Rangers seek a healthy Fielder and Darvish

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
8:44
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Prince FielderAP Photo/LM Otero"I'm in there," Prince Fielder said of feeling healthy enough to return to the Rangers' lineup.

DALLAS – Injuries dominated the Texas Rangers' 2014 season.

They became so much of a focal point that right-handed starter Colby Lewis, a man who returned from elbow and hip surgeries, said he thought Mitch Moreland and Shin-Soo Choo played on broken ankles last season.

They didn’t, but it’s clear health was a major contributor to the team's 95 losses.

That can’t happen again in 2015 for the Rangers to contend, and two key players coming off health issues, Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish, need to be available for an entire season.

The pair spoke to reporters Friday prior to the Rangers' annual banquet.

Fielder lasted just 42 games before a pinched nerve forced him to undergo surgery. He hit just three home runs and drove in 16 -- far short of his totals in the three seasons before he arrived in Texas, during which he hit 38, 30 and 25 home runs for the Detroit Tigers.

Fielder, 30, said he's feeling good.

“I can play a pickup game right now,” he said. “I’m in there, I’m in there.”

The Rangers need Fielder to be the power hitter they missed last season. His absence placed tremendous pressure on Adrian Beltre to carry the offense. Beltre, the Rangers’ MVP, hit .324 with 77 RBIs -- though his 19 home runs were his fewest since eight in 2009.

Fielder’s return should resound through the lineup.

“It was real difficult,” said Fielder, who played in 162 games for three consecutive seasons before his injury. “I wasn’t used to missing games, so to miss a lot of the season, it was difficult at first. But I had to be an adult about it and just get back healthy to get ready for this year.”

Darvish is another story.

The right-hander missed the final month and a half of the 2014 season with inflammation in his throwing elbow. He’s throwing on flat ground now, earning the praise of pitching coach Mike Maddux, and expects to throw off a mound within the next two weeks.

“My elbow is feeling great and I’m doing the program that is provided from the team,” Darvish said through his new interpreter, Shun Ukita.

In 22 starts, Darvish pitched into the seventh inning 14 times. He was a dominant force, an ace the Rangers needed regardless of how the season was going.

While the 28-year-old is in terrific shape, he has dealt with lower-back and neck issues in the past. The elbow was never much of a problem until last year, and drama followed the injury.

Pitching through the discomfort was discussed, but the Rangers thought it was wise to shut Darvish down given where the team sat in the standings.

“It was very disappointing with the [last-place] position the team was in,” Darvish said. “We weren’t really playing well [and] it was disappointing not being with the team.”

Darvish said he has built a special gym in his house in his native Japan, and that he’s stronger and has put the lower-back issues in the past. Darvish, more than anybody on this Rangers pitching staff, understands the expectations placed on him.

It can’t be another lost season for him and Fielder.

When key players are healthy, positive results are mandatory.

If two of the Rangers' better players can't lead them, Jeff Banister’s rookie season as a manager could be painful to watch.

Prince Fielder stands up to bullying

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
8:19
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DALLAS -- Prior to the start of the annual Texas Rangers awards banquet Friday, slugger Prince Fielder introduced a new anti-bullying program called Going to Bat against Bullying.

Fielder said he was bullied as a kid and talked to his mother about handling such adversity.

"It's not a good situation," said Fielder, adding that his own life experiences -- as well of those of his own children -- informed his participation in the initiative.

When asked how somebody was able to bully the robust Fielder as a child, he replied, "Not one [person] at a time. Fat jokes, all the usual stuff."

The program starts online Monday and will become available for children in grades 4 through 8 in Texas schools. Children can develop ways to create an anti-bullying atmosphere in school and in their communities.

"Bullying is a major problem in our society and schools today," Fielder said. "And my hope is Going to Bat against Bullying can help make a difference."

Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish feel ready

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
8:14
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[+] EnlargeYu Darvish
AP Photo/LM Otero"My elbow is feeling great," Yu Darvish said Friday through his translator. "My back and my lower back is feeling great, too."

DALLAS -- The Texas Rangers are getting back a slugger and an ace.

Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish both say they feel good after injury-shortened seasons.

"I'll play a pickup game right now. I'm ready to go," Fielder said Friday night before the team's awards dinner. "I'm good, I'm 100 percent, whatever it was before is back."

Fielder played only 42 games in his first season with Texas before a cervical fusion of two disks in his neck last May. He had appeared in 547 consecutive games since 2010 before that, and hadn't missed consecutive games since August 2007.

Darvish didn't pitch after Aug. 9 because of right elbow inflammation. With the Rangers on their way to 95 losses and a last-place finish, the team held out its three-time All-Star for the rest of the season.

"My elbow is feeling great," Darvish said through his translator. "Not this past offseason, but the one before, I wasn't able to do my training, especially strengthening. But this offseason I was able to work on my strengthening program, and then I'm feeling great right now. My back and my lower back is feeling great, too."

Last offseason, Texas traded second baseman Ian Kinsler


(Read full post)


DALLAS -- The Texas Rangers avoided salary arbitration with Mitch Moreland on Friday by signing the first baseman/DH to a one-year contract worth $2.95 million with the potential to earn $25,000 more in performance bonuses.

Moreland played in just 52 games last season, hitting .246/.297/.347 before needing ankle surgery. Moreland said he should begin spring training on time.

The Rangers had three players who were eligible for salary arbitration this offseason. Closer Neftali Feliz (one-year $4.125 million) and right-handed starter Ross Detwiler (one-year $3.450 million) agreed to deals last week.

Also, the club signed left-handed pitcher Ross Ohlendorf to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. Ohlendorf, 32, was a member of the Washington Nationals the last two seasons but missed last year with a back injury. He made five rehab starts with the Nationals.

Right-handed reliever Gonzalez German, who was acquired via trade earlier this week, was sent to the Chicago Cubs on a waiver claim.

In addition to the signings, the Rangers invited six minor-leaguers, righties Alec Asher, Alex Gonzalez and Keone Kela, along with catcher Pat Cantwell, third baseman Joey Gallo and outfielder Jared Hoying, to major league spring training.

Of course the big name here is Gallo, the power hitter who is considered the top prospect in the Rangers' farm system. Gonzalez will get a chance to compete for a job in the starting rotation.
Major League Baseball announced Thursday that four minor league players were suspended for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment program.

Texas Rangers Double-A outfielder Chris Grayson received a 50-game suspension without pay for testing positive for amphetamines.

Grayon, 25, who was drafted in the 13th round in 2011, will start his suspension at the start of the 2015 Texas League season.

While playing in advanced Class A and Double-A, Grayson played in 89 games and finished the season in Double-A Frisco where in 44 games he batted .265/.355/.390.

Minnesota Twins right-handed pitcher Hudson Boyd (Class A Cedar Rapids), free agent minor league righty Chris Capper and Cleveland Indians righty Duke Von Schaman (Double-A Akron) also received 50-game suspensions.

In the last two days, Major League Baseball has announced the suspension of nine minor league players for violating the drug policy.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Sometimes you have to sit back and think about whether it’s worth it.

Yes, the money and fame that comes with being a baseball player is nice. You get recognized at the mall, in the park and while eating with the wife and kids.

At times the club will ask you to sign autographs and meet the loyal fans. You get a great per diem for road trips. You travel first class. Wear nice clothes.

Being a baseball player is cool.

But Matt Harrison had to decide if it’s worth risking his health.

The Texas Rangers starter has undergone three back surgeries over the last two years. He’s got a vertebrae that slips out of position and also has nerve irritation. On June 3 he underwent spinal fusion surgery where doctors fused the L5 and S1 disks.

He thought about retirement.

“Probably right after the surgery,” Harrison said of when he first pondered giving up baseball. “After the first couple of weeks (following surgery) I haven’t really thought about it until if I started having pain again. Then yes, I would (think about retiring). It would put doubt in my head as far as getting back. But right now I’m focused on the day-to-day goals and getting back as soon as possible, and if things don’t feel good once I get off the mound it’s obviously not worth it. Health and quality life is more important than throwing a baseball.”

Harrison made 62 starts and won 32 games from 2011 to 2012 and was named to the All-Star team in 2012. He pitched Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. The Rangers rewarded Harrison with a five-year, $55 million contract in January of 2013. He’s made six starts since signing the deal.

Back issues have prevented Harrison from getting back to his old form, and there’s no guarantee he can return from spinal fusion surgery.

Why? Because nobody in the history of the game has.

“It’s tough having to slow down, but I understand the situation,” Harrison said. “At the same time, I got one shot at this, and I want to do it right.”

Harrison has been throwing for three weeks and says it takes him a little longer to get warmed up, but the Rangers like what they've seen so far.

There are no expectations for Harrison at this stage of the winter, and there won’t be when pitchers and catchers report to spring training next month in Surprise, Ariz. He’ll pitch on the side for a while, then at some point get on the mound and throw a few pitches. If there isn't any pain, just the normal discomfort that comes from having back surgeries, then maybe he'll throw a simulated game. Then maybe he'll get in a few rehab starts. Before you know it, it will be June and we’ll have a better idea of where Harrison stands.

“Definitely take the slow road, the cautious road,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said of the Rangers' approach with Harrison. “This is not our first rodeo. Matt Harrison with multiple procedures on the same area in his back -- this will be a first, and were going to be cautious.”

The Rangers have four solid starters in their rotation, including Colby Lewis, who returned from hip replacement surgery last year.

“Just focus on getting it right,” Harrison said.

There’s hope. Patience is the key.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers received some good news regarding one of their injured players when second baseman Jurickson Profar threw from 45 feet on Tuesday.

This was the week Profar was to start a throwing program after missing the 2014 season with a torn muscle in his shoulder.

“The initial reports were very positive,” assistant general manager Thad Levine said Wednesday. “We’re trying not to get too geeked up on any one throwing session. He’s on pace. We’re expecting him to go into spring training full go offensively and a little bit behind from a position standpoint defensively with the expectation by the end of spring he should be completely full-go.”

At that pace, Profar most likely will start the season at Triple-A, which doesn’t bother the Rangers that much considering they have Rougned Odor as the starting second baseman.

The price to get Corporan: The Rangers wanted a backup catcher for Robinson Chirinos and traded right-handed starter Akeem Bostick to the Houston Astros for Carlos Corporan on Wednesday morning.

Corporan was designated for assignment by Houston on Tuesday so it could proceed with a potential deal with Texas.

It came at a price for Texas.

The Rangers trade a talented pitcher, Bostick, who was a second-round draft pick in the 2013 First Year Player Draft. Bostick, 19, went 5-6 with a 5.17 ERA pitching for Low-A Hickory last season. He pitched into the sixth inning four times last season out of 20 starts.

“He was a player we definitely wanted to retain,” Levine said. “We feel [Houston's] scouts did a very good job of coming up with a guy who wasn’t one of our higher-profile players but who has a high ceiling. Needless to say, in these negotiations we turned down a lot of names that we didn’t want to part with. At some point, our opinion of Corporan and the value he could bring to the organization, we knew we were going to have to give up something.”

Contract extension for Gallardo: When the Rangers made the trade to acquire right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo on Monday, one thing of note was the Fort Worth native enters the final year of his contract. Gallardo is scheduled to make $13 million this season and is open to signing a long-term deal with his hometown team.
"I think that would be even better, to be honest. That would be great,” Gallardo said at a news conference with the local media on Wednesday. “Obviously, that's something to think about, something that I'm open for, but the main thing right now is focus on this year and preparing for the season. If I do what I have to do, I think everything will fall into place the way it should."

The Rangers haven’t opened talks with Gallardo’s agent, Bobby Witt.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers should hear in the next 48 hours on the date for a salary arbitration hearing regarding first baseman/DH Mitch Moreland.

The two sides, roughly $600,000 apart, failed to reach an agreement, though are still talking. But if contract terms can’t be reached by the end of January, an arbitration hearing will be set for February.

“I don’t have anything to do with it, I play the game,” Moreland said.

The Rangers had three salary arbitration eligible players and reached one-year deals with starter Ross Detwiler and closer Neftali Feliz.

The Rangers offered Moreland a contract of $2.75 million and he countered by filing for a $3.35 million one-year deal.

“I would say the conversations have been productive and ongoing and that’s really all you can hope for at this time,” Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine said Wednesday. “I believe it’s today or tomorrow we’ll be notified when the actual hearing date is and I think that usually shapes the urgency of the conversations at least in the near term. It’s hard to prognosticate these things. They tend to take a lot of twists and turns that are unexpected but right now it seems like it’s going very optimistically.”

The Rangers reached an agreement with Moreland last season that took some time but the sides were able to avoid a salary arbitration hearing, something the club hasn’t had since 2000.

As Moreland awaits his next contract, he continues to rehab from surgery to his left ankle that allowed him to play in just 52 games last season when he batted .246/.297/.347.

Moreland had been a dependable power hitter, driving in 110 runs over a two year span where he had an OPS of .789 in 2012 and .736 in 2013.

He's rehabbing in Tempe, Arizona, and has hit off a tee and done soft toss. He should be available to start spring training on time and not only play first base but also one of the two corner outfielder positions if asked.

“Just trying to get it back as strong as I possibly can,” Moreland said. “And try to be stronger than I was before it was 100 percent.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- During the Texas Rangers' development camp Wednesday, pitching coach Mike Maddux made a revelation regarding the starting rotation: There might be one spot available.

The Rangers have Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, newly acquired Yovani Gallardo and we thought Ross Detwiler, whom the Rangers acquired in a trade last month, ready to start.

Maddux said not so fast.

“I would have to say there’s definitely a spot open and the more guys you have competing for that, I think that improves the depth in the organization,” he said. “But who’s to say that one of those guys might not make the ball club in a different role. Then, as the season rolls on, you're gonna need a spot start here and there, that’s inevitable. Sometimes those guys get an opportunity like that, ‘Hey we got to see that again.’ Next thing you know, you got six pretty good starters on your hands and you don’t have enough room for them, but that’s a good problem to have.”

Detwiler is moving to the rotation after spending last season in the bullpen for the Washington Nationals. Detwiler has spent a majority of his seven-year career (69 starts) as a starter. Washington moved him to the bullpen last year due to the surplus in the rotation. Now, Detwiler hopes to return to the rotation.

Maddux said there are no guarantees regarding Detwiler making the move back. The Rangers moved bullpen pitchers to the starting rotation before and saw mixed results.

“He will let us know,” Maddux said of Detwiler. “We’ve been successful with it and unsuccessful with it. I think it all comes down to the person and what their motivation is and what their drive is. If they’re blessed with that good health to go out there and log the innings or if they're a better fit to throw less innings and more games.”

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Rangers acquire Corporan from Astros

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
11:27
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The Texas Rangers filled a need at backup catcher by acquiring Carlos Corporan from the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

Corporan was designated for assignment by the Astros on Tuesday.

The Rangers traded minor league right-handed pitcher Akeem Bostick, a 2013 second-round pick to get Corporan.

Corporan will back up starting catcher Robinson Chirinos.

Last season, Corporan hit .235 in 55 games. He made 48 starts at catcher for the Astros.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Corporan, the Rangers designated righty reliever Gonzalez Germen for assignment. The Rangers just acquired Germen from the New York Yankees on Tuesday.

Rangers acquire Gonzalez Germen

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
5:10
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The Texas Rangers acquired right-handed reliever Gonzalez Germen from the New York Yankees for cash considerations on Tuesday.

The 27-year old Germen was designated for assignment on Jan. 13 by the Yankees after he was acquired in a trade with the New York Mets the previous month.

In 25 relief appearances for the Mets, Germen pitched in 30 1/3 innings and compiled a 4.75 ERA. He missed a little over a month of the 2014 season because of a virus and abscess.

Over the last two seasons, Germen made 54 relief appearances for the Mets.

The Rangers have bolstered their bullpen this offseason to create depth with a mixture of veterans and young players.
The Texas Rangers' allowing infielder Luis Sardinas to go in the Yovani Gallardo trade Monday explains a lot about the franchise's farm system.

It’s deep in the middle infield.

Elvis Andrus (shortstop) and Rougned Odor (second baseman) are mainstays at the major league level; Jurickson Profar, recovering from shoulder surgery, might start the season at Triple-A Round Rock.

A deeper look at the Rangers' farm system reveals at least four middle infielders with the talent to move up the system over time.

It starts with second baseman/shortstop Josh Morgan, who will start in High-A ball this season with the objective of reaching Double-A Frisco. Shortstops Yeyson Yrizarri and Ti'Quan Forbes are due to play rookie ball this season at short, and there’s Travis Demeritte, a second baseman/third baseman at High-A who will also move to Double-A eventually.

So when the Rangers moved Sardinas, it wasn’t met with much sadness.

Morgan, Yrizarri, Forbes and Demeritte are ranked among the top 20 players in the team's farm system by MLB.com.

“This deal was possible because of the depth of our system,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “We've certainly got some guys we were reluctant to include [in a trade]. It doesn’t deplete our system, but addresses a major league need.”

The need was starting pitching, which is what the Rangers did in sending a pair of right-handers along with Sardinas to the Milwaukee Brewers to obtain Gallardo.

One of the things the Rangers have done is stock the farm system with players other teams want.

Daniels isn’t letting any of the top prospects -- such as Joey Gallo, Alex Gonzalez and Jorge Alfaro -- go. Moving Sardinas doesn’t affect what’s left on the farm -- one of the positives of what Daniels did Monday.
The Texas Rangers wanted a quality starting pitcher to help Yu Darvish and Derek Holland at the top of the rotation in 2015. Enter Yovani Gallardo, a Fort Worth, Texas, native who attended Trimble Tech High School.

The 28-year-old, obtained Monday in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, is entering the final year of his contract, under which he is due $13 million, though his hometown team is open to signing Gallardo long-term.

However, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said during Monday’s conference call with reporters, results will determine plenty.

“We’ve got to let it play out, at least for right now,” Daniels said. “We haven’t had any discussions with Yovani.”

The right-hander brings plenty of positives to the Texas rotation: He has pitched at least 180 innings in six of his eight big league seasons and made at least 30 starts the past six.

“A workhorse,” manager Jeff Banister said.

The Rangers will pay $9 million of Gallardo’s salary, and a long-term commitment depends on whether he can win games for a team coming off a 95-loss season. This past season, according to FanGraphs' calculations, Gallardo’s Wins Above Replacement was 1.7, third-best on the Brewers and just slightly above Colby Lewis' 1.6.

Gallardo changed his style slightly from a strikeout pitcher to one who pitches to contact. He joked that one has to do what’s necessary to get people out, which is what you want to hear from a pitcher.

If Gallardo pitches well, the Rangers should give him a long-term deal.

“Of course, any player would,” Gallardo said of wanting to be in that situation. “Just growing up here and having family, as far as that is concerned, I thought about it. But right now, it’s a situation where they announced the trade [Monday], and I’m really focused on the season.”

Patience is the key for the Rangers

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
7:09
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video

For the Texas Rangers' fan base, the majority of this offseason has been spent learning about patience.

After you lose 95 games and a manager and see star players not finish the season due to injuries, the offseason couldn’t come fast enough.

But then fans saw other teams in the American League West make splashes before and during the winter meetings in San Diego, while all they saw from the Rangers was a pair of minor moves. It prompted general manager Jon Daniels to retort he didn’t care what people thought of how he was conducting business.

Well, the Rangers finally made a substantial move Monday.

The team traded right-handed pitchers Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan and infielder Luis Sardinas to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo.

It’s not on the level of Max Scherzer and his reported $210 million deal with the Washington Nationals, but for the Rangers, the deal is their best move of the offseason.

Adding quality starting pitching is something Daniels underlined as important. The Rangers still need a backup catcher and probably a corner outfielder, but if Daniels doesn’t fill these holes from outside the organization, the internal candidates are quite suitable.

The young pitchers down on the farm could help, but an extra year of seasoning wouldn't hurt. Daniels found the next-best thing for new manager Jeff Banister and pitching coach Mike Maddox: a quality veteran starter for the middle of the rotation.

At the top of the rotation are Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Colby Lewis mans the back end, with Gallardo and Ross Detwiler in the middle.

Gallardo, a Fort Worth, Texas, native, went 8-11 in 2014 and lost five of his final seven starts.

The ability to eat innings is one requirement for quality starting pitching, and Gallardo, who has made at least 30 starts in each of the past six seasons, fits the bill there. The 28-year-old pitched at least 180 innings those past six seasons and reached 200 twice.

Gallardo pitches to contact, and though opposing hitters make contact 71 percent of the time -- 3 percent higher than the league average -- there’s hope he’ll be just fine at Globe Life Park.

Adding Gallardo will cost the Rangers $13 million in additional salary -- not too bad for just one season, with Gallardo entering the final year of his contract. Gallardo is open to staying long-term, and Daniels has said he wouldn’t mind trading for a pitcher with one or two years remaining on his contract, given the possibility of a long-term deal down the line.

Fans whose patience has worn thin at times this winter can relax a little bit, because the Rangers did something good.

That’s all you can ask for.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Colby Lewis
WINS ERA SO IP
10 5.18 133 170
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .324
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182