Let’s face it, last year’s Spring Training was a near-disaster for the Rangers. Heading into Surprise off a 94-loss season, they were almost immediately leg-whipped by season-ending injuries to Jurickson Profar and Yu Darvish.
Amazingly they recovered from a slow start to win the AL West. But, nonetheless, here’s hoping 2016 isn’t so fraught with obstacles.
Spring Training officially opens Thursday in Arizona when Texas’ pitchers and catchers report. My five biggest questions the Rangers need positive answers to:
5. Will Elvis Andrus Rebound From Game 5? Better careers have been sidetracked by lesser evils. Right, Neftali Feliz? The shortstop committed two Little League-ish errors in the 7th inning of the decisive game against the Blue Jays and should’ve prevented a third error on a low throw by Mitch Moreland. Physically Elvis should be in his prime of his career. Psychologically, starting next week, he needs to prove he can handle the fundamentals of throwing and catching.
4. Does Josh Hamilton Have Anything Left in the Tank? He showed flashes last year. And the risk for his reward is zero, thanks to Jon Daniels stealing him from the Angels. But his off-again, on-again battles with health not only stunt his production, it disrupts the team’s plans for the outfield and even DH. A consistently healthy Hamilton needs to show up in Surprise.
3. Can Delino DeShields Continue to Improve? We figured by now the Rangers’ everyday center fielder would be Leonys Martin. But, plain and simple, the rookie made him expendable last season. DeShields created runs with his bat and his speed, but his arm is a weakness team’s will exploit over the long haul.
2. Is This Bullpen as Good as We Think? Shawn Tolleson was a God-send closer last season, and now the Rangers have lined up before him some of the liveliest, nastiest arms in baseball. Let’s see the likes of Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, Tom Wilhelmsen, Sam Freeman and Keone Kela can stay healthy and productive.
1. Can Yu Darvish Return to Dominance? Probably won’t get the full answer in Arizona, but we’ll have a pretty good idea. Darvish said he expects to start pitching in late May or early June. Best we hope for in spring training is not setbacks on the road back from Tommy John surgery.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.