The Texas Rangers have been AL West champions in each of manager Jeff Banister's first two seasons, and their 95 wins last year were the most in the American League.
That is a lot to celebrate. But not nearly enough after another AL Division Series loss to Toronto and again coming up short of that elusive World Series title .
"I think that burns deeper than just the prospects of being good. You've got to have talent, but desire overrides a lot of that," Banister said. "Still burns deep. Incomplete mission."
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Texas heads to spring training in Arizona five seasons removed from their only World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.
Adrian Beltre goes into his 20th major league season only 58 hits shy of 3,000 in his career, and after winning his fifth Gold Glove last year. But the third baseman, who will turn 38 days after the opener, is still looking for his first World Series ring.
"We do have a team that can compete, obviously," Beltre said. "Find a way how to get it done. Not only get to the playoffs, but go all the way."
Even though Gold Glove-winning first baseman Mitch Moreland, All-Star center fielder Ian Desmond and Carlos Beltran all left in free agency, Texas may be in better shape heading into this spring than a year ago.
Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, their two aces, are set to start a season in the rotation together for the first time. Sam Dyson had 38 saves after taking over as the closer in mid-May, while Tony Barnette and Matt Bush excelled in their MLB debuts as 30-something relievers.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is set for a full season in Texas after being acquired in an Aug. 1 trade. Carlos Gomez, who came even later than that after his release from Houston, hit eight homers in 33 games and now moves to center field, where he won a Gold Glove in 2013 for Milwaukee.
"A lot of reasons that we have to believe that we are better, but that's all on paper," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's got to play out on the field."
The Rangers expect to fill out their rotation with former Padres right-handers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Cashner, a Texas native, finished last season in Miami, while Ross was on the disabled list the rest of the year after starting the Padres' opener. Ross is still rehabbing from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in October. Texas didn't re-sign veteran starters Colby Lewis or Derek Holland.
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Left-hander Yohander Mendez was the organization's top minor league pitcher last year and will likely be at Triple-A Round Rock, but made his big league debut last September.
Up the middle, Texas has shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor. Andrus, at 28 the team's longest-tenured player going into his ninth season, hit a career-best .302 last season. Odor, who just turned 23, had plenty of big shots last year with 33 homers -- and that punch to Jose Bautista's jaw.
The Rangers have no plans for a full-time DH, giving Banister flexibility to use that spot to give different guys a break from the field while staying in the lineup. "We have a third baseman (Beltre) that's a little prickly about getting days off, and it's a little easier to convince him to take half a day," Daniels said.
Mike Napoli is expected to officially rejoin the Rangers at the start of spring training for a third stint with the team, filling the pressing needs for a first baseman and another big bat in the middle of the lineup. Former AL MVP and five-time All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton will be in camp on a minor league deal and working out at first base after missing last season following three operations on his left knee.
AL West Teams at the Start of Spring Training
A team-by-team look at the American League West entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:
Manager: Jeff Banister (third season).
2016: 95-67, first place, lost to Toronto in ALDS.
Training Town: Surprise, Arizona.
Park: Surprise Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 15/21.
He's Here: RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Tyson Ross, 1B James Loney.
He's Outta Here: LHP Derek Holland, CF Ian Desmond, DH Carlos Beltran, 1B Mitch Moreland, RHP Colby Lewis.
Going campin': The Rangers won an AL-high 95 games last year and have been West champions in both seasons under Banister, but they are five seasons removed from back-to-back World Series appearances (2010-11). They are set at the top of the rotation with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, while young lefty Martin Perez is coming off 33 starts. New additions Ross and Cashner are former Padres teammates. Moreland, a Gold Glove winner, Desmond and Beltran left in free agency. Mike Napoli is set to rejoin the team for a third stint to play first base. Carlos Gomez will move to center field, where he was a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner in Milwaukee, after hitting eight homers in 33 games for Texas at the end of last season. The DH spot will be flexible, and possible options include 2010 AL MVP and five-time All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton, in camp on a minor league deal and working at first base after missing last season following three operations on his left knee.
Manager: Scott Servais (second season).
2016: 86-76, second place.
Training Town: Peoria, Arizona.
Park: Peoria Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 15/19.
He's Here: SS Jean Segura, OF Jarrod Dyson, 1B-3B Danny Valencia, OF Mitch Haniger, RHP Yovani Gallardo, LHP Drew Smyly, C Carlos Ruiz, RHP Shae Simmons, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP Casey Fien.
He's Outta Here: RHP Taijuan Walker, 1B Adam Lind, OF Nori Aoki, 1B Dae-Ho Lee, OF Franklin Gutierrez, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Nathan Karns, LHP Vidal Nuno, RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, RHP Drew Storen, C Jesus Sucre.
Going campin': The Mariners are coming off a surprising 86-win campaign that kept them in the playoff chase until the next-to-last day of the regular season. Servais accomplished his first-year task of changing the culture in the clubhouse, buoyed in part by huge seasons from Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. But the roster makeover by general manager Jerry Dipoto didn't stop after one season. The Mariners were extremely active in the offseason, completing 12 trades in an attempt to get younger and more athletic. The outfield is completely changed with the additions of Dyson and Haniger, and the starting rotation is deeper thanks to the acquisitions of Gallardo and Smyly. Most of the open jobs in spring training will be rounding out the bullpen and bench. Otherwise, the Mariners appear mostly set.
Manager: A.J. Hinch (third season).
2016: 84-78, third place.
Training Town: West Palm Beach, Florida.
Park: The Ballpark of Palm Beaches.
First Workout: Feb. 15/18.
He's Here: OF Josh Reddick, C Brian McCann, DH-OF Carlos Beltran, RHP Charlie Morton, OF Norichika Aoki, LHP Ashur Tolliver.
He's Outta Here: C Jason Castro, RHP Pat Neshek, OF Colby Rasmus, 3B Luis Valbuena, RHP Doug Fister.
Going campin': A slow start of 7-17 left the Astros in a deep hole early last season, and despite steady improvement throughout, that proved too much to overcome as they just missed reaching the playoffs for a second consecutive season. They spent significant money to bring in some veterans for the first time in years by adding Beltran, Reddick and McCann to their talented young core. The infield should again be the strength of the team behind the work of AL batting champion Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa. Houston hopes pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers will put last season's struggles and injuries behind them to anchor the rotation. Perhaps the only big question entering camp in their new spring training home is, who will close for the Astros? They manned the job by committee last season following Ken Giles' early struggles during his first season in Houston. If the veterans mesh well with the young core and Keuchel rebounds to lead the rotation, the Astros expect to not only compete for the AL West title, but make a deep postseason run.
Los Angeles Angels
Manager: Mike Scioscia (18th season).
2016: 74-88, fourth place.
Training Town: Tempe, Arizona.
Park: Tempe Diablo Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 15/18.
He's Here: OF Cameron Maybin, 2B Danny Espinosa, INF Luis Valbuena, OF Ben Revere, RHP Jesse Chavez, C Martin Maldonado.
He's Outta Here: RHP Jered Weaver, LHP C.J. Wilson, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, INF Gregorio Petit, C Jett Bandy.
Going campin': The Angels return from their worst season of Scioscia's long tenure with hopes for a quick rebound. Despite the salary constraints caused by owner Arte Moreno's free-spending past, GM Billy Eppler capably addressed the Angels' two biggest lineup problems by putting the well-rounded Maybin in left field and Orange County native Espinosa at second base. Eppler even added veteran depth behind them with Revere and Valbuena, who could also play extensively at first base if Albert Pujols returns slowly from offseason foot surgery. Scioscia must figure out his rotation this spring, and the Angels might still be looking to add starting pitching. They're hoping Garrett Richards reclaims top form after deciding against Tommy John surgery, while Matt Shoemaker is returning from a line drive off his head. The Angels' goal is to capitalize on the prime of two-time AL MVP Mike Trout, who says he still has room to improve.
Manager: Bob Melvin (seventh season).
2016: 69-93, fifth place.
Training Town: Mesa, Arizona.
Park: Hohokam Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 15/19.
He's Here: 3B Trevor Plouffe, RHP Santiago Casilla, RF Matt Joyce, CF Rajai Davis, 3B Adam Rosales, RHP Paul Blackburn, LF Alejandro De Aza.
He's Outta Here: 3B Danny Valencia, CF Brett Eibner, LHP Dillon Overton.
Going campin': The A's are coming off a second straight last-place finish and the worst two-year run for the franchise since 1978-79, before Billy Ball, the Bash Brothers or Moneyball. Oakland spent much of last season shedding some of its top players like Josh Reddick, Rich Hill and Coco Crisp before losing them in free agency. New team president Dave Kaval has helped excite the fan base with talk of a potential new stadium in Oakland and more amenities. Improving the product on the field would help even more. It starts with ace Sonny Gray, who won just five games in an injury-plagued season last year. LF Khris Davis (42 homers) and SS Marcus Semien (27 homers) provide the power in a lineup that gets a jolt of speed with Davis' return to Oakland. A bullpen led by Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, John Axford and Casilla also figures to be a strength.