Texas Rangers: A.J. Pierzynski

Ex-battery mate Pierzynski's hit stings Ross

May, 11, 2014
May 11
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- A season ago, A.J. Pierzynski was calling pitches for Robbie Ross with the Texas Rangers.

In a cruel twist, Pierzynski on Sunday came up with the most damaging blow to the left-hander in the Boston Red Sox’s 5-2 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

With Ross needing just one more out to wiggle out of the first inning down only 1-0, Pierzynski lined a two-run single for a 3-0 Red Sox lead.

[+] EnlargeRobbie Ross
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)Rangers starter Robbie Ross got into trouble in the first inning after a two-run single by former teammate A.J. Pierzynski and couldn't recover.
Pierzynski fouled off several two-strike pitches before finding one to his liking.

“He’s a good hitter,’’ Ross said. “Fouling pitches off, that’s what he does. Good hitters do that. They get their bat on the ball until they get their pitch.’’

Ross said he doesn’t think that because Pierzynski caught so many Ross pitches last year, the catcher had an advantage in the matchup. (Pierzynski flied out to left field in two later plate appearances against Ross.)

“I knew how I wanted to pitch him,’’ Ross said, “and maybe if I had gotten that pitch off the plate, he fouls it off.’’

Pierzynski put in his two cents.

“I know Robbie from playing here last year,” Pierzynski said. “He’s got a good little slider and a good cutter, and I was just looking for something out over the plate. And luckily it was up and I was able to get it to the outfield.’’

Earlier in the inning, with a runner at third and one out in a scoreless game, Texas chose to intentionally walk David Ortiz to set up a double play.

Mike Napoli crossed up the strategy with an RBI double.

Ross agreed with the intentional walk.

“If I make a pitch and get a double play, they don’t score,’’ he said.

Rangers manager Ron Washington didn’t second-guess his strategy and said the Ross pitch to Napoli was “up in the zone.’’

Pierzynski said he wasn’t surprised by the intentional walk because Ortiz has been swinging a hot bat.

“It’s just something you don’t normally see,’’ Pierzynski said. “Usually with a left-hander on the mound in the first inning, you usually try and get that guy out and hold it to one; and if you don’t, you save yourself from a bigger inning. That’s what Wash felt was right and you can’t fault him. He’s the manager and he knows what he’s doing.’’

Perez to DL?: After the game, the Rangers announced that an MRI of Martin Perez’s left elbow revealed inflammation. Perez will miss at least one start, and a trip to the disabled list is a possibility.

The Rangers already have used 37 players this season, tied with the Angels for the most in the majors. That number will increase with Nick Tepesch’s promotion from Triple-A Round Rock for his scheduled Wednesday start at the Houston Astros.

"There’s a lot of baseball left to play and that’s what we’ve got to focus on," said Washington. "We’ve still got 25 guys, and we’ll still put nine on the field every night and do the best we can.’’

Catching market continues to shrink

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
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Former Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski has agreed to terms to be the backstop in Boston with the Red Sox, a source confirmed to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes this morning.

Once the Rangers signed Geovany Soto as the primary catcher, it was unlikely that Pierzynski would return to Texas. The thought was that he wanted a multiyear deal, but Edes' source is saying the contract is likely for one year. Pierzynski hit .272 with 17 home runs last year in Texas.

The move also impacts another former Ranger as it means Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not coming back to Boston. Saltalamacchia has received an offer from the Miami Marlins, according to reports, and the Minnesota Twins remain interested. He's looking for a multiyear deal.

Consider that the free-agent catchers are quickly disappearing. Brian McCann already agreed to terms on a big deal with the New York Yankees (five years and $85 million, but could be six years and $100 million). Carlos Ruiz got three years from the Philadelphia Phillies. Dioner Navarro is in Toronto. And now Pierzynski heads to Boston.

Trades, of course, are always possible as the Rangers look for someone to pair with Soto, whom the club has tabbed as its primary catcher. The team has discussed J.P. Arencibia and Kurt Suzuki, both now free agents after the Blue Jays non-tendered Arencibia on Monday night. Cincinnati's Ryan Hanigan is a possibility. But many of the names that were circulated and around a few weeks ago are no longer out there.

Hot Stove Talk: Carlos Ruiz

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
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Note: This is part of our Hot Stove Talk series, which profiles free agents and looks at possible trades the Texas Rangers could make this offseason.

Today's player: Carlos Ruiz

We've talked about Brian McCann, the top catcher on the market. But there are some more inexpensive options available should the bidding for McCann reach a level the Rangers aren't willing to go. And with Geovany Soto, they could opt for a one- or two-year deal with a veteran to take some innings off Soto.

One possibility is the 34-year-old Ruiz, someone we mentioned in the middle of last month as part of our offseason question series. He's been with the Philadelphia Phillies his entire career and is coming off a season in which he hit .268 with five homers and 37 RBIs in 92 games. He missed the first 25 games of the season for taking a banned substance and had hamstring issues that slowed him.

But he's a guy that gets on base (a career .358 on-base percentage), though he's only had double-digit home runs once in his career -- he had 16 in 2012, catching 114 games. He's a patient hitter and someone who has worked with a solid pitching staff, two traits that would certainly help him in Texas.

Why he makes sense: Budget. He fits in nicely to a budget that isn't likely to change much from last year. The club wants to fill some holes and if they sign Ruiz, they'd have more money to go after a power hitter or fill another need. Ruiz would give them better defense than another one-year option in A.J. Pierzynski, but he doesn't have Pierzynski's power.

Why he doesn't make sense: It doesn't fix the club's annual revolving door at catcher. It seems that they have to fill the catcher spot every offseason right now without much catching depth in the system (and Jorge Alfaro still not major-league ready). Plus, Ruiz is a right-handed hitter. And this team has plenty of those.

Bottom line: If the price for McCann shoots up much past $15 million a season, Ruiz is a good stopgap option for a year or two. Maybe it can be a one-year deal with a club option or vesting option if the team doesn't want to get involved in a two-year guaranteed deal. But with Soto established as the "primary" catcher, Ruiz may want to go where there's more playing time.

Hot Stove Talk: Brian McCann

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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Note: This is part of our Hot Stove Talk series, which profiles free agents and looks at possible trades the Texas Rangers could make this offseason.

Today's player: Brian McCann.

The Rangers have some obvious holes they must fill prior to the 2014 season and catcher is a big one. They took an important step to filling part of that hole on Tuesday, signing Geovany Soto to a one-year, $3.05 million contract (plus incentives). General manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington proclaimed Soto as the "primary" catcher. But that doesn't mean McCann is out of the question. Far from it, in fact. Daniels wouldn't close the door on a high-priced player who could play more than just catcher.

Just because the plan is for Soto to catch around 100 games, doesn't mean McCann still can't factor into this lineup. McCann turns 30 in February and has put together a consistent stretch of solid production. He's had six consecutive seasons of 20 or more homers (and seven of his eight full seasons in the big leagues) and has averaged 73 RBIs in his career. The left-handed hitter has batted .277 in his career, as well, and in 2013 managed 20 homers and 57 RBIs, despite just 356 at-bats. McCann missed a little more than a month to start the season after rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn labrum after the 2012 season.

While he's got what some consider an average arm, teams haven't attempted to run like crazy on him. He's done a good job with the Braves pitching staff and would give any prospective team a solid guy behind the plate. But in the American League, and with the injury issues, if you sign McCann to a 5-year deal, for instance, he likely won't be catching that whole time. You want to protect that investment and the best way to do that is to limit the number of games he has to catch. Perhaps he can DH and play first base (I know he hasn't played there, but why couldn't he learn the position?) and be a big bat in the lineup even when he's not behind the plate.

McCann won't come cheap. Three weeks ago, a GM told ESPNNewYork.com that McCann could command a six-year deal at $100 million. That GM reasoned that McCann could become a DH or first baseman later in his career. But that price seems a bit high. No matter what, you're likely talking about at least a $75 or $80 million investment for McCann. Also, any club that wants McCann will have to give up a first-round pick to get him since the Braves gave him a qualifying offer on Monday.

Why he makes sense: The Rangers need some power in the lineup and McCann, a left-handed hitter works well in this department, especially with so many right-handed bats. One advantage to Soto is that he knows this staff. Well, a long-term deal with McCann would allow him to get to know the staff as well when he does catch and give the staff some consistency with batterymates. McCann has consistently been a guy that hits at least 20 homers and can drive in 90 or more runs when he plays a full season. That's something this offense needs.

Why he doesn't make sense: Money. If the bidding for McCann got so high that it risked busting the Rangers' budget, which isn't likely to go up much in 2014 from what it was in 2013, then it won't make sense. Soto gives the Rangers some options if the salary just gets too high.

Bottom line: It's going to take a sizable investment to land McCann, but the Rangers have to get involved in the bidding. No, I don't think they should sign McCann at any cost. If the bidding gets past $15 million or so a year, that's probably time to back off. But McCann could catch, play first and DH (he could start to learn first base right away), allowing catcher Jorge Alfaro time to get to the big leagues. Alfaro could even learn a few things from McCann as he eventually takes that spot. If McCann shows a willingness to play more than catcher, the Rangers have to show interest and see where it leads. He's a hitter with power that can help this lineup. He's still No. 1 on my list.

Re-signing of Geovany Soto a good move

November, 5, 2013
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The Texas Rangers didn't waste any time solidifying at least part of their catching position Tuesday. And why would they? Geovany Soto is a solid catcher for this team. He could be a backup if they sign a big-name free agent, or he can catch 100 games or so as the No. 1 guy.

For starters, he can be Yu Darvish's usual catcher in 2014 if he needs to be. That may depend largely on who is signed as the club's No. 1 catcher, but there's no question Darvish is comfortable with Soto. He has a calming influence on the pitcher.

To keep Soto, the club paid a reasonable price of $3.05 million (plus incentives). He threw out nearly 30 percent of attempted runners, and it wasn't as if teams thought they could steal on him with relative ease (that number was sixth in the league). Soto is a solid defensive catcher, and he appeared to find it a bit with the bat late in the season. He hit just .245 for the season, but .324 after the All-Star break. That should give him some offensive confidence heading into spring training.

And is it just me, or did it seem that every Soto hit in September was in a clutch situation?

If you're going to invest what the Rangers invested in Darvish, who has elite stuff, why not spend a little to be sure he fits well with his catcher? It's a smart, relatively inexpensive move.

Nelson Cruz has week to decide on offer

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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The Texas Rangers made it official Monday, tendering a $14.1 million qualifying offer to outfielder Nelson Cruz prior to today's 4 p.m. deadline.

The move wasn't a tough decision for the club. It's likely not a tough one for Cruz, either. He's expected to decline the option and seek a multiyear deal. He has until next Monday at 4 p.m. to make his decision. But don't misunderstand: If he spurns the one-year, $14.1 million offer, it doesn't mean he's not wearing a Rangers uniform in 2014.

The Rangers, like any other team, would have the right to negotiate with Cruz. He said prior to the season ending that he wanted to test the market. But he's also made it clear he likes Texas and wants to stay. The club needs a power hitter and it knows Cruz well. It may simply come down to what the market will bear and how many years are on the table.

Of course, if Cruz decides he wants to play in Texas and for $14.1 million next season, the Rangers would gladly pay it and put him out there with Leonys Martin and Alex Rios, filling one of their offseason holes. Stay tuned.

Cruz was the only Ranger to receive a qualifying offer. The others -- David Murphy, Colby Lewis, A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto -- can sign with any club, including Texas. If they do go elsewhere, the Rangers won't receive any kind of draft pick compensation. Joe Nathan is also a free agent after he declined the club option on his contract last week.

Other notes:

* The Rangers reinstated left-handed pitchers Matt Harrison and Edwar Cabrera from the 60-day DL. Harrison made two starts and ended up having three surgeries in 2013. He's expected to be ready for the 2014 season. Cabrera was claimed off Colorado's roster in October.

* RHP Ross Wolf and LHP Travis Blackley cleared waivers and were outrighted to the minor leagues. Wolf was signed to a 2014 minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training. Blackley elected to become a free agent.

Wolf, 31, was 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 22 games (three of them starts) for the Rangers in 2013. It was his first season in the majors since 2007.

* The Rangers have 34 players on the 40-man roster now.

* RHP Lisalverto Bonilla, because of an injury to a pitcher from another organization, was added to the roster of the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. He's active starting tonight. Surprise's last game is Nov. 14.

Free-agent shopping list

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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Here's the MLBPA-compiled list of the 147 players who are now free agents, which for the Rangers includes outfielder Nelson Cruz, pitcher Matt Garza and catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto:

Atlanta Braves
Luis Ayala
Scott Downs
Freddy Garcia
Tim Hudson
Kameron Loe
Paul Maholm
Brian McCann
Eric O'Flaherty

Arizona Diamondbacks
Willie Bloomquist
Eric Chavez
Wil Nieves

Baltimore Orioles
Scott Feldman
Jason Hammel
Nate McLouth
Michael Morse
Brian Roberts
Francisco Rodriguez
Chris Snyder

Boston Red Sox
Stephen Drew
Jacoby Ellsbury
Joel Hanrahan
John McDonald
Mike Napoli
Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Chicago Cubs
Scott Baker
Kevin Gregg
Matt Guerrier
Dioner Navarro

Chicago White Sox
Gavin Floyd
Paul Konerko

Cincinnati Reds
Bronson Arroyo
Shin-Soo Choo
Zach Duke
Cesar Izturis
Nick Masset
Manny Parra

Cleveland Indians
Matt Albers
Jason Giambi
Rich Hill
Scott Kazmir
Joe Smith
Kelly Shoppach

Colorado Rockies
Rafael Betancourt
Jeff Francis
Todd Helton
Roy Oswalt
Yorvit Torrealba

Detroit Tigers
Joaquin Benoit
Jeremy Bonderman
Octavio Dotel
Omar Infante
Brayan Pena
Jhonny Peralta
Ramon Santiago

Houston Astros
Erik Bedard

Kansas City Royals
Bruce Chen
Carlos Pena
Ervin Santana
Miguel Tejada

Los Angeles Angels
Jason Vargas

Los Angeles Dodgers
Jerry Hairston Jr.
J.P. Howell
Carlos Marmol
Ricky Nolasco
Nick Punto
Skip Schumaker
Juan Uribe
Edinson Volquez
Brian Wilson
Michael Young

Miami Marlins
Matt Diaz
Austin Kearns
Juan Pierre
Placido Polanco
Chad Qualls

Milwaukee Brewers
Yuniesky Betancourt
Mike Gonzalez
Corey Hart

Minnesota Twins
Mike Pelfrey

New York Mets
David Aardsma
Tim Byrdak
Pedro Feliciano
Frank Francisco
Aaron Harang
LaTroy Hawkins
Daisuke Matsuzaka

New York Yankees
Robinson Cano
Joba Chamberlain
Curtis Granderson
Travis Hafner
Phil Hughes
Hiroki Kuroda
Boone Logan
Lyle Overbay
Andy Pettitte
Mark Reynolds
Mariano Rivera
Brendan Ryan
Kevin Youkilis

Oakland Athletics
Grant Balfour
Bartolo Colon

Philadelphia Phillies
Roy Halladay
Carlos Ruiz

Pittsburgh Pirates
Clint Barmes
John Buck
A.J. Burnett
Marlon Byrd
Kyle Farnsworth
Jeff Karstens
Justin Morneau

San Diego Padres
Ronny Cedeno
Mark Kotsay
Jason Marquis

San Francisco Giants
Chad Gaudin
Javier Lopez

Seattle Mariners
Endy Chavez
Raul Ibanez
Kendrys Morales
Oliver Perez
Humberto Quintero

St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Beltran
Chris Carpenter
Rafael Furcal
Edward Mujica

Tampa Bay Rays
Jesse Crain
Roberto Hernandez
Kelly Johnson
James Loney
Jose Molina
Fernando Rodney
Luke Scott
Jamey Wright
Delmon Young

Texas Rangers
Lance Berkman
Nelson Cruz
Jason Frasor
Matt Garza
Colby Lewis
David Murphy
A.J. Pierzynski
Geovany Soto

Toronto Blue Jays
Rajai Davis
Josh Johnson
Darren Oliver
Ramon Ortiz

Washington Nationals
Dan Haren
Chad Tracy

With World Series over, Rangers get busy

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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Now that the World Series is over and October baseball gives way to November Hot Stove, the Texas Rangers will immediately get busy. Among the decisions that need to be made soon (before the Winter Meetings begin at Disney World in early December):

* Nelson Cruz. It should come as no surprise that the Rangers will make a qualifying offer to the outfielder. That offer of $14.1 million makes sense because if Cruz takes it, the club has its top power hitter back in 2014. If not and he signs somewhere else, the club would get draft pick compensation. It's an easy call, frankly. Cruz, 33, is expected to decline the offer and try to get a multi-year deal.

That's the second part of the equation. Do the Rangers offer Cruz a two- or three-year deal that could eat a decent chunk of their available money within a budget that Daniels has said won't change much from last year? He's not exactly a young player anymore, so it's a difficult choice.

* Joe Nathan. The club has three days to decide whether to offer Nathan a chance to accept the option on his contract. Nathan's deal includes a $9 million club option, but because the nearly 39-year-old (his birthday is Nov. 22) finished 55 games in 2013, he has the right to void that option. The Rangers must choose if they want to bring him back at that number based on their budget and the fact that they have some options at closer (like Joakim Soria or Tanner Scheppers). They could also just buy Nathan out for $750,000. If the Rangers do offer the option and Nathan refuses it, they don't have to pay the buyout.

Nathan, by the way, has talked about wanting a two-year deal. But if the Rangers choose to exercise the option, Nathan would have 48 hours to decide. (My bet is they won't exercise the option at that price. But we'll see.)

* Other teams can not negotiate with the Rangers' free agents until the sixth day after the World Series. So Texas has a brief exclusive window to talk to guys who could seek deals elsewhere. Cruz is the biggest name, but Matt Garza, David Murphy and catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto join Nathan on that list as well.

* Early shopping. The Rangers waited a while last year before signing Pierzynski and Lance Berkman late in the offseason, because they had to wait and see what Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke would do. But they've shown a willingness to jump in early if it makes sense. That's how they got Nathan two years ago, and that signing has certainly worked out. We'll see if they decide to shop and buy a little earlier this offseason as opposed to the last one based on their needs and budget.

* Arbitration. Some of these don't look too difficult. Neal Cotts proved he was a valuable member of the bullpen and could be a guy the Rangers look at signing for more than one year (getting through his final year of arbitration and one of his free agent years). Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando and Craig Gentry should be back. The toughest call might be Mitch Moreland. MLB Trade Rumors, which does a good job of forecasting arbitration numbers, has Moreland coming in around $2.7 million. The club must decide if they want to retain him at that number or use that money elsewhere.

* Lance Berkman. This is another decision that really isn't a decision. Berkman couldn't stay healthy after the team signed him to an $10 million contract in the offseason. The club won't be exercising the option on Berkman, but it's still on the "to do" list. The buyout will cost them $1 million.

Defining Dozen: Darvish struggles vs. A's

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
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Editor's Note: This is the second of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Yu DarvishAP Photo/Jeff ChiuYu Darvish struggled against the A's in early September, raising questions about his status as an ace.
Moment No. 11: Yu Darvish struggles against A's, raising questions about "ace" label.

The Rangers' division title hopes took a significant blow on a Wednesday afternoon in early September in Oakland with Yu Darvish on the mound. Texas was routed 11-4 by the A's that day.

It created a firestorm of questions about whether Darvish, in his second season in the big leagues, truly is ace material (a ridiculous notion, but one that was put out there).

Let's look back.

The Rangers held a one-game lead in the American League West after splitting the first two games of a three-game series against Oakland. That set up a Wednesday afternoon showdown on Sept. 4 between Darvish and A's rising young star right-hander Jarrod Parker.

The day was a disaster for Darvish. He gave up a two-run home run in the first inning to Brandon Moss after a two-out walk, immediately putting the Rangers behind 2-0. He walked two more A's in the second and allowed another run as the Rangers fell behind 3-0. Darvish gave up another two-run home run to Daric Barton -- his third long ball in 130 games -- in the bottom of the sixth, and the rout was on.

Darvish's final line was very un-Darvish like. He walked a season-high six batters. He matched a season with five runs allowed. Darvish, who led the majors in strikeouts, fanned only four A's, equaling a season low. He lasted five innings, his shortest start of the season.

And there was more. Darvish walked away from pitching coach Mike Maddux during one mound visit. Darvish and starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski also had a heated exchange at one point. Pierzynski came out toward the mound and Darvish appeared to wave him away in frustration.

Darvish said after the game that he had no problems with Pierzynski. The Rangers didn't take any chances with Darvish's psyche. Geovany Soto, not Pierzynski, caught the rest of the Darvish's starts.

"When you're competing, you can't put a certain feeling on something you see out there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the Darvish-Pierzynski exchange after what was the biggest loss of the season to that point. "People are competing. I thought nothing of it myself."

The bigger deal was the AL West race was even. The Rangers talked boldly at the time, but they were on their way to being done in the division.

"We lost two out of three. We're even," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said after the game. "There are [23] games left, and we need to win one more than they win. There's nothing really more to make of the series. They beat us two out of three. We play them again at our place. There are a lot of games in between."

The Rangers followed that Wednesday loss in Oakland by losing nine of 10 games and basically losing the division title, falling 6 1/2 games behind the surging A's with 13 games left.

Darvish's struggles against the Rangers' current main division rival continued. At least from a losing standpoint. Darvish allowed a run in seven innings -- this time opposing Bartolo Colon -- 10 days later on Sept. 14 in Arlington. Darvish was ace-like with 10 strikeouts and one walk, but a first-inning run was too much for the Rangers to overcome.

It was Darvish's second consecutive 1-0 loss and record-setting fourth of the season, and still the ace questions came up. Darvish is 1-6 with a 4.30 ERA in seven lifetime starts against the A's.

Fair or not, it leaves some questions for Darvish to answer about being an ace in 2014.

Defining Dozen: Three straight walkoff wins

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
8:00
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Editor's Note: This is the first of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

Leonys MartinKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsLeonys Martin hit one of the Rangers' three consecutive walk-off homers in July against the Angels.
Moment No. 12: Three straight walkoff wins against the Los Angeles Angels

The Rangers reached one of the season's defining moments in late July. They were scuffling a bit and preparing for word from MLB about the fate of Nelson Cruz when they arrived back in Arlington to face the Angels. After they lost 12 of the previous 15 games, the Rangers needed a spark. And they got that spark in dramatic fashion.

It started on Monday, July 29, with a run in the sixth inning to end a 26-inning scoreless drought for the offense. Three innings later, it was backup catcher Geovany Soto providing the heroics, blasting a game-winning solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri. Texas trailed 3-2 entering the inning, but A.J. Pierzynski tied it with a leadoff home run.

It was the club's first walk-off win of the season and they celebrated like it. But it was only the beginning. The next night went to extra innings as an offense that was starved for runs put up 14 in a win. Leonys Martin provided the winning hit, a clothes-line three-run home run in the 10th. Martin called it the biggest moment of his career. The win got Texas within five games of the A's. It was the first time in 32 days that they'd managed to gain any ground on Oakland.

The final game of the three-game set was just as dramatic. The Rangers and Angels went into the ninth tied at 1. Adrian Beltre changed off of that with a solo homer to win the game.

The Rangers swept the series from the Angels, winning all three games with walk-off homers. Martin Perez pitched very well in the victory as the Rangers created some momentum heading into August. It was the first time in club history that the Rangers won three straight games with walk-off homers.


(Read full post)

Offseason question: How to turn on power

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
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Editor's note: This is the ninth in a 10-part series that will focus on questions the Texas Rangers must answer this offseason. These questions are in no particular order.

Today’s question: What can the Rangers do to fix their power outage?

The Rangers have many issues to resolve for 2014 regarding who will be their closer, what will happen with infielder Jurickson Profar and whether general manager Jon Daniels should pursue Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price.

But nothing will boost the Rangers' chances to win back the American League West more than adding power to the lineup. And a lot of it. It's the Rangers' No. 1 issue, hands down.

[+] EnlargeNelson Cruz
AP Photo/Tim Sharp

Re-signing Nelson Cruz must be the Rangers' first priority to ignite their home-run potential. (And putting him in left field would address a major shortcoming at an important corner outfield spot.)

Remember this is the American League. And while building a club on pitching and defense is essential to winning championships and the Rangers' running game is flashy and can make an impact when the offense as a whole is struggling, the AL still digs the long ball.

"We're going to need corner run production," Daniels said of first base and left field. "We're going to need some power."

So what do the numbers say about the Rangers' power problem? Well, they’re compelling.

The two teams playing in the American League Championship Series -- the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers -- were fifth and tied for sixth in the AL in home runs. The Red Sox had 178 homers. The Tigers were tied with the Rangers, of all teams, at 176 homers. On the surface, the Rangers are where they need to be, right?

Wrong.

Based on the eyeball test, which of these teams was more dangerous over the whole season, especially during the second half? The Red Sox and Tigers. And Boston and Detroit were first and second in OPS -- combined on-base percentage and slugging percentage -- at .795 and .780, respectively. The Rangers were eighth in the AL at .735.

Also, don't forget that Nelson Cruz missed the final 50 games of the regular season, which meant his power to generate 27 homers -- which led the club at the time -- was absent from the lineup. Only third baseman Adrian Beltre was a true power threat on a daily basis for those final 50 games, and Beltre hit only seven homers in that span, including two in September. Mitch Moreland was third on the team with 23 homers, but his long balls were hit in spurts.

There's no denying this is an issue, and the front office is aware of it.

"We need to be more balanced, in general, and power was something we were lacking," Daniels said. "That's going to be challenging because there's not a lot of power available. We're not the only team looking for it. We have a lot of potential for power in our system, but it's young.

"Guys that have that ability are not going to play for us next year, more than likely. So we're going to have to be more creative and find them."

So what can the Rangers do to address adding power to the lineup?

It starts with re-signing Cruz. The 33-year-old is a proven power commodity with at least 22 home runs in five straight seasons. Bring back Cruz and put him in left field, which would address a glaring weakness at an important corner outfield spot.

Or the Rangers can make Cruz the designated hitter. They had only 19 homers out of the DH position, a paltry total for a power spot in the lineup.

The Rangers had 26 home runs from their catchers, A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto, and could bring that tandem back. Or stay in the neighborhood of 25 homers from a catcher by signing a free agent, say the Atlanta BravesBrian McCann or Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

There's potential free-agent help at first base with another former Ranger, Mike Napoli. That's assuming the Rangers don't believe Moreland can provide consistent power.

A name like St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran will pop up. A blockbuster trade for Florida's Giancarlo Stanton will certainly be talked about over the forum pages of Hot Stove Baseball.

Whatever the Rangers come up with, the end result should give them a chance to solve a big problem: Turn the power back on in Arlington.

Offseason question: Who's the catcher?

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
8:00
AM CT
Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a 10-part series over the next two weeks that will focus on questions the Texas Rangers must answer this offseason. These questions are in no particular order.

Today's question: Who catches for the Rangers in 2014?

It seems as if that's an annual question for the Rangers. It was something they had to address last season and did so by signing A.J. Pierzynski and re-signing Geovany Soto to be the backup.

Brian McCann
Brett Davis/USA TODAY SportsSigning Brian McCann could finally answer the Rangers' catching question for longer than a one or two-year period.
Those contracts were one-year deals and now the Rangers must figure out what they want to do. The top free agent is clearly Brian McCann. He turns 30 years old in February and has a track record of consistency at the plate. McCann has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last six seasons and seven of his eight full seasons in the big leagues. He drove in 57 runs in 102 games this season, but played in at least 121 in each of his previous full seasons. McCann has a career .277 average and .823 OPS.

McCann's 2013 numbers don't look too different from Pierzynski, who hit 17 homers and drove in 70 runs in 134 games. Pierzynski had 10 fewer home runs in 2013 than he did in 2012, but only seven fewer runs driven in. But McCann has a longer track record of consistent power and production and you're talking about a 7-year difference in age, not to mention the defensive edge that goes in McCann's favor. Signing McCann would finally answer the catching question for longer than a one or two-year period. But it likely comes with a hefty price. We could be talking as much as $15 million a season. Is that an investment worth making? If I'm dumping that much money into a player, McCann is a good one to do it with based on his age, position and history.

If the bidding, though, gets out of hand for McCann, does the club once again go with a stop-gap method and re-sign Pierzynski and Soto? Frankly, I would think Soto makes sense either way. He's a very capable backup, does a nice job with Yu Darvish and for a guy who hit just .245, it sure seemed like nearly every time he got a hit, it was a big one. If the Rangers look elsewhere, one possibility could be Carlos Ruiz. The 34-year-old has spent his entire career with the Phillies. He'd be an upgrade defensively, but doesn't have great power numbers with the bat (he's been in double-digits in homers just once, hitting 16 in 2012). He had a hamstring issue combined with a 25-game suspension (for taking a banned substance) that slowed his first half. But he was stronger in the second half of 2013, hitting all five of his homers and collecting 27 RBIs after the break.

Watch the McCann sweepstakes. Expect the Rangers to be involved. But where that goes and how it ends up could have ripple effects for the rest of the offseason and how this team approaches it.

Wash would welcome Cruz, Nathan back

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
12:40
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Decisions, decisions, decisions.

The Rangers have quite a few to make as they enter their first offseason in four years without a postseason game.

Will Nelson Cruz be back? How about Joe Nathan? Others, such as catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto, outfielder David Murphy and pitcher Matt Garza will be discussed ad nauseam before the winter meetings in December in Orlando.

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Manager Ron Washington touched on the big ones -- Cruz and Nathan -- during his postmortem press conference Tuesday morning, 12 hours after the Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 in the American League tiebreaker game. He and general manager Jon Daniels and the rest of the brain trust will sit down at some point and go over all the options.

The big one is Cruz. He was suspended for the final 50 games of the regular season for violation of Major League Baseball's Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Cruz has to shoulder a portion of the blame for the Rangers' not making a stronger push for the AL West title, as they gave it up to Oakland in the final month.

The Rangers were disappointed by Cruz's decision-making and suspension, but they also know there's a lack of right-handed power hitters in the major leagues, and the minors too. The Rangers are likely to make Cruz a qualifying offer of about $13.5 million.

Washington, for one, would welcome Cruz back.

“When you think about a Nelson Cruz, who wouldn’t want a Nelson Cruz?" Washington said. "Big heart, great teammate, but there’s a lot of decisions to be made on our part and Nelson’s part. I do believe Jon Daniels will go down that road and see where it works or doesn’t work."

Then there's Nathan. The Rangers have a $9.5 million option on him for 2014, with a $750,000 buyout, a contract that Nathan can void and become a free agent. Nathan, 38, made it clear all season that he expects to pitch for several more years and will seek a multiyear deal.

Nathan blew three saves this season and finished with 43 saves. He may walk the tightrope sometimes, which drives the fan base crazy, but he's reliable and gets the job done.

“I thought Joe Nathan had a tremendous year,” Washington said. “I think at the end of the year, Joe Nathan proved to everyone that doubted him what he was made of, and I certainly would love to continue giving him the ball because he gets outs.”

There will be other decisions. Both Pierzynski and Soto would like to return, but the Rangers may set their sights on free-agent-to-be Brian McCann.

They gave up a lot for Garza, including pitcher C.J. Edwards -- who pitched tremendously for the Cubs in the minors after the trade. Is that reason enough to bring Garza back? Did he show enough despite going through a maddening stretch in August and September?

Whatever happens, this will be a fascinating offseason, one in which Daniels and his staff will have to make their mark.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 6, Angels 2

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
5:09
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers will play another day.

Texas railled from an early 1-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-2, on Sunday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, clinching a spot in the American League wild-card play-in game against the Tampa Bay Rays at 7:07 p.m. Monday in Arlington.

The Rangers won seven straight games, all at home, to keep their postseason dream alive.

Soto's clutch hit: The Rangers responded after giving up the lead in the top of the sixth. With the score tied at 2-2, Adrian Beltre started a two-out uprising with a single to right field. A.J. Pierzynski followed with a bloop single to right field. That brought up Geovany Soto, who has been on a late-season tear. Soto ripped an RBI double into center field to score Beltre for a 3-2 lead. Soto also had a home run in the top of the ninth. Soto is 13-for-31 with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last 10 games.

Big insurance run: The Rangers took a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh when Craig Gentry had a leadoff single and a stolen base. The Angels brought in Juan Gutierrez in relief and Ian Kinsler grounded the first pitch he saw into left field for a huge insurance run.

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Scheppers again: Tanner Scheppers needed just nine pitches to get the top of the Angels' lineup in the top of the eighth. He gave up a leadoff single to J.B. Shuck on a 0-2 pitch, but bounced back by getting Erick Aybar to ground into a double play. Scheppers then got Mike Trout to fly out to right field. Trout is 0-for-4 lifetime against Scheppers.

Beltre goes deep: Beltre is having a tough September and appeared to tweak his left hamstring running the bases in the sixth inning. But he still had the flair dramatic as shown by his home run to center field in the bottom of the eighth to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead. Beltre has two homers on this homestand.

Rangers take lead: The Rangers had trailed 1-0 since the first inning on Mike Trout's two-out home run when they finally took a lead in the fifth. Pierzynski started the bottom of the fifth with a double to center field. Soto then walked and both advanced on Jason Vargas' errant pickoff throw while Mitch Moreland was batting. After Moreland struck out, Gentry lined a two-run single into center field for a 2-1 lead.

Darvish out early: Manager Ron Washington made the very difficult decision of pulling Yu Darvish at 84 pitches in the sixth inning and bringing in Neal Cotts to face Josh Hamilton with two runners on. At issue is Darvish's inability to get a shutdown inning late in the season. With the Rangers leading 2-1 after Gentry's two-run single, Darvish allowed a single to No. 9 hitter Andrew Romine, then got a nifty double play started by Kinsler. Darvish then allowed a single to Aybar and four-pitch walk to Trout. That brought Washington out of the dugout. Darvish has given back the lead in the inning after the Rangers give him the lead in four of his last seven starts. Washington was trying to avoid that.

Hambone hurts Rangers: But Cotts couldn't get out Hamilton. He got ahead of him with a 1-2 count, but tried to go with a high fastball away to the former Ranger, who was able to go upstairs to line a single into left field to tie the game at 2-2.

Gentry gone wild: Gentry was on base three times Sunday with two singles and a walk. He is 15-for-31 in his last nine games.

Up next: The Rangers will play the Tampa Bay Rays in a wild-card play-in game at 7:07 p.m. Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas will go with left-hander Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55 ERA) while the Rays will counter with left-hander David Price (9-8, 3.39 ERA).

Buzz: Rangers mum on anything past Sunday

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
1:02
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers aren't revealing anything about what could happen after Sunday in a wild-card play-in game or wild-card game.

Nothing about Nelson Cruz, who wasn't in the Rangers' clubhouse Sunday morning. Nothing about Monday's potential starting pitcher, which on rotation would be Martin Perez.

Not a thing.

"We don't know about anything past today," Washington said.

The Rangers probably have a good idea, they're just not going to say it until after they beat the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. That would mean the season would go on, either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday depending on how Tampa Bay and Cleveland do.

Washington said that everyone is available for Sunday's game, including Perez and potential Wednesday wild-card game starter Matt Garza.

Pierzynski is DH: Washington wanted A.J. Pierzynski in the lineup Sunday against a left-handed starter, so he's the designated hitter with Geovany Soto catching Yu Darvish for the fifth straight game.

"I want A.J.'s bat in there. Period," Washington said. "He's a threat."

Pierzynski is 6-for-24 with four RBIs during the Rangers' six-game winning streak. Soto has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, batting .393 with two home runs and five RBIs.

Darvish forecast: If Washington could have one wish for Darvish's start, he was asked by a reporter if he would want it to be fastball command. He offered another answer.

"I wish that the headlines be, 'Darvish dominates,' in big letters written by you," Washington said.

Washington on Game 162: For the third straight season, the major league season comes down to Game 162 with three teams -- the Rangers, Rays and Indians -- battling for two playoff spots.

It's amazing when you considered the regular season lasts six months and comes down to one day on the schedule.

"When you have the balance that the league has, it happens," Washington said. "This new format makes it exciting. If we had four division winners, it probably wouldn't be. But this gets other teams involved and sometimes you don't have to have that super year to have a chance. That's what I think the commissioner has done with this game and the format we're in. You never know what's going to happen in a one-game playoff. We proved that last year. I'd rather be in that one game than not be in it at all."

Short hops: Craig Gentry's right ankle is doing OK after it was stepped on by Angels' first baseman Mark Trumbo in Saturday's game. Gentry said he will have the ankle taped as usual as he starts for the ninth straight game in left field. ... Rangers TV broadcaster Steve Busby turns 64 today.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Colby Lewis
WINS ERA SO IP
10 5.34 126 163
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .325
HRA. Beltre 18
RBIA. Beltre 75
RA. Beltre 77
OPSA. Beltre .882
ERAC. Lewis 5.34
SOY. Darvish 182