The Rangers are amidst a rebuild, so there are many questions and answers to come in the following weeks as third-year manager Chris Woodward continues to establish the culture of competition within the organization.
Here are some of the questions about Spring Training that Texas fans may have:
Given the pandemic, how is Spring Training going to be different this year?
With the revised Cactus League schedule, the Rangers will now play 27 games in Arizona, including 14 games at Surprise Stadium/Billy Parker Field. The number of games was cut in order to eliminate split squads.
Practice fields will also be closed to the public to ensure the safety of both players and fans.
Tickets will be sold for all games down in Arizona with updated health and safety protocols in effect. There will be a limited seating capacity of 2,000 fans per game, with required face coverings and contactless tickets and cash transactions.
What are the key roster/position battles to watch?
Everything is an open competition this year. Woodward said a competitive environment is exactly the type of culture he wants to create and this Spring Training will be a perfect example. The only locked-in starting spots are the club’s two Gold Glove Award winners: Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop and Joey Gallo in right field. It's assumed Jose Trevino will start at catcher, but with Rangers No. 2 prospect Sam Huff and Jonah Heim behind him, Trevino will have to step up behind the plate every day to stay secure. Third base is the most wide-open and interesting battle across the field. The starter there could be anybody, from Rougned Odor to Brock Holt to Charlie Culberson.
When is the first Spring Training game?
The Rangers open against the Royals on Feb. 28 at 2:05 p.m. CT at Surprise Stadium.
How can I watch/listen/follow Spring Training games?
Home games will be aired on Fox Sports Southwest and the Rangers radio crew will be on hand. The plan for away games is still being sorted out.
Who are some prospects to keep an eye on in camp?
Josh Jung (the Rangers' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and Huff are the clear prospects to look out for in big league Spring Training. Jung and Huff are likely to start the 2021 season in Triple-A barring an out-of-this-world spring performance.
Huff got playing time during the shortened 2020 season, batting .355/.394/.742 through 10 games, but Woodward wants him to get a little more seasoning in the Minors before being with the big league squad full-time. Jung -- a 2019 first-round Draft pick out of Texas Tech -- is shooting through the Minors quickly and should be in the big leagues in no time. Woodward has said he doesn’t want to rush the prospects too quickly through the system, so they’ll have to earn their spots.
What’s the story with Willie Calhoun, and will he be at full health in 2021?
Calhoun was on and off the IL for most of the 2020 season and played just 29 games of the shortened season. He underwent surgery during Spring Training 2020 after he was hit in the jaw with a pitch, and he was sidelined later in the season due to a left hamstring injury. He’s likely to slot in at designated hitter, but the acquisition of Khris Davis makes that competition interesting.
Calhoun said he’s ready for a fully healthy season in 2021, and he spent most of the offseason working to get back to his '19 form when he slashed .269/.323/.524 with 21 home runs. The coaching staff has challenged Calhoun to work on his defense, so he can slide into the outfield if necessary.
When is Opening Day and who is the opponent?
Opening Day for the Rangers and the rest of MLB is April 1. Texas will open against the Royals in Kansas City at 3:10 p.m. CT.
Who is the likely Opening Day starting pitcher?
With 2020 Opening Day starter Lance Lynn traded to the White Sox for Dane Dunning, Kyle Gibson will likely get the nod this season. Woodward has alluded to that much, saying the right-hander is the No. 1 heading into Spring Training. Gibson struggled last season, going 2-6 with a 5.35 ERA. Woodward is confident that he worked on the things he struggled with to be able to put together a solid season in ‘21.
What is the likely Opening Day lineup and rotation?
With Woodward's culture of competition this Spring Training, anybody could win a starting spot in camp. Third base and designated hitter are two of the biggest question marks and could play out many different ways by the time Opening Day rolls around. This is a working blueprint, and it's highly possible it will change:
Leody Taveras, CF
Nick Solak, 2B
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, SS
Joey Gallo, RF
Willie Calhoun, DH
David Dahl, LF
Rougned Odor, 3B
Nate Lowe, 1B
Jose Trevino, C
RHP Kyle Gibson
RHP Mike Foltynewicz
RHP Kohei Arihara
RHP Dane Dunning
RHP Jordan Lyles
Is the team planning to sell tickets to regular-season games?
The Rangers are planning to sell tickets, but capacity has not been determined (it's dependent upon state and MLB protocols). Season ticket holders will have priority when sales are announced.