Big changes for Rangers going to spring training
For the first time since the Texas Rangers moved their spring training west a decade ago, Michael Young won't be walking into their clubhouse in Arizona this week.
Neither will slugger Josh Hamilton, the five-time All-Star and former AL MVP. And they're not defending an American League title either. They didn't win a game last October following World Series appearances the previous two seasons.
There are some significant differences as Rangers pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz., on Tuesday, three days before the reporting date for the rest of the squad.
"It's definitely going to be a different atmosphere," said 18-game winner Matt Harrison, the left-hander who got a new contract last month.
That doesn't mean the Rangers have lowered their expectations or feel they had a bad offseason even though they failed to keep Hamilton — they wouldn't have matched the $125 million, five-year deal he got from the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels — and missed out on signing top free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke. Young, the longest-tenured Texas player after 12 seasons, was traded to Philadelphia where he is expected to be a full-time starting third baseman again.
"I'm genuinely like our chances," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Obviously there were a couple of guys we were interested in early on that ended elsewhere. That's part of the deal. ... We like our club, and we like the possibilities ahead of us."
Especially with the starting rotation they have in place, likely for several seasons to come after the $55 million, five-year deal for 27-year-old All-Star lefty Harrison with a club option for 2018 that could become guaranteed.
Japanese ace Yu Darvish heads into the second year of a $56 million, six-year deal, though there are provisions that could allow the 26-year-old right-hander to become a free agent after a year earlier, after the 2016 season.
Derek Holland, a 26-year-old lefty, is under contract through 2016, with club options for two additional years. And Alexi Ogando, a 13-game winner and All-Star starter in 2011 before pitching out of the bullpen last season, is back in the rotation and under team control at least four more seasons, including his arbitration-eligible years.
"We've had some great individual performances, but to look up and have Matt and Yu and Derek and Alexi, and know that the core of the rotation is going to be here — these are accomplished young pitchers," Daniels said. "It is evidence that all the efforts we've made on the scouting and development side to put this young rotation together, that it's paying off."
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