Sunday, March 31, 2013
What To Watch For: Opening Day
By Todd Wills
What felt like the longest offseason in Rangers' history -- and what was the longest spring training in team history -- is over.
Opening Day is here.
Familiar faces gone. Free agent signings and trades that didn't happen. The Nolan Ryan saga. Sunday night in Houston, it will be all about what's happening on the field.
Here are five things to look for:
Matt Harrison: He's a very deserving Opening Day starter. Harrison was Mr. Consistent for the Rangers in 2012, winning 18 games, finishing seventh in the American League in ERA (3.29) and making the All-Star team. All the Rangers can ask for is a similar season.
Bullpen: Chances are, with this being the opener, the Rangers might not push Harrison past the sixth inning. That could put the pressure on a rebuilt bullpen to hand a lead to closer Joe Nathan. Look for Robbie Ross, Michael Kirkman and Tanner Scheppers to possibly play a prominent role in Sunday's game.
Lance Berkman: He's returning to his hometown and will be in the No. 3 spot in the batting order -- Josh Hamilton's vacated spot. Berkman should be motivated to play against his former team and to make a good first impression on his new teammates.
The Astros: Expectations are for the Astros will lose more than 100 games and finish last in the American League West. Talk about motivation. The Astros will be out to prove everyone wrong -- at least for one night -- in their first game in the AL.
Elvis Andrus: The Rangers have to decide if they want to build their team around Andrus, who is poised to take the next step in his offensive progression. Andrus will be the story to follow with the Rangers in 2013, not Jurickson Profar. At least not yet.