01/30/2003 4:22 pm ET
Rangers Spring Training Rundown
Texas seeking final pieces to starting rotation puzzle
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Spring Training preview
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Surprise Recreation Campus
72-90, fourth in AL West
2002 Hitting Leaders
(min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Alex Rodriguez, .300
OBP: A. Rodriguez, .392
SLG: A. Rodriguez, .623
Runs: A. Rodriguez, 125
RBIs: A. Rodriguez, 142
Hits: A. Rodriguez, 187
2B: Rafael Palmeiro, 34
3B: Michael Young, 9
HR: A. Rodriguez, 57
SB: A. Rodriguez, Frank Catalanotto, 9
2002 Pitching Leaders
(min. 30 IP)
IP: Kenny Rogers, 210 2/3
W: Rogers, 13
L: Ismael Valdes, 9
Win %: Rogers, 13-8, .619
S: Hideki Irabu, 16
ERA: Rogers, 3.84
K: Chan Ho Park, 121
K/9: Park, 7.48
WHIP: Francisco Cordero, 1.01
Projected Starting Lineup
DH Doug Glanville
CF Carl Everett
SS Alex Rodriguez
RF Juan Gonzalez
1B Rafael Palmeiro
LF Kevin Mench
3B Hank Blalock
2B Michael Young
C Einar Diaz
1. Chan Ho Park
2. Ismael Valdes
3. John Thomson
4. Ryan Drese
5. Joaquin Benoit, Colby Lewis, Doug Davis or Rob Bell
LH setup man: Aaron Fultz
RH setup man: Esteban Yan
Closer: Ugueth Urbina
Spring Cleaning: Five questions that need to be answered
1. Can Juan Gonzalez stay healthy and return to MVP form?
Plagued by injury for the entire 2002 season, the Rangers need Gonzalez healthy. He has been working out in Puerto Rico all offseason, and reports have indicated that he is in top shape. Gonzalez is also in the final year of his two-year, $24 million deal with the Rangers.
2. Now that Frank Catalanotto is gone, who will emerge as the leadoff man?
Don't be surprised to see either Michael Young or Doug Glanville lead off in 2003. Glanville has the experience but has admitted he needs to become more disciplined at the plate. Young has been working during the offseason on improving his batting skills and his running ability. The Rangers could also acquire a leadoff hitter during Spring Training.
3. Who will be in the starting rotation?
Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdes and John Thomson are shoo-ins, but the final two spots are up for grabs. Look for Joaquin Benoit, Colby Lewis, Rob Bell Doug Davis and Ryan Drese to compete for the spot. Benoit has caught the eye of manager Buck Showalter because of his performance last season, and the club traded for Drese. The Rangers are considering starting Lewis in Triple-A, but the final rotation should be close to set by mid-March.
4. What is Kevin Mench's role in outfield?
Showalter likes Mench and will give the young outfielder the chance to play every day in left field. Showalter wants to know if Mench can be an everyday player and he is determined to find out.
5. How will the Rangers replace Ivan Rodriguez's offensive production?
The Rangers have a shortstop in Alex Rodriguez who can hit 50 home runs and a first baseman in Rafael Palmeiro who can hit 40-45. That gives them the luxury of not requiring as much offense from their current catcher, Einar Diaz. A healthy Juan Gonzalez will also provide more offense in 2003.
New Faces: Players aquired via trade or free agency
RHP Ryan Drese -- Drese was acquired along with Einar Diaz for Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette in a deal with Cleveland. Drese, 26, was 10-9 with a 6.55 ERA for the Indians last season. He allowed 176 hits and struck out 102 in 137 1/3 innings, ranking second among American League rookies in starts, wins, and strikeouts.
RHP Ugueth Urbina -- Signed as a free agent, Urbina was 1-6 with a 3.00 ERA and 40 saves in 61 appearances with the Red Sox last year. He tied for third in the American League in saves while converting 40 of 46 opportunities, and he held opposing batters to a .202 average, sixth lowest in the league.
RHP Esteban Yan -- Signed as a free agent, Yan, 28, went 7-8 with a 4.30 ERA with 22 saves last season.
LHP Aaron Fultz -- Signed as a free agent, Fultz, 29, was 2-2 with a 4.79 ERA in 43 relief appearances with the Giants in 2002. He overcame early-season struggles to post a 2.73 ERA over the last 29 appearances beginning May 30, allowing a run only four times during that span.
RHP John Thomson -- Signed as a free agent, Thomson, 29, was 9-14 with a 4.71 ERA in 30 starts and 181 2/3 innings with Colorado and the New York Mets in 2002. He joined Chan Ho Park as the only definite starter in the rotation at the time of his signing.
RHP Ismael Valdes -- Valdes re-signed with the team. Valdes, 29, was 8-12 with a 4.18 ERA in 31 starts with the Rangers and Seattle Mariners in 2002. He went 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 23 starts with the Rangers after being signed as a free agent in January.
OF Doug Glanville -- Signed as a free agent, Glanville hit .249 with six home runs, 29 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 138 games with the Phillies in 2002 and did not commit an error in 227 chances in 117 games in center. He will likely see action at all three positions in the outfield as well as at designated hitter.
C Einar Diaz -- Diaz was hampered by injury last season and hit .206 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 320 at-bats. The catcher's season ended Aug. 22 against Oakland, when he bruised the ulnar nerve and ligament in his right elbow in a collision at home plate. For the season, he threw out 31 of 113 runners attempting to steal.
OF Ryan Christenson -- Signed as a free agent, Christenson hit .254 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 67 games at Triple-A Indianapolis and was on the disabled list from June 24-Aug. 14. He joined the Brewers on Sept. 2 and hit .155 with one home run and three RBIs in 20 games the rest of the season.
OF Ruben Sierra -- Signed as a free agent, Sierra, who hit .270 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs in 122 games for Seattle last season, will likely fill a secondary role if he makes the team. He is the Rangers' all-time leader in triples with 44, ranks fourth in hits (1,246), home runs (177), RBIs (730), extra-base hits (469) and total bases (2,113).
C Ivan Rodriguez -- Rodriguez, 31, hit .314 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs in 108 games with Texas in 2002 and boasts a career Major League average of .305 with 215 homers and 829 RBIs in 1,479 games with the Rangers from 1991 to 2002. He signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Florida.
LHP Kenny Rogers -- Rogers went 13-8 with a 3.84 ERA and won a Gold Glove for the Rangers in 2002. He led the staff in wins, starts (33), complete games (2) and innings (210 2/3). Rogers and the Rangers could not come to terms, and he became a free agent in December.
OF Frank Catalanotto -- Catalanotto hit .330 in 2001, but injuries slowed him down in 2002, when he hit .269 during 212 at-bats in 68 games. He signed with Toronto as a free agent. His departure left a void at the leadoff spot for the Rangers.
RHP Hideki Irabu -- He was released after going 3-8 with a 5.74 ERA. He led the staff with 16 saves.
LHP John Rocker -- He was released after going 2-3 with a 6.66 ERA in 24 1/3 innings.
LHP Juan Alvarez -- He was released after going 0-4 with a 4.76 ERA in 39 2/3 innings.
OF Todd Hollandsworth -- Traded to the Rangers from Colorado with Dennys Reyes in a deal for Gabe Kapler and Jason Romano, Hollandsworth hit .258 in 39 games with Texas. He signed as a free agent with the Marlins.
OF Calvin Murray -- A defensive specialist, Murray hit .169 in 39 games for the Rangers. He signed as a free agent with the Dodgers.
LHP Rich Rodriguez -- The left-handed veteran reliever went 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA for Texas in 2002. He signed as a free agent with the Angels.
LHP Dennys Reyes -- Acquired from Colorado, Reyes went 4-3 with a 6.38 ERA in 42 1/3 innings. He signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh.
1B Travis Hafner and RHP Aaron Myette -- Both are now members of the Indians organization after being involved in the trade that send Ryan Drese and Einar Diaz to Texas. Hafner hit .342 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs in 110 games with Triple-A Oklahoma this past season. He hit .242 with one home run and six RBIs in 23 games for Texas. Myette went 2-5 with a 10.06 ERA this past season. He walked 41 batters and struck out 48 in 48 1/3 innings.
Returning from injury
RHP Jeff Zimmerman -- The former All-Star had Tommy John surgery last season and could return after the All-Star break. He would bolster a bullpen that has been improved during the offseason.
New Kids on the Block: Prospects to watch
3B Mark Teixeira -- He will likely start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City and could be called up in September, if not sooner. He hit .319 with 19 home runs and 69 RBIs for Class-A Charlotte and Double-A Tulsa in 2002.
OF Laynce Nix -- Nix was the Rangers' minor-league Player of the Year in 2002 and finished the season with 110 RBIs, second in the organization to Alex Rodriguez. Strong and versatile, Nix, 22, plays center field but could play the corner positions for the Rangers. He will start the season at Double-A Frisco.
RHP Ben Kozlowski -- Kozlowski went 8-6 with a 1.99 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 131 innings for Class-A Charlotte and Double-A Tulsa. He went 0-0 with a 6.30 ERA in 10 innings for the Rangers at the end of the season.
On the Rebound
OF Carl Everett -- Everett played in only 105 games last season and made only 25 starts in center, 38 starts in right field and 17 starts in left field because of injuries -- specifically his right knee. He is healthy and eager to play. Doug Glanville will compete with him for the starting spot in center field.
OF Juan Gonzalez -- Gonzalez had only 277 at-bats in 2002 because of a nagging injury to the thumb on his right hand. The two-time AL MVP injured his hand during the first week of the season and never played completely healthy. He has been working out in Puerto Rico all offseason and will arrive in Arizona in top shape.
RHP Chan Ho Park -- Park, who averaged 15 wins and 214 innings during the last five seasons, finished the season with a 9-8 record and 5.75 ERA -- his highest as a full-time starter -- in 145 2/3 innings in 2002. His lack of success could be attributed to the fact that he spent 56 days on the disabled list this season and has been plagued with a sore right hamstring. He has been working out since October and will arrive in Arizona completely healthy.
The Bottom Line
The Rangers need to find their final two starters behind Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdes and John Thomson. The bullpen has been solidified during the offseason and it will be up to the young arms of either Joaquin Benoit, Colby Lewis, Doug Davis, Ryan Drese or Rob Bell to pitch at least five or six quality innings to give the relievers a chance. The bullpen led the league in losses and blown saves last season. The Rangers hope that won't be the case in 2003.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.