. Any players released from a club’s taxi squad are ineligible to return to that club’s player pool for the remainder of the season and postseason.
The Rangers had quite a few NRIs this spring, including some with a real shot at making the team. On the pitching side, this included right-handed relievers Luis Garcia, Cody Allen, Jimmy Herget, Derek Law, Juan Nicasio and Edinson Vólquez. The list also includes catchers Tim Federowicz, Nick Ciuffo and Blake Swihart, outfielder Rob Refsnyder and infielders Duffy, Travis and Yadiel Rivera.
The Rangers' 40-man roster is full, so if any of the above players make the team, someone on the current 40-man roster will have to be waived to open a spot for the addition.
Where does the Rangers rotation stand?
The Rangers will resume with a set rotation of Minor, Lynn, Kluber, Gibson and Lyles. Left-handers Joe Palumbo and Kolby Allard form the first wave of depth. They all have kept up their throwing during the shutdown, and the Rangers expect their five starters to work their way up to 80-90 pitches by their first start of the season.
How can I watch the games?
Rangers games will be on FOX Sports Southwest, unless pre-empted by a national television outlet. Fans can also stream out-of-market games LIVE on MLB.TV on your favorite supported devices.
How can I listen?
Eric Nadel and Matt Hicks will call the action on 105.3 The Fan. Listen to every Rangers game LIVE online or on the go with MLB Audio.
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.