By Lew Patton
The 2015 Texas Rangers baseball season can’t get here soon enough after a 2014 that saw them become cellar dwellers due to massive injuries. This year promises to be so much better than last year. While nobody can predict injuries, if the team is even slightly healthier, better times lie ahead. Let’s take a look at the team for 2015:
I originally started this article right before the opening of spring training. Everything was bright and rosy with the idea that the Rangers would turn a new leaf and be healthy again and we could forget the horror of 2014.
Then spring training began, Yu Darvish pitched three innings to begin the season and voila! Disaster struck again. Darvish had Tommy John surgery and is out for the 2015 season.
OK, say this with me Ranger fans: The season is NOT over. We go on. It’s what true fans do. Pick your chin off the floor, and let’s just say we are going to do well despite this injury.
No other part of the team has a chance to perform better than the starting rotation. Here’s how the top five are set:
No. 1 Yovani Gallardo
No. 2 Derek Holland
No. 3 Colby Lewis
No. 4 Ross Detwiler
No. 5 Nick Martinez
In 2014, more than 40 pitchers took the mound for Texas. The starters were a wreck. They simply couldn’t pitch many innings for whatever reason. Darvish was shut down early, Holland and Harrison were injured most of the year. Then it got worse when the bullpen was relied upon to bail the starters out.
If the starters can just pitch 800 innings, it will take a tremendous weight off the bullpen, and that’s going to be possible for this group. Gallardo traditionally eats up innings and throws lots of ground balls so that alone should be a great acquisition.
One of the things to look for is if new Manager Jeff Banister will go with a four-man or fiveman starting rotation. Much of his decision will depend on the bullpen which could prove to be another huge asset.
Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers and Shawn Tolleson return to the bullpen ready for action with at least another year of good experience behind them. Newly-acquired Kyuji Fujikawa also promises to be an asset. Either he or Scheppers likely will be the setup man for closer Feliz.
If healthy, the Texas offense is a powerful lineup that can score runs. There are many players returning from an injury-plagued 2014, and fans wonder if this group has the juice to become the American League West champions again. I think they do.
First baseman Prince Fielder and right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo were injured in their first years with the Rangers so one of the keys to success will be if they are healthy and return to previous form. There also should be some great competition in left field with Ryan Rua and Michael Choice fighting for playing time. Keep an eye on this developing story.
Off the Bench
The bench could prove important. What many will call a “utility player” in Adam Rosales will back up Roughed Odor at second base and Elvis Andrus at shortstop. Choice can play any outfield spot, and be a good pinch-runner. Mitch Moreland should prove once again as a great designated hitter who can spell Fielder at first. Overall, the bench should be yet another asset.
There is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Jeff Banister. If you don’t know his story, I strongly urge you to get to know him. Banister is everything you could possibly want in a manager, leader, survivor, and all-around stand-up guy. Of all the excitement I have for the 2015 Texas Ranger season, this new manager is the most eager story I want to follow.
He is a blue-collar, native Texan thankful for his opportunity to lead the Rangers. He will not take anything for granted. Trust me on this. He is going to be special here. He’s been special everywhere he has been.
Dave Magadan returns as the hitting instructor, Mike Maddux is back as pitching coach, and Steve Buechele is the new bench coach. If you have followed the Rangers for a while, you know Buechele was a great third baseman for many years. He’s managed at Class AAA Round Rock for a while and done well. I’m going to be watching Buechele closely because I know he is going to help Banister a lot.
The 2015 season should at least be brighter than last year. Combine a new manager with healthy players on an already potent roster should mean plenty of and runs plus well-pitched games.
The 2015 Rangers should be in the thick of things and fighting off teams like the Angels, Athletics and Mariners.
I can’t think of too many concerns right now, but I do see a need for one or maybe two left-handed relievers to give Banister more options. As in any season, I’m certain the Rangers will look for more southpaws as we get closer to the regular season. Overall, this roster is ready to rock. Word out of spring training is the team is jelling like a big family, and that’s a great thing.
It just has to be better than last year.
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