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Cuban prospect Martinez, Rangers make it official

Touted young outfielder will head to Dominican Summer League club
MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, and they are planning to start him off with the club's Dominican Summer League team.

Martinez agreed to sign with the Rangers on March 6, but there was much legal and medical work needed to be done before the signing was official. He has been working out at the team's academy in Santo Domingo.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, and they are planning to start him off with the club's Dominican Summer League team.

Martinez agreed to sign with the Rangers on March 6, but there was much legal and medical work needed to be done before the signing was official. He has been working out at the team's academy in Santo Domingo.

Rangers assistant general manager Mike Daly said Martinez has not had a real Spring Training, so they want to start him off slow in the Dominican Summer League. Given his track record at the highest levels of Cuban baseball, Martinez could move quickly once he is established.

"We'll make a decision later where he will go from there," Daly said. "Our expectation is he will play somewhere in the United States in 2018."

In Martinez, Texas has acquired an elite prospect -- a center fielder with speed, aggressiveness and power -- who was coveted by a number of Major League teams. The Rangers turned their attention to Martinez after missing out on Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani in December.

Daly said it took the entire organization to get the deal done, from the scouts who first watched Martinez to the front office and ownership. The Rangers had to make multiple trades for international bonus pool money to have the resources to be competitive in the pursuit of Martinez.

"We spent a lot of time getting around him, getting to know him and learning about him as a person," Daly said. "We were engaged with him on a daily basis. It's a great day for the organization to bring in a player like Julio Pablo Martinez."

Martinez said it is his goal to be in the Major Leagues within three years.

"Since I was a small boy, I have always dreamed of being a professional baseball player and playing for a Major League organization," Martinez said in a conference call. "I am very happy for the opportunity, and I am very happy the Rangers have given me this opportunity. And I am happy to play in a city that is warm like I am used to. I'm very excited for the opportunity to get started and chase my dream."

Martinez, 22, has spent the past two seasons in the independent Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am League), first with a traveling Cuban national team in 2016, and then with Trois-Rivieres last season. With Trois-Rivieres, Martinez batted .297 with seven home runs and 20 stolen bases in 57 games.

Martinez began in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2012, the highest league in the country. He joined Jose Abreu, Aledmys Diaz and Jose Iglesias as the only Cuban-born players in Major League Baseball to debut in Cuba at age 16.

Martinez appeared in nearly 300 games during his five seasons in the league, compiling a .293/.393/.430 slash line. In his final season in 2016-17 with Guantanamo and Camaguey, Martinez combined to bat .333/.469/.498 with six home runs and 24 stolen bases in 61 games. Martinez also had 52 walks with just 30 strikeouts during the season.

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.

Texas Rangers

Guzman's single caps Rangers' rally in 10th

Rookie hits tying HR in 8th to help club snap its 5-game skid
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- An impressive comeback and heart-throbbing victory for the Rangers came to an end with first baseman Ronald Guzman fielding Josh Reddick's ground ball and jogging to first base for the final out.

That was an appropriate way to close out both a 6-5 victory in 10 innings over the Astros and a magical afternoon for the newly arrived rookie, who hit the tying home run in the eighth and the go-ahead RBI single in the 10th.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- An impressive comeback and heart-throbbing victory for the Rangers came to an end with first baseman Ronald Guzman fielding Josh Reddick's ground ball and jogging to first base for the final out.

That was an appropriate way to close out both a 6-5 victory in 10 innings over the Astros and a magical afternoon for the newly arrived rookie, who hit the tying home run in the eighth and the go-ahead RBI single in the 10th.

View Full Game Coverage

"This has been the best week of my life," Guzman said. "I love it. I am really enjoying myself."

Video: TEX@HOU: Guzman talks about his clutch performance

The entire Rangers clubhouse was loving it on Saturday afternoon after coming back from being down five runs to snap a five-game losing streak. It has been a long week with the losing skid and the injuries to Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus.

But they were finally able to celebrate with their first comeback victory of the season. They were 0-10 in games when the other team scored first prior to Saturday's win.

"Huge win," manager Jeff Banister said. "How we won, it is something we haven't done. An all-around win, that's the most important part. It took everybody in the dugout to win this game. We were down and never gave in. We like to think that is in our DNA, but it can go a long way for our confidence, especially these young guys."

The Rangers' rally came against a pitching staff that began the day leading the American League with a 2.53 ERA. The bullpen had an AL-leading 2.05 ERA before letting this one get away.

"We are certainly not used to that," manager AJ Hinch said.

The Rangers' bullpen was outstanding. The Astros scored five in the fourth off starter Mike Minor and he was out after five. But five relievers -- Tony Barnette, Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Chris Martin and Alex Claudio -- combined for five scoreless innings to make the comeback possible.

Video: TEX@HOU: Claudio induces ground out get the save

"We needed it," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "We have been struggling trying to find a way to win and haven't been playing well. To beat a really good team with good pitching, maybe that will get us out of our funk and get us going."

The home runs brought the Rangers back. Astros starter Charlie Morton took a shutout into the sixth, but rookie infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa led off with his first Major League home run. Beltre went deep with his 463rd career home run in the seventh. That allowed him to pass Jose Canseco and Adam Dunn, and move into a tie with Miguel Cabrera for 35th all-time.

It also made it 5-2, and the Rangers pulled even in the eighth on a two-run home run by Joey Gallo and tying jack by Guzman off Astros reliever Brad Peacock.

Video: TEX@HOU: Gallo belts a two-run homer off the pole

The Rangers' winning rally started with Jurickson Profar drawing a one-out walk against Will Harris. Gallo, going the other way on a 1-2 pitch, doubled to left to put runners on second and third. An intentional walk to Beltre loaded the bases.

That brought up Guzman, and he smashed one up the middle that deflected off Harris' glove and out to no-man's land on the left side of the diamond. It went for an infield single that gave the Rangers their first lead and ultimately the win.

"They challenged me," said Guzman, ranked as the club's No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline. "I was just trying to do my best to hit the ball hard and make something happen."

Video: TEX@HOU: Banister on victory in Houston in extras

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Rangers' bullpen put up five scoreless innings to make the comeback possible, but the Astros threatened in the 10th after singles by Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve opened the inning against Martin. Carlos Correa followed a check-swing roller toward the mound and Martin pounced on it, firing to third for the force.

"That was a little bit of a sigh of relief, knowing I was still a ground ball away from getting out of the inning," Martin said.

Video: TEX@HOU: Martin gets Correa to ground into forceout

Yuli Gurriel then hit a line drive to Beltre for the second out, although he dropped the ball taking it out of his glove. Otherwise, Beltre might have had a chance to double off Altuve at second. But Claudio took over and retired Reddick on a grounder to Guzman to end the game.

"We had a good chance and had some at-bats, and we just couldn't push the right one across at the very end," Hinch said. "Obviously, at that point in our order, we feel really good. You get a couple of guys on base and no outs and put some pressure on them, but they made the pitches and got out of it."

SOUND SMART
The last two Rangers to hit their first home run in the same game were Laynce Nix and Jason Jones on July 24, 2003, against the Angels.

HE SAID IT
"I'm just having fun. All I am doing is looking up in the stands and seeing all these people, and soaking it all up and enjoying it. It's good. The music is loud, the fans are loud. It's a great experience that gets me going." -- Kiner-Falefa, who has been with the Rangers for a week

Video: TEX@HOU: Kiner-Falefa belts a solo homer in the 5th

UP NEXT
The Rangers will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with right-hander Bartolo Colon pitching against the Astros at 7:08 p.m. CT on Sunday on ESPN. Colon, who will be facing Justin Verlander in a battle of former Cy Young Award winners, will be making his first start since April 2, when he allowed one run in six innings against the Athletics.

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.

Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre, Joey Gallo, Ronald Guzman, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Mike Minor

Where Rangers' Top 30 prospects are starting season

MLB.com

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Rangers' Top 30 prospects are projected to start the season:

1. Leody Taveras (MLB No. 34), OF -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
2. Willie Calhoun (MLB No. 53), OF -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
3. Julio Pablo Martinez (MLB No. 70), OF -- Extended spring training -- Dominican Republic
4. Hans Crouse, RHP -- Extended spring training
5. Cole Ragans, LHP -- Injured -- Tommy John surgery
6. Bubba Thompson, OF -- Extended spring training
7. Yohander Mendez, LHP -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
8. Ronald Guzman, 1B -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
9. Kyle Cody, RHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv) -- DL
10. Pedro Gonzalez, OF -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
11. Chris Seise, SS -- Extended spring training
12. Anderson Tejeda, SS/2B -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
13. Joe Palumbo, LHP -- Texas Rangers (MLB) -- DL
14. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
15. Brett Martin, LHP -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
16. Yanio Perez, 1B/OF/3B -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
17. A.J. Alexy, RHP -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
18. Miguel Aparicio, OF -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
19. Ariel Jurado, RHP -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
20. C.D. Pelham, LHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
21. Jose Trevino, C -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
22. Michael Matuella, RHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
23. Alex Speas, RHP -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
24. Matt Whatley, C -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
25. Sam Huff, C -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
26. David Garcia, C -- Extended spring training
27. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, INF/C -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
28. Josh Morgan, SS/C -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
29. Ricardo Rodriguez, RHP -- Texas Rangers (MLB) -- DL
30. Brendon Davis, INF -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Rangers' Top 30 prospects are projected to start the season:

1. Leody Taveras (MLB No. 34), OF -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
2. Willie Calhoun (MLB No. 53), OF -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
3. Julio Pablo Martinez (MLB No. 70), OF -- Extended spring training -- Dominican Republic
4. Hans Crouse, RHP -- Extended spring training
5. Cole Ragans, LHP -- Injured -- Tommy John surgery
6. Bubba Thompson, OF -- Extended spring training
7. Yohander Mendez, LHP -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
8. Ronald Guzman, 1B -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
9. Kyle Cody, RHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv) -- DL
10. Pedro Gonzalez, OF -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
11. Chris Seise, SS -- Extended spring training
12. Anderson Tejeda, SS/2B -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
13. Joe Palumbo, LHP -- Texas Rangers (MLB) -- DL
14. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
15. Brett Martin, LHP -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
16. Yanio Perez, 1B/OF/3B -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
17. A.J. Alexy, RHP -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
18. Miguel Aparicio, OF -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
19. Ariel Jurado, RHP -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
20. C.D. Pelham, LHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
21. Jose Trevino, C -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
22. Michael Matuella, RHP -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
23. Alex Speas, RHP -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
24. Matt Whatley, C -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)
25. Sam Huff, C -- Hickory Crawdads (A)
26. David Garcia, C -- Extended spring training
27. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, INF/C -- Round Rock Express (AAA)
28. Josh Morgan, SS/C -- Frisco RoughRiders (AA)
29. Ricardo Rodriguez, RHP -- Texas Rangers (MLB) -- DL
30. Brendon Davis, INF -- Down East Wood Ducks (A Adv)

•  Rangers prospect coverage | Rangers Top 30 prospects stats

Team to watch
Though he's starting the year in Triple-A Round Rock, outfielder Willie Calhoun remains a prime Rookie of the Year candidate. Few prospects combine the ability to hit for average and power like he can. Left-hander Yohander Mendez, a changeup artist, and sweet-swinging first baseman Ronald Guzman also are a step away from the big leagues. The Rangers also have an impressive crew of young players in extended spring training with outfielders Juan Pablo Martinez and Bubba Thompson, right-hander Hans Crouse and shortstop Chris Seise.

Where baseball's top prospects are starting the 2018 season

Teams on MiLB.TV
Round Rock Express
Frisco RoughRiders

New faces
A Cuban defector, the toolsy Martinez signed for $2.8 million on March 6 and figures to begin his pro career at one of Texas' Class A affiliates.

On the shelf
Right-hander Cole Ragans will miss the entire season after getting diagnosed with an elbow injury during Spring Training and requiring Tommy John surgery. Righties Joe Palumbo (Tommy John surgery in 2017) and Ricardo Rodriguez (elbow inflammation) are on the big league 60-day disabled list. Righty Kyle Cody also has elbow inflammation and landed on the DL at high Class A Down East.

Jim Callis i a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Texas Rangers

Lefty prospect Ragans to undergo Tommy John

Former first-round Draft pick has torn ligament; RHP Cody dealing with elbow inflammation
MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Left-handed pitcher Cole Ragans, who was the Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, has a torn ligament in his elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery.

The Rangers also announced that right-hander Kyle Cody, who was their Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, will likely miss at least two months with elbow inflammation.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Left-handed pitcher Cole Ragans, who was the Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, has a torn ligament in his elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery.

The Rangers also announced that right-hander Kyle Cody, who was their Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, will likely miss at least two months with elbow inflammation.

"They are two of our better ones," farm director Jayce Tingler said. "It's never easy. First, we feel for the young players. We know the work they put in and try to understand where they are emotionally. Secondly, for the organization's development, that's a pretty big body blow."

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Ragans was the 30th overall pick in 2016 and is the No. 4 prospect in the Rangers farm system according to MLB Pipeline. He was 3-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 starts at Class A Short Season Spokane. The surgery will be done in the next two weeks and the recovery time is 12-14 months.

"Obviously it's a big blow for him and the organization," Tingler said. "That one hurts."

Cody started feeling the inflammation three weeks ago. The Rangers are going to shut him down for three to four more weeks and then re-examine the elbow. The Rangers are hopeful that he does not have a tear that will require surgery. But he will still need at least another month after he is cleared to throw to build back up.

Video: Top Prospects: Kyle Cody, RHP, Rangers

"Is there no concern?" Tingler said. "That wouldn't be accurate."

Cody made a combined 23 starts for Class A Hickory and Class A Advanced Down East last year, going 9-6 with a 2.64 ERA. Opponents hit .219 off him. MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the organization.

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.

Texas Rangers

Pipeline Q&A: Rangers' Hans Crouse

MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rangers camp, it was Texas' No. 3 prospect, Hans Crouse.

Crouse's arm strength and ceiling caught the attention of many teams while he was at Dana Hills High School in California. The Rangers, never ones to shy away from high-risk, high-reward prospects, took him in the second round of the 2017 Draft and went above pick value to sign him for $1.45 million. The right-hander threw 20 innings in the rookie-level Arizona League for his debut, finishing with a 0.45 ERA while holding hitters to a .109 batting average and striking out 30 (vs. seven walks).

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rangers camp, it was Texas' No. 3 prospect, Hans Crouse.

Crouse's arm strength and ceiling caught the attention of many teams while he was at Dana Hills High School in California. The Rangers, never ones to shy away from high-risk, high-reward prospects, took him in the second round of the 2017 Draft and went above pick value to sign him for $1.45 million. The right-hander threw 20 innings in the rookie-level Arizona League for his debut, finishing with a 0.45 ERA while holding hitters to a .109 batting average and striking out 30 (vs. seven walks).

Rangers Camp Report

MLB Pipeline: This is your first Spring Training. You're a pretty high-energy guy. How excited were you to get going?

:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::

Crouse: The offseason was fun, but once New Year's rolled around, I was ready to get back after it. I've been waiting for this day for a long time. I'm excited to see the guys and I'm ready to get rolling.

MLB Pipeline: What was your offseason regimen like? You haven't gone through that before, getting ready for a long season. How did you change things compared to when you would get ready for a high school season?

Crouse: I definitely took more time off from throwing. I didn't start throwing until about mid-December. When I first got off after instructional league ended, I took about two weeks off to relax and hang out with family. As soon as that ended, I started working out five times a week on a regular regimen, three lower-body lifts, two upper-body lifts a week. I did my running, too, on the same days I'd lift. I started bullpening around early January to get ready.

MLB Pipeline: Was that hard for you? I get a sense that you're not used to not doing things, not throwing all the time.

Crouse: Yeah, when I was in high school, maybe I'd take a month off, max, and I'd start throwing in the back end of November, maybe even late October. It was definitely hard to take that time off especially because my older brother plays baseball, too, and he was throwing. It was tough to watch. He was at USC, but he just had Tommy John surgery. He's rehabbing and is going to try to throw for teams in May and June.

MLB Pipeline: You didn't throw a lot during your pro debut, but you got your feet wet. What were your takeaways from that stint as a pro pitcher?

Crouse: The biggest thing was getting into my own routine, not even so much throwing-wise, but what I have to do to prep myself before throwing. Things like getting in the weight room early, stretching my body out right. Throwing-wise, the biggest thing I took away was developing a better changeup. I've always been a big fastball-slider guy, so getting that third pitch into my arsenal and showing hitters I can flash it just to let them know that I have it is going to be a big thing for me this year.

MLB Pipeline: Have you found a changeup that works for you?

Crouse: I've been throwing a little modification of a circle changeup, resting my index finger on the side of the ball and my thumb under it. Henderson Lugo, one of the pitching coaches out here when I was in the AZL, showed it to me and I've really liked working with it so far.

MLB Pipeline: A lot has been made about your energy on the mound. Some would call them antics. Have you had to rein that in at all since you've joined the Rangers, or do you feel like you can just be you all the time?

Crouse: The biggest thing I've loved about coming here to Texas was when I first got here, one of the first things they told me was, "We're not going to take away who you are out on the mound. We're going to still let you do your Johnny Cueto shimmy, we're going to let you quick pitch. We're going to let you be who you want to be out on the mound." I've heard people talk and say, "Oh, his antics aren't going to fly in pro ball" and I totally agree with them. My fist pumps and energy I brought, you can't be doing that stuff in rookie ball. I know my place for that stuff. That's how I responded in high school. That's something you would do in Game 7 of the World Series, like if you come in with the bases loaded and punch out the side, or something like that.

MLB Pipeline: I saw you pitch at the National High School Invitational at USA Baseball. You're on to bigger and better things now, but how much do you think about that run your team had?

Crouse: That was probably one of the greatest experiences I've ever had baseball-wise, even non baseball-wise, just getting to jell with my teammates out there, making friendships with teammates I never thought I'd make friendships with. It was such a unique group of guys we had out there, from young freshmen to four-year varsity players. I was actually watching some of the videos recently, looking back on it. The walk-off hit is obviously something I'll never forget.

MLB Pipeline: I asked your farm director, Jayce Tingler, if you'd been bugging them about hitting, but he said you hadn't.

Crouse: I asked if we could do some pitcher's BP here and there, but no game stuff.

MLB Pipeline: Do you miss the old-time uniforms you guys wore during the NHSI?

Crouse: Oh yeah. Every chance I had to call for those uniforms, I called for them when I was out on the mound. The starting pitcher for Dana Hills always got to make the call for which uniforms we wore that day. I was always a big old-school guy.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Texas Rangers

Rangers option Calhoun among flurry of moves

MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have optioned outfielder Willie Calhoun, their No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to Triple-A Round Rock. The move opens up left field for a possible platoon of Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson.

Calhoun, a leading candidate to play left field coming into camp, was one of 14 players sent to the Minors on Tuesday. He is a converted second baseman who was switched to left field last season. Calhoun is still learning to play the position and his inexperience on defense is the biggest reason why he is being sent down.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have optioned outfielder Willie Calhoun, their No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to Triple-A Round Rock. The move opens up left field for a possible platoon of Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson.

Calhoun, a leading candidate to play left field coming into camp, was one of 14 players sent to the Minors on Tuesday. He is a converted second baseman who was switched to left field last season. Calhoun is still learning to play the position and his inexperience on defense is the biggest reason why he is being sent down.

"He definitely came into camp as a guy we were looking at," manager Jeff Banister said. "Our feeling is Willie Calhoun, we've seen what he can do in a batter's box. He has a unique skill set. We challenged him to work on the defensive side of the game. We feel he has growth to do on the defensive side and the offensive side. He's going to be a good player but he's got some work to do on the defensive side."

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The pitchers sent down were Connor Sadzeck, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Reed Garrett, David Hurlbut, Adrian Sampson, Paolo Espino and Tayler Scott. Also sent down were first baseman Ronald Guzman, infielders Christian Lopes and Hanser Alberto, outfielder Scott Heineman and catchers Jose Trevino and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Robinson, a left-handed hitter, and Rua, a right-handed hitter, have both looked good defensively in camp.

"As it sits right now, it is probably a priority look of those two guys out there in platoon situations," Banister said.

Banister said the Rangers are committed to leaving Nomar Mazara in right field and eliminate using him in both corner positions. The Rangers are hoping that locking Mazara into one position will help him offensively.

Shin-Soo Choo will likely get most of his time at designated hitter. When he plays in the outfield, it will be in right field. The Rangers don't seem him playing left. Banister said he doesn't expect to use Mazara and Choo in the same outfield unless out of necessity.

"Choo will get time in right field and DH," Banister said. "Mazara will get most of the innings in right field. I don't see Choo playing left field."

Video: TEX@KC: Choo gloves Cuthbert's fly ball at the fence

The Rangers still have Destin Hood and Carlos Tocci in camp. Both have shown enough to continue to get consideration.

Hood has 10 years of professional experience, including 13 games with the Marlins in 2016. He is a superb athlete who turned down a football scholarship at the University of Alabama as a wide receiver to pursue baseball. He is 5-for-16 with a home run in Cactus League games and has shown his ability to cover ground in the outfield.

"He has opened some eyes," Banister said. "It has been impressive what he has been able to do. He is an intriguing guy."

Tocci is a Rule 5 pick from the Phillies who is still developing as an offensive player. He doesn't have power and the Rangers are trying to get him to use his speed more. The Rangers acquired him based on his defense and they haven't been disappointed.

"The kid plays exceptional in center field," Banister said. "He glides everywhere. He seems solid on his feet."

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.

Texas Rangers, Willie Calhoun

Source: Rangers, Cuban prospect Martinez reach deal

MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have reached an agreement with Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, according to a source. Martinez, who met with the Rangers on Tuesday, the first day he could sign with a Major League club, will receive a $2.8 million signing bonus.

The club has not confirmed the deal.

MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported last week that the Rangers were expected to sign Martinez as soon as he was eligible. The 21-year-old is a 5-foot-10 outfielder who is No. 2 on MLB Pipeline's International Prospects list, ranking high because of his mix of speed and power.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have reached an agreement with Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, according to a source. Martinez, who met with the Rangers on Tuesday, the first day he could sign with a Major League club, will receive a $2.8 million signing bonus.

The club has not confirmed the deal.

MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported last week that the Rangers were expected to sign Martinez as soon as he was eligible. The 21-year-old is a 5-foot-10 outfielder who is No. 2 on MLB Pipeline's International Prospects list, ranking high because of his mix of speed and power.

The Rangers have been adding to their international bonus pool through trades with the Reds and Royals in Spring Training.

Texas Rangers

Fister happy with strong Cactus League debut

Rangers working with Calhoun in left field; Minor unfazed by bad-luck inning
Special to MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Doug Fister's first Cactus League outing was quick and painless, as the fast-working veteran zipped through three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out two, in the Rangers' 10-7 loss to the Mariners on Sunday.

"Getting in a game definitely feels good again, knocking some rust off, getting in some deep counts," Fister said. "It just came down to pounding the zone and letting our defense work."

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Doug Fister's first Cactus League outing was quick and painless, as the fast-working veteran zipped through three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out two, in the Rangers' 10-7 loss to the Mariners on Sunday.

"Getting in a game definitely feels good again, knocking some rust off, getting in some deep counts," Fister said. "It just came down to pounding the zone and letting our defense work."

Fister recorded two quick outs, walked the third batter and got a groundout for a sharp first inning. He then erased a leadoff single with a double-play ball in the second. Fister struck out the first hitter in the third, allowed a single and then got a fielder's choice grounder and a liner to third base to finish his outing.

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"Good arm action, really good sink on the fastball [and] I thought the breaking ball showed up well for him," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Baseball's emphasis on speeding the pace of play is just fine with Fister, whose own internal pitch clock keeps things moving at a steady clip when he's on the mound. Fister, 34, has consistently been one of the fastest-working pitchers over the past few seasons, clocking in under 20 seconds between pitches.

"I want to get up there and go," Fister said. "I don't want to give the hitter any more time than he can to think about it. They're going to step out on me, they're going to take their time, but as soon as I'm ready, I'm going to go. For me, tempo is not only an attack method, but it also keeps me in rhythm. If I get too slow, I get a little awry."

Fister went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA for the Nationals in 2014 but has gone 22-29 with a 4.58 ERA since then, including one season each with Washington, Houston and Boston. Signed as a free agent by Texas, Fister has spent the offseason and early part of Spring Training working on some mechanical changes to make his delivery more like it was early in his career.

"It's something that I'm constantly working on, trying to get that timing back down," Fister said. "I moved over on the first-base side of rubber and I really try to cross-step. I rely on sink and deception. I really have to show my hitter the back and that kind of blocks him off the ball. So when I can do that, it allows me to get a little bit of sink on the ball and to really rely on that ground ball."

Calhoun getting reps in left
The Rangers continue to work intensively with Willie Calhoun to improve the 23-year-old's fielding ability and mold him into a serviceable Major League outfielder. Calhoun is known more for his offensive power than his defensive prowess. He was a second baseman when he came to Texas last year from the Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade.

Calhoun, the Rangers' No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, started in left field in Sunday's game against the Mariners and will probably start the next two games there, Banister said.

Video: Outlook: Willie Calhoun brings promising skill

"We've seen what he can do in the batter's box," Banister said. "We've got him on a speed program, a footwork program early, a defensive program. We'll probably see him three days in a row here in the lineup in left field just to see the progress of seeing the ball off the bat, high sky, stands, things like that and how he maneuvers. He's doing all right."

Calhoun said he is getting more comfortable with the outfield thanks to a daily regimen of "power shagging," also known as chasing down fly balls during batting practice, and working with outfield coordinator Dwayne Murphy.

"I'm feeling good about it," Calhoun said. "I'm ready to take the next step."

Minor feels good after bad-luck inning
Lefty Mike Minor battled through an uneven outing Sunday, allowing five runs (two earned) on three hits and a walk in just two-thirds of an inning, as he fell victim to a couple of defensive miscues. Minor threw 25 pitches in the game and went to the bullpen to finish his work, throwing 18 more pitches there.

"I actually felt really good, a lot better today than last time," Minor said. "I had a couple of [potential] double-play balls [and] a broken-bat hit. I felt pretty good. I was spotting my fastball and I threw some good changeups in there, got a couple swings and misses off that, which is my fourth pitch that I've been working on."

Up next
Lefty Matt Moore will make his second start of the spring as the Rangers take on the Giants in Surprise on Monday at 2:05 p.m. CT. Moore threw two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut Feb. 28, retiring six of seven batters. The game can be heard through an exclusive audio webcast on rangers.com.

Dave Sessions is a contributor for MLB.com.

Texas Rangers, Willie Calhoun, Doug Fister, Mike Minor

Mendez could be better served at Triple-A

Lefty prospect had good spring debut, but has a few things to work on
MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers left-handed pitcher Yohander Mendez made it clear what his goal is this spring.

"I want to make the team," Mendez said. "It all depends on what they think of me, but I am ready to compete in the big leagues."

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers left-handed pitcher Yohander Mendez made it clear what his goal is this spring.

"I want to make the team," Mendez said. "It all depends on what they think of me, but I am ready to compete in the big leagues."

Mendez making the team might be a good thing if he pitches like he did on Monday against the Dodgers. He threw two scoreless innings in relief, allowing one hit, did not walk a batter and struck out three.

"Really good," pitching coach Doug Brocail said. "He attacked with his fastball. He got out of his delivery a couple of times and quickened up, but the nice thing is he came back. He made quick adjustments. Very quick."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

It could also be a good thing if Mendez doesn't make the team and instead spends a full season at Triple-A Round Rock. That would give him another year of experience and time polishing his craft, and put him in position to lead the wave of good young pitching the Rangers are expecting to arrive in Arlington over the next few years.

The list is starting to grow. Mendez, 23, is one of 13 pitchers ranked in the Rangers list of Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline. The top two are Hans Crouse at No. 3 and Cole Ragans at No. 4. But both of them are expected to pitch at Class A.

Mendez is ranked sixth, but he's the closest to being ready for the big leagues after going 7-8 with a 3.79 ERA at Double-A Frisco last season. He had a 1.14 WHIP and struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings.

But he is not a finished product. The Rangers have been working with him to better command his fastball on both sides of the plate. He has an excellent changeup that fades from right-handed hitters, so he must complement it by throwing the fastball inside to them. His fastball is 92-95 mph, but it sometimes gets left over the middle of the plate. His curve and sliders also aren't quite there yet. His tendency to leave pitches over the plate is why he allowed 23 home runs at Frisco, the most in the Texas League. The long ball was his bane last year.

"He has good stuff … a lefty who throws strikes on both sides of the plate," catcher Robinson Chirinos said. "He has a plus changeup like Martin Perez, and his slider is getting better. He is a good kid. He knows what he needs to do, he works hard and gives everything he has."

Mendez was a September callup last season and made seven relief appearances with a 5.11 ERA. But the Rangers' long-term need is starting pitching. This offseason, they had to fill three spots in the rotation, and that could be a higher number next winter.

Video: OAK@TEX: Mendez gets Lowrie swinging to end the 7th

Matt Moore and Doug Fister are free agents after this season. Cole Hamels and Martin Perez could be as well if the Rangers don't pick up their options. Even if Mike Minor and Matt Bush transition into the rotation, there will still be a need for starting pitching.

Mendez represents the Rangers' latest chance of achieving their elusive goal of developing their own starting pitching. A strong Spring Training could set off another premature "feeding frenzy" about a young pitcher who gets everybody excited and gets an ill-fated shove onto the fast track to the big leagues.

But it still appears to be in the Rangers' best interest for Mendez to not make the team out of Spring Training.

"I'm not going to say no," manager Jeff Banister said. "But right now, where we are, there is still a development process for him if you want to look at the big picture."

Texas Rangers, Yohander Mendez

Left-field job up for grabs at Rangers camp

Robinson starts ST opener; Calhoun, Rua, Tocci, Hood also in mix
MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Drew Robinson started in left field for the Rangers in their Cactus League opener against the Cubs on Saturday. Willie Calhoun made the trip to the other side of Phoenix, too, but as a late-game replacement for Robinson.

The arrangement is a reminder that the Rangers' left-field job is still unsettled. Calhoun may be the favorite, but he still has to come to Arizona and win the job.

MESA, Ariz. -- Drew Robinson started in left field for the Rangers in their Cactus League opener against the Cubs on Saturday. Willie Calhoun made the trip to the other side of Phoenix, too, but as a late-game replacement for Robinson.

The arrangement is a reminder that the Rangers' left-field job is still unsettled. Calhoun may be the favorite, but he still has to come to Arizona and win the job.

"Willie Calhoun needs to come out and play, show that he can continue to improve defensively and show us where he is offensively," manager Jeff Banister said. "We like what we saw in Willie last year. He is an extremely interesting player."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Robinson is part of the competition that also includes Ryan Rua, Rule 5 Draft pick Carlos Tocci and Destin Hood, who is in camp on a Minor League contract.

The battle for left field has become almost an annual rite of spring for the Rangers.

Rangers Spring Training info

"Everybody's goal is to be on the 25-man roster," Rua said. "There are a few guys penciled in already and guys fighting for the last spots. We all enjoy the competition. We're friends on and off the field, but we're all looking to push each other."

If Calhoun wins the job, he will be the Rangers' sixth Opening Day left fielder in the past six years. They haven't had the same player start in left field on Opening Day since David Murphy in 2012-13. Rusty Greer started six straight in 1996-2001. Since then, the Rangers have had 12 left fielders on Opening Day.

Video: Mayo discusses Calhoun's offensive potential

Calhoun, acquired from the Dodgers on July 31, has a reputation for swinging the bat. He hit .300 with 31 home runs, 93 RBIs and a .572 slugging percentage in 128 games at Triple-A. But he has played just 36 games in left field after switching from second base last season and is still learning the position.

Calhoun ranked No. 2 Rangers prospect for 2018

Think he hasn't heard the questions about his defense?

"It's in front of my face every day," Calhoun said. "I want to put an end to it. They can't say anything offensively."

Robinson is another converted infielder with offensive weapons who must show he can handle the defensive requirements. He has more experience in the outfield than Calhoun, but Banister said Robinson is better in center than left.

Video: HOU@TEX: Robinson skies a solo homer to upper deck

The Rangers left fielder -- whoever it is -- won't win the job on defense alone.

"It falls on our coaching staff to improve our defense all over the place," Banister said. "To be a championship team, we have to improve our defense."

Robinson is also taking early ground balls in the infield, so it's possible he could make the team as a utility infielder. He just doesn't want to be labeled a utility player for the rest of his career.

"Eventually there will be a time when I need to shed that," Robinson said. "I'm still trying to fight my way into an everyday role. Right now, I guess though, it's something I need to hold on to."

Rua is used to fighting for left field. This will be the fourth straight year he has come into camp as a candidate to be the Opening Day left fielder. He won it in 2015 but lost out to Ian Desmond in '16 and Jurickson Profar last year.

Video: NYY@TEX: Rua plates Chirinos with a double to left

"I don't think it's any different," Rua said. "The reps are the main thing, getting into baseball shape and taking care of your body. Then you just go out and try to push yourself. Consider it big league competition, it's what drives all of us."

Rua can play multiple positions in the infield and outfield. He also wields a right-handed bat, which the Rangers need on a team loaded with left-handed hitters.

"We need some right-handed options," Banister said.

Tocci is here because he is considered a standout defensive player. He is mostly considered depth in center. Hood was a second-round pick by the Nationals in 2008 and played in 13 games for the Marlins in 2016. He has played 791 games in the outfield in his career, which laps the rest of the field as far as playing experience.

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.

Texas Rangers

High-risk, high-reward prospects dot Rangers' Top 30

MLB.com

The Rangers had one of the game's stronger farm system entering the 2016 season, but much has changed in the past two years. Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara graduated to Texas, while outfielder Lewis Brinson and right-handers Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate were used in trades designed to keep the club in contention. Among the Rangers' 10 highest-rated farmhands from two years ago, only outfielder Leody Taveras has retained his prospect status and his luster.

Rangers' Top 30 Prospects list

The Rangers had one of the game's stronger farm system entering the 2016 season, but much has changed in the past two years. Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara graduated to Texas, while outfielder Lewis Brinson and right-handers Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate were used in trades designed to keep the club in contention. Among the Rangers' 10 highest-rated farmhands from two years ago, only outfielder Leody Taveras has retained his prospect status and his luster.

Rangers' Top 30 Prospects list

Outside of outfielder Willie Calhoun, a leading 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award candidate acquired last July as part of the Yu Darvish deal with the Dodgers, Texas doesn't have any impact talents on the immediate horizon. The Rangers still adhere to their philosophy of targeting high-risk, high-reward prospects and have several on hand. But outfielders Taveras, Bubba Thompson and Pedro Gonzalez, right-hander Hans Crouse, left-hander Cole Ragans and middle infielders Chris Seise and Anderson Tejeda will need time to develop, because only Taveras and Tejeda have risen even as far as low Class A.

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Kyle Cody, RHP (2017: NR | 2018: 8)
Fall: Connor Sadzeck, RHP (2017: 11 | 2018: NR)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses also have the same grade.

Hit: 60 -- Willie Calhoun (Leody Taveras)
Power: 60 -- Willie Calhoun
Run: 65 -- Bubba Thompson
Arm: 60 -- Jose Trevino (Pedro Gonzalez, Chris Seise, Anderson Tejeda, Bubba Thompson)
Defense: 60 -- Leody Taveras (Miguel Aparicio, Bubba Thompson, Jose Trevino)
Fastball: 70 -- Hans Crouse (Alex Speas)
Curveball: 60 -- A.J. Alexy (Joe Palumbo, Alex Speas)
Slider: 60 -- Hans Crouse
Changeup: 60 -- Yohander Mendez (Cole Ragans)
Control: 55 -- Yohander Mendez (Ariel Jurado, Ricardo Rodriguez)

How they were built
Draft: 16
International: 10
Trade: 4

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 4
2019: 6
2020: 12
2021: 7
2022: 1

Breakdown by position
C: 4
1B: 2
2B: 0
3B: 1
SS: 4
OF: 5
RHP: 9
LHP: 5

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Texas Rangers

Rangers emerge as favorites to sign Martinez

Cuban outfielder becomes eligible to sign a contract March 6
MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers traded Minor League pitcher Miguel Medrano to the Reds on Wednesday for international bonus pool money.

The transaction comes one day after Major League Baseball declared Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez a free agent, making him eligible to sign with a team. Martinez, 21, is a 5-foot-10 outfielder who is considered one of the better prospects to recently come out of Cuba because of his mix of speed and power.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers traded Minor League pitcher Miguel Medrano to the Reds on Wednesday for international bonus pool money.

The transaction comes one day after Major League Baseball declared Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez a free agent, making him eligible to sign with a team. Martinez, 21, is a 5-foot-10 outfielder who is considered one of the better prospects to recently come out of Cuba because of his mix of speed and power.

The Rangers have emerged as the favorite to sign Martinez, and the team could sign him when the Cuban outfielder becomes eligible to sign a contract March 6, according to sources. The bonus is expected to be in the $2.7 million to $2.8 million range.

The Marlins and Yankees were two other clubs rumored to be competing for Martinez's services, but MLB.com has learned they have dropped out of the running.

"From a philosophical standpoint, we want to gain flexibility and put ourselves in position when opportunity comes available," Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler said.

Medrano, 20, pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year and was 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 12 games. He struck out 61 in 59 innings.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: Sources: The Rangers have emerged as the favorite to sign Julio Pablo Martinez and the team could sign him when the Cuban outfielder becomes eligible to sign a contract March 6. The bonus is expected to be in the $2.7-2.8 million range.

Martinez earned spots on Cuba's 18-and-under team in 2014 and '15. More recently, Martinez played in Cuba's Serie Nacional during the 2016 and '17 seasons and posted a .333/.469/.498 slash line with six home runs and 24 stolen bases in 61 games. He is considered to have the talent to start at Class A Advanced or Double-A once he signs with a team. However, his first assignment would depend on the team he chooses, and if they want to ease him into professional ball stateside.

The Rangers were finalists for Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani and had the largest remaining bonus pool to offer him -- most of which has gone unspent since Ohtani elected to sign with the Angels. It's worth noting that 12 teams -- the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Padres, Reds, Royals and White Sox -- cannot offer more than $300,000 this signing period after exceeding their bonus pool the past two years.

Texas Rangers

10 Rangers entering camp under the radar

Texas begins reporting to Spring Training on Feb. 14
MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have 62 players coming to Major League camp, and that number could rise before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14.

The names on the marquee are well-known: Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and others. Some are high on everybody's list of players to watch, including Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun, Delino DeShields and Matt Bush to name a few.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have 62 players coming to Major League camp, and that number could rise before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14.

The names on the marquee are well-known: Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and others. Some are high on everybody's list of players to watch, including Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun, Delino DeShields and Matt Bush to name a few.

Others are being overlooked or coming in under the radar, both on and off the 40-man roster.

Here are 10 players who are worth reviewing as Spring Training approaches:

1. Ryan Rua -- This guy belongs in the Cactus League Hall of Fame. Over the past three years, he has hit .344 with seven home runs, 34 RBIs and .578 slugging percentage in 180 spring at-bats. He may be the quietest player on the team, but he can still hit and play multiple positions.

2.