09/25/10 7:25 PM ET
Now that they're in, Rangers await ALDS foe
Longtime nemesis Yankees or Rays beckon in first round
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
Hamilton continues to show improvement with his rib-cage injury and is hoping to get back on the field for at least the final three games of the last homestand. Francisco has been on a throwing program, but it's probably going to be difficult for him to be ready for the postseason.That roster will likely include four starters and seven relievers. The four starters are set. The bullpen will include closer Neftali Feliz, left-handers Darren Oliver and Matt Harrison and right-handers Darren O'Day and Alexi Ogando. That leaves two spots, with Francisco remaining unknown. Otherwise, the Rangers will pick from a group that includes left-handers Michael Kirkman, Derek Holland and Clay Rapada, and right-handers Dustin Nippert, Scott Feldman, Rich Harden and Pedro Strop. Without Francisco, the Rangers will likely go with Nippert as their long reliever and pick one more left-hander to complete the bullpen. First base remains the biggest question as far as position players. The Rangers' initial plan was to have Mitch Moreland and Jorge Cantu split the job in the playoffs. But the Rangers may be leaning back toward Chris Davis as their left-handed-hitting first baseman over Moreland. The other question is if the Rangers are comfortable with Cantu as their right-handed-hitting first baseman. "We're not making a decision right now," Washington said. "That spot will be discussed just like every other spot will be discussed." Postseason rosters don't have to be finalized until the night before the first game. The Rangers will wait until then to make any final decisions, but they are going to include Jeff Francoeur as a right-handed-hitting outfielder and pinch-hitter off the bench. Right now, the Rangers are savoring their first postseason berth in 11 years and first as a manager for Washington. He was hired four years ago after 11 seasons as a coach for the Oakland Athletics. The Rangers went from 75-87 in his first season in 2007 to 79-83 in '08 and 87-75 in '09. Now he is the second manager to lead the Rangers to a division title and is a leading candidate for AL Manager of the Year honors. He went to the playoffs in five of 11 seasons with the Athletics but never as a player. "This is the most satisfying," Washington said. "I am the manager but also because of the job that the coaching staff did and the work those guys in the clubhouse put in this season. We had dreams in Spring Training, but to see it come to fruition is quite an accomplishment for everybody ... the whole organization." Jon Daniels becomes just the second Rangers general manager to ever construct a division championship team. He was hired by former owner Tom Hicks immediately after the 2006 season and has overseen the meticulous rebuilding plan that was put in place early in the '07 season and has finally produced the desired result. "We put ourselves on the spot from the beginning with the expectations we put on ourselves," Washington said. "To put ourselves in this position ... I have trouble saying how excited I am, but I am excited." This will be the Rangers' first time in the playoffs since 1999 when they won a club-record 95 games. They have been to the playoffs on three previous occasions in 1996 and 1998-99, playing the Yankees in the first round all three times. The Rangers were swept both times in 1998-99, scoring just one run in three games in both series. Texas batted .141 in the 1998 playoffs and .152 in '99. Both times, the Rangers lost the first two games in New York before dropping Game 3 in Arlington. The 1996 ALDS against the Yankees was far closer. The Rangers almost derailed the Yankees' dynasty in manager Joe Torre's first year. John Burkett pitched a complete game in the Rangers' 6-2 victory in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. The Rangers led, 4-1, in Game 2 before the Yankees rallied for a 5-4 victory in 12 innings. The two teams returned to Arlington for Game 3 and the Rangers led, 2-1, into the ninth before the Yankees rallied to win, 3-2. The Rangers also led, 4-0, after three innings in Game 4 before the Yankees came back for a 6-4 win.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.