Rangers clear Yu Darvish for throwing program

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
4:40
PM CT
Rangers ace Yu Darvish was cleared by Dr. Keith Meister to begin his normal throwing program Tuesday.

Darvish, who missed the last month and half of the season because of mild inflammation in his right elbow, underwent an MRI exam and subsequent examination by Dr. Meister.

After an Aug. 9 start at Houston, where he lasted just four innings, Darvish complained of mild discomfort in his elbow. As a precaution, the Rangers placed Darvish (10-7, 3.06 ERA) on the disabled list in early August and he never returned.

When the season ended, Darvish went back home to Japan before returning to the United States this week to meet with Rangers officials. Darvish was doing conditioning training in Japan. Now back in Arlington, he will work out for the next few weeks.

Darvish, who made 22 starts, will begin his throwing program in December.

Notes: The Rangers finalized some roster moves with two teams overseas. Outfielder Jim Adduci had his player rights sold to the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization and pitchers Miles Mikolas and Aaron Poreda had their player rights sold to the Nippon Professional Baseball's Central League.

Minor League Rankings: No. 7 Nomar Mazara

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
3:00
PM CT
The Rangers minor league series continues today with a look at some more outfielders.

Ranking: 7
Player: Nomar Mazara
Position: OF
Draft selection: International signing.
Team: Double-A Frisco
2014 season: Hickory: 106 G, .264/.358/.470 19 HR, 73 RBI, 57 W, 99 K. Frisco: 24 G, .306/.381/.518 3 HR, 16 RBI, 9 W, 22 K.
Positives: Hits for power
Negatives: Not much experience, he turns 20 next year

When will he be here?: The Rangers paid a record $4.5 million to sign Mazara from the Dominican Republic in 2011 because of his potential. Expect him to progress in Frisco this summer with a possible move to Triple-A in the second half of the year. Mazara developed a toe-tap before he swings and that allowed him to become a better hitter.

What they’re saying: “He has the bat speed and loft to provide plenty of home runs, though like many of Texas' top position prospects, he'll need to tone down his aggressiveness. With his power and solid arm strength, Mazara profiles easily in right field. He's a below-average runner but has improved his reads in the outfield and gets the job done defensively. -- MLB.com

“Frighteningly talented, though. Don't think he's that far off. I'd start him at Double-A next year, make him repeat what he just did, then get him to Triple-A by June if he does so that he's in position for a late-season callup” -- ESPN’s Keith Law

The series:

No. 8 Lewis Brinson

No. 9 Travis Demeritte

No. 10 Corey Knebel

Notes: Yu Darvish getting exam

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
12:15
PM CT
Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish is visiting team officials this week.

Items on his to-do list include meeting new manager Jeff Banister, checking in with pitching coach Mike Maddux and getting an exam on his right elbow, which had some mild inflammation toward the end of last season.

Darvish is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam and if the results are good, he's expected to begin his normal throwing program next month.

GM Jon Daniels said at the GM Meetings recently that Darvish is always in shape and doesn't have any issues regarding his durability. Darvish has spent time on the DL in all three of his big league seasons for a variety of reasons.

Darvish went on the DL after the mild inflammation was discovered and didn't return.

Chirinos wins award: It was nice to see Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos receive the first ever The Richard Durrett Hardest-Working Man award presented by the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Durrett, as you know, was a former Rangers beat writer for ESPNDallas.com. Durrett passed away June 17.

"I'm totally touched about the award," said Kelly Durrett, Richard's widow. "One of things I want our kids to remember about Richard was how hard working he was. He had so much dedication and drive and I still don't know how he got everything done in a day. He really did work harder than anyone I know. I think this is the perfect way to honor and to remember him. It's great that this could be done and I'm sure Robinson was someone Richard enjoyed working with and someone who is truly deserving."

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Minor League Rankings: No. 8 Lewis Brinson

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
12:00
PM CT
Our daily series on the Top 10 Rangers minor league prospects continues with a pair of outfielders.

Ranking: 8
Player: Lewis Brinson
Position: OF
Draft selection: 2012, first round
Team: High Desert
2014 season: Hickory: 43 G, .335/.405/..579 10 HR, 28 RBI, 18 W, 46 K. Myrtle Beach: 46 G, .246/.307/.350 3 HR, 22 RBI, 15 W, 50 K.
Positives: Good makeup, wiling to learn
Negatives: Needs more work on developing power and expanding strike zone

When will he be here?: He made some improvements in his swing and approach in 2014 and during the instructional league. The Rangers believe he’s got an above average arm for a center fielder and see him getting better. He’s got a good chance to make Double-A Frisco at some point this season, especially if he cuts down on the strikeouts, 96 in 89 minor league games last season.

What they’re saying: Brinson’s swing was choppy in high school and the Rangers have smoothed it out to let his athleticism shine through. He also appears to be intentionally working on lowering his hand load in BP, but it still creeps up in games. Brinson’s plate discipline has slowly increased and it’s workable now, but he’s still getting by on raw ability at this point. -- FanGraphs Kiley McDaniel

Here's a look at the series:

No. 9 Travis Demeritte

No. 10 Corey Knebel

Minor League Rankings: No. 9 Travis Demeritte

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
12:00
PM CT
We continue our rankings of the Top 10 minor league prospects in the Texas Rangers system.

Ranking: 9
Player: Travis Demeritte
Position: 2B
Draft selection: 2013, first round.
Team: Class-A Hickory
2014 season: Hickory: 118 G, .211/.310/.450 25 HR, 66 RBI, 50 W and 171 K.
Positives: Hits for power
Negatives: Needs experience, last season's 118 games played was the most he ever participated in.

When will he be here?: He's about two years away and that's OK because the Rangers have depth in the middle of the infield. You have to like the power, but the batting average (he had 84 hits in 118 games) suffered a little bit as he hit for that power. He will get better with more experience, especially at the plate. He turned 20 on Sept. 30, so there's no rush to promote him before he's ready. Demeritte is worth following because he's the draft pick the Rangers obtained for losing Josh Hamilton in free agency. "I just want to get in and do what I do best," Demeritte said back in 2013 when asked about the pick. "I'm not worried about that. I'm just ready to make my name."

What they’re saying: "Scouts were mixed on Demeritte's ability to remain at shortstop because he has just average speed. His arm and his bat would profile well at third base, where he spent time in his pro debut, but will stand out even more at second base, where the Rangers played him for most of 2014." -- MLB.com

"The right-handed hitting Demeritte has a strong offensive projection too. His movements are free and easy, generating lift at the point of contact. An athletic base helps drive future power projection. Barreling baseballs to all fields in batting practice, Demeritte projects flashed power to all fields. In game action, he hit a laser beam off the right field wall for a loud hit." -- ROTOScouting




Minor League Rankings: No. 10 Corey Knebel

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
9:00
AM CT
Starting this week, ESPNDallas will rank the Top 10 minor league prospects in the Texas Rangers system. You'll receive two prospects per day.

Ranking: 10
Player: Corey Knebel
Position: RHP
Draft selection: 2013, first round supplemental.
Team: Triple-A Round Rock
2014 season: Detroit Tigers: 8 Games, 8.2 IP, 11 H, 11 K, OPP BA: .306. Triple-A Round Rock: 9 Games, 12 IP, 9 H, 20 K, OPP BA: .205. Triple-A Toledo: 14 Games, 18.1 IP, 6 H, 9 K, OPP BA: .109.
Positives: Big fastball and a hard breaking ball.
Negatives: Recovering from elbow injury

When will he be here?: The former University of Texas pitcher was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and quickly moved up the ranks in the minor league system to the big club. He pitched in eight games this past season for the Tigers. He was acquired in a trade this past summer and the Rangers have been nothing but impressed with his work in Triple-A. Knebel suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament during the 2014 season and was shut down. He's recovering well and there's an expectation he'll be ready for spring training. Knebel will battle for a back-of-the-bullpen spot, but with so much depth on the big club there's nothing wrong with seeing him get extended time in Triple-A.

What they’re saying: "There's some funkiness to Knebel's delivery, but it adds more deception than it detracts from his ability to throw strikes. He flashes a decent changeup, which had the Tigers initially considering trying him as a starter, but his future definitely is as a reliever." -- MLB.com

"Corey Knebel is a reliever, a tough competitor with a mid-90s fastball, a grade-55 curveball that misses some bats, below-average command, and a high-effort arm swing that's hard for him to repeat. He doesn't have the pure stuff to be a closer (he can be an elite reliever, top 25 or so in the game) but if he can finish the curveball consistently enough he'll have a solid career working in the seventh or eighth inning." -- Keith Law, ESPN

Rangers place bid for Korean pitcher

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
8:15
AM CT
According to a source, the Texas Rangers have placed a bid for Korean left-handed starter Yang Hyeon-Jong.

MK Sports reported the Rangers have won the bidding at $1.5 million and former big-leaguer CJ Nitkowski, who played for the Rangers from 2002-03, tweeted the Rangers beat out the Minnesota Twins for Hyeon-Jong's rights.

A Rangers official said the team won't know if they won the bidding for Hyeon-Jong until this week.

While pitching for the Kia Tigers, Hyeon-Jong went 62-42 with a 4.33 ERA in his career. He's never pitched more than 170 innings in eight seasons. He's considered more of a middle-of-the rotation-type starter, something the Rangers are looking for given they have Yu Darvish and Derek Holland at the top.

GM Jon Daniels said pitching is his No. 1 priority this offseason and there was a belief the Rangers wouldn't go into the international market that much.

Rangers inquire about J. Upton trade

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
8:14
AM CT
[+] EnlargeUpton
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesJustin Upton had a career-high 102 RBIs last season.

The Texas Rangers have inquired about trading for Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton, according to a source.

The Rangers tried to acquire Upton in previous seasons but couldn't finalize a deal.

With the Rangers planning on moving left fielder Shin-Soo Choo to right field, they need another corner outfielder with power. Last season, Upton played in a career-high 154 games and hit .270 while also setting career highs in home runs (29) and RBIs (102).

Upton has a limited no-trade clause in his contract to four teams, but the Rangers are not one of them.

In addition to Upton's skills on the field, the Rangers are attracted to his contract. He has one year remaining on a six-year, $51.2 million contract extension he signed while playing with Arizona. Finding players with at least one year remaining on their contracts is appealing to the Rangers in this trade market.

The Braves are retooling their club after a 27-40 second-half collapse and already have traded outfielder Jason Heyward


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Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 20

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
6:15
PM CT
Before you know it, baseball season will be here.

The Texas Rangers announced that pitchers and catchers will report Feb. 20 in Surprise, Ariz., with the first workout the next day. Position players report Wednesday, Feb. 25, and the first full squad workout is Thursday.

The Cactus League schedule opens March 4 when the Rangers meet the defending AL champion Kansas City Royals in Surprise.

A few things to look for:

  • Yu Darvish's first workout. Darvish missed nearly the last month and a half of the season with elbow inflammation.

  • Prince returns. First baseman Prince Fielder, limited to basically two months of the season because of neck problems, should be ready to go.

  • There are several injured players in addition to Fielder returning, including Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Shin-Soo Choo, Martin Perez and Jurickson Profar.

  • The battle for the backup catcher could be between Tomas Telis, Chris Gimenez and maybe a veteran free agent.

  • Oh yeah, this is manager Jeff Banister's first spring training as the skipper. He replaces Ron Washington, who resigned late last season.
  • Raul Ibanez finalist to manage Rays

    November, 21, 2014
    Nov 21
    4:44
    PM CT
    video

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Raul Ibanez, Kevin Cash and Don Wakamatsu are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Dave Martinez, the Rays' bench coach for the past seven seasons, was among seven candidates dropped Friday. Also cut were Barry Larkin, Doug Glanville, Manny Acta, Craig Counsell, Charlie Montoyo and Ron Wotus.

    Tampa Bay said interviews with the finalists will be scheduled for the week of Dec. 1. Maddon left the Rays after nine seasons to manage the Chicago Cubs.

    "The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult," Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said in a statement. "He's played a key role in our organization's evolution, and he's done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture."

    Ibanez, 42, has spent 19 seasons in the major leagues with Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels and has 305 homers and 2,034 hits. He helped the Royals win this year's AL pennant.

    The 36-year-old Cash played for Tampa Northside in the 1989 Little League World Series and was a big league catcher for eight seasons with Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston, the New York Yankees and Houston from 2002 to 2010. He was a major league advance scout for Toronto in 2012 and Cleveland's bullpen coach in 2013-14.


    (Read full post)


    Catching situation looks interesting

    November, 21, 2014
    Nov 21
    10:15
    AM CT
    On Thursday, the Rangers signed catcher Chris Gimenez to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.

    This small transaction could mean the Rangers have found their backup catcher for Robinson Chirinos. If Gimenez impresses, then quite possibly staff ace Yu Darvish will have one of his favorite catchers behind the plate returning.

    Last season before being traded to Cleveland, Gimenez caught 12 of Darvish's 22 starts. Darvish went 6-4 with two no-decisions, three complete games (the New York Yankees game July 23 was ruled a complete game due to weather), pitched into the seventh inning seven times and had three games with double-digit strikeout efforts with Gimenez as the catcher.

    Gimenez, 31, had a batting average of .241 with 10 home runs and 11 RBIs with Texas and Cleveland. But he's not here for his bat. Darvish needs a catcher with experience and while Chirinos is the favorite to become the No. 1 man, he just became a full-time catcher within the last year. He started 88 games at catcher and GM Jon Daniels said Chirinos has the ability to catch 100 games.

    At one point during the first half of the season, Gimenez caught Darvish for nine consecutive starts.

    Of course, some pitchers can throw to anybody behind the plate, but when you have a solid comfort level between Darvish and Gimenez, you attempt to take advantage of it.

    (Read full post)

    Rangers protect players, make a trade with Angels

    November, 20, 2014
    Nov 20
    11:28
    PM CT
    The Texas Rangers reached the 40-man roster limit and protected four players from the Rule 5 draft with several moves Thursday night.

    The team added right-handed pitchers Luke Jackson and Jerad Eickhoff, infielder Hanser Alberto and catcher Jorge Alfaro to the 40-man roster, protecting them from Rule 5 draft.

    To make room for the players, the Rangers designated outfielder/first baseman Jim Adduci for assignment and traded outfielder Daniel Robertson to the Los Angeles Angels for cash or a player to be named later.

    The club also placed pitchers Miles Mikolas and Aaron Poreda on unconditional-release waivers, allowing each to play for the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese League.

    The Rangers will receive cash for this move.

    In Robertson, 29, the Angels are getting a corner outfielder who hit .271/.333/.333 in 70 games 2014. The Rangers considered him as a possible No. 4 outfielder, but with the team needing to get to the 40-man roster limit, it was best to trade him.

    Of the prospects moved to the 40-man roster, Jackson has a possibility of making the roster at some point during the 2015 season.

    Rangers sign three players

    November, 20, 2014
    Nov 20
    2:50
    PM CT
    The Texas Rangers on Thursday announced the signing of catcher Chris Gimenez and right-handed pitcher David Martinez to minor-league contracts with invites to spring training.

    Gimenez, 31, hit .241 with 11 RBIs in 42 games with Texas and Cleveland last season. He spent a bulk of the season at Triple-A Round Rock where he hit .284 with six home runs and 22 RBIs. The Rangers acquired Gimenez in a waiver claim from Oakland last spring and he made the opening day roster. He was traded to Cleveland on August 23.

    Martinez, 27, has made seven relief appearances for the Houston Astros over the last two seasons. Last season, he appeared in three games (seven innings) and faced 28 hitters.

    Martinez spent the majority of the 2014 season with Triple-A Oklahoma City and compiled a 5.64 ERA in 22 games (13 starts).

    The Rangers also signed left-handed pitcher Efrain Nieves to a minor-league contract, and he'll be in minor league camp this spring. Nievens, 25, pitched in 44 games last season for Dunedin, Toronto's High-A affiliate.

    Yu Darvish won't get MRI until next week

    November, 20, 2014
    Nov 20
    1:25
    PM CT
    Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish is scheduled to arrive in the United States on Thursday to meet with club officials, including new manager Jeff Banister.

    Darvish, who was shut down because of elbow inflammation after making five starts in the second half of the 2014 season, will have an MRI exam on his arm next week with Dr. Keith Meister. If the exam goes well, Darvish will begin his normal throwing program.

    Darvish has spent time on the disabled list in all three of his big league seasons, but GM Jon Daniels said the club isn't worried about durability issues. Daniels has said Darvish always comes to spring training in good shape.

    Also, Rangers RHP Alexi Ogando, who pitched in 27 games last season before arm inflammation ended his season, has decided against pitching in winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

    Ogando was in the midst of a throwing program when club officials said the next step would be to pitch winter ball. Ogando reported some arm fatigue during his sessions, but it wasn't deemed serious. Ogando might not pitch again until spring training games start, unless something changes.

    Rangers catcher Tomas Telis injures hand

    November, 20, 2014
    Nov 20
    1:10
    PM CT
    Texas Rangers backup catcher Tomas Telis injured his left, non-throwing hand while playing winter ball in Venezuela.

    A Rangers source said an examination revealed no structural damage and that Telis is day-to-day.

    Telis went 2-for-4 with a stolen base Monday, the day it appears he was injured. In 25 games for Navegantes del Magallanes, Telis has a slash line of .256/.315/.341.

    Rangers GM Jon Daniels said at the GM meetings two weeks ago that Telis was improving his skills behind the plate and had fixed some footwork problems to improve his ability to throw out baserunners.

    Telis logged 68 at-bats in 18 games as Robinson Chirinos' backup last season with the Rangers. Daniels said the Rangers are open to signing a veteran backup this winter but still have hopes for Telis competing for a roster spot with the big club.

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