Texas Rangers: C.j. Wilson

Is there an Opening Day starter curse?

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
12:02
PM CT
There's lots of talk about curses these days with the Texas Rangers. Some of you have mentioned that the rash of injuries have come after Nolan Ryan's exit and Ian Kinsler's comments that he hopes the club goes 0-162.

But what if there's another curse of sorts at play when it comes to starting pitchers? With Yu Darvish out with neck stiffness and headed back to Dallas to chat with Dr. Drew Dossett, a neck and back specialist, it only adds to the list of Opening Day starters who have had rough luck for the Rangers the past few seasons.

Matt Harrison got the start last year on a Sunday night in Houston and gave up six runs (five earned) in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Astros. Harrison struggled in his next start, ended up having two back surgeries and missed the rest of the season. Harrison had back tightness earlier this spring that put him behind, but he's ramping up for the season and appears to be making good progress.

It was Colby Lewis' turn in 2012 and he was on his way to another solid season and, likely, a nice multiyear contract when he tore a flexor tendon in his elbow in July and was lost for the entire season. Lewis tried to come back last year and wasn't able to get to the big leagues when his velocity never materialized. He's had a good spring and is hoping to find his way into the rotation this year.

Back in 2010, Scott Feldman took the mound for the opener after posting a career-high 17 wins the previous season. Feldman's sinker, his best pitch, just wasn't as effective and he ended up losing his rotation job. He also dealt with injuries that season and was on the DL in late August and early September. He needed microfracture surgery on his knee right after the season. Feldman is now in Houston.

The only pitcher who escaped struggles or injuries after starting on Opening Day recently was C.J. Wilson, who started in 2011 and went on to go 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA in his final season in Texas. He signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels at the winter meetings in Dallas a few months after the season.

So has the Opening Day starter curse struck a little early this year with Darvish's issues? Or is Darvish avoiding the fate of some of these others by not actually making that first start? Only time will tell.

But this spring training has been unlike any that I can remember with all the injuries. The club should know more about Darvish's condition Wednesday or Thursday and what it means for his start to the season.

Dose of Darvish: Looking at Yu's win total

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
1:30
PM CT
The voting for the American League Cy Young Award will be announced Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Detroit's Max Scherzer is the runaway favorite to win the award because of his 21 victories. The Rangers' Yu Darvish will pick up significant support and likely finish among the top five in the voting.

Darvish is one of the top five pitchers in the American League, and the Baseball Writers' Association of America is expected to back that opinion. He had a major league-leading 277 strikeouts and flirted with a perfect game in April and a no-hitter in August. Yet Darvish's 2013 season will be remembered for what could have been.

Is this fair?

Let's try to decide over the next week, starting with Darvish's win total. We'll look at his major league-leading strikeout total -- and what that means -- and then his tough-luck losses before the voting is released next week.

The case against Darvish on whether 2013 was a successful season begins with his win total. I know, I know, many of you believe a pitcher's win total is overrated. It will be the case made against Scherzer and for his teammate Anibal Sanchez, who had a league-leading 2.57 ERA to go with 14 wins.

But this is about Darvish.

He won 13 games and lost nine in 32 starts for a Rangers team that finished one victory from making it to the postseason and five games behind the Oakland A's in the AL West. The Rangers were 17-15 in Darvish's starts. If that total had been 18 or 19…

Fourteen American League pitchers won more games than Darvish. Oakland's Bartolo Colon had 18 wins. Ex-Ranger C.J. Wilson had 17 wins for the Angels. Baltimore's Chris Tillman had 16. R.A. Dickey, who played on a bad Toronto team, and Darvish's countryman Hisashi Iwakuma, who played for a mediocre Seattle club, each won 14 games. That's just a glance at a handful of pitchers.

Say what you want about the value of wins as an important stat for pitchers. Those who say it's an overvalued statistic can point to only one starter on the World Series champion Boston Red Sox who won more games than Darvish: Jon Lester, with 15 wins. The Red Sox were 19-14 in Lester's starts. That's not that far off from what Darvish produced in one fewer start.

Still, 13 wins is a total that falls under expectations for a pitcher of Darvish's caliber. Most of us penciled in 18 wins or more for him before the season started.

Yes, Darvish lost a record four games by 1-0 scores. And give him some credit. In the 10 starts in which he recorded a no-decision, he had a 2.98 ERA.

Rangers manager Ron Washington asks one thing of his pitchers -- keep his team in games. Darvish did that. The Rangers were 5-1 in his six September starts. As Darvish pitched with a back injury, his team won games, even though he went past six innings in just two of those starts.

Does Darvish's win total diminish his season? Sound off and let's hear your opinion.

AL West: Angels keep Mike Scioscia, GM

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
9:30
AM CT
There was some AL West news this week as the Los Angeles Angels decided to retain manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto despite another season of failing to live up to high expectations.

But there were some changes. Add the Angels to the list of teams looking for a bench coach after Rob Picciolo was let go. Hitting coach Jim Eppard is also departing, so not unlike the Texas Rangers, there's a shakeup on the Angels' coaching staff.

One big reason Scioscia is still in the dugout could certainly be money. He's got five years left on his contract worth about $27 million. He's been the skipper for 14 seasons now.

The Angels have a ton of money tied up in a handful of players, including Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. They're going to have to pay handsomely for Mike Trout at some point soon if they want to keep him. Despite all the firepower, the Angels couldn't get anything going in 2013 until after they were essentially eliminated from contention. They have not made the postseason since 2009.

It will be interesting to see the direction that Seattle goes in picking a new manager and where the Angels and Rangers turn to find bench coaches. And that's before we even get to the free-agent market, trades and everything else this offseason. Stay tuned.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Angels 3

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
10:51
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers are getting good at these must-win games.

They scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh and held on for a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, keeping themselves very much alive in the American League wild-card race with the weekend to go.

The Rangers finally picked up some ground on one of the wild-card front-runners, as the Tampa Bay Rays lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3. The Cleveland Indians won their eighth straight game, beating the Minnesota Twins 12-6.

The Rangers trail both teams by a game with two games to go in the regular season.

Taking the lead: The Rangers got themselves into the Angels' bullpen -- one of their favorite spoils -- and immediately regained the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Ian Kinsler walked to start the inning against Juan Gutierrez. He went to second when he drew a wild pickoff throw from Gutierrez. Elvis Andrus followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Kinsler to third. With the Angels playing the infield in, Alex Rios slapped a single through the right side to score Kinsler for a 4-3 lead. Rios then stole second. On A.J. Pierzynski's infield single to shortstop, Rios came steaming around third to score when Angels shortstop Erick Aybar threw to first base.

Wild night for C.J.: Rangers fans know what a roller-coaster ride it can be with C.J. Wilson on the mound. Texas took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third thanks to three wild pitches, two hit batters and a single allowed by Wilson. He hit A.J. Pierzynski to force in a run as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead. Then Alex Rios scored on a wild pitch for a 3-1 lead. The Rangers did have two runners in scoring position with one out and a chance to extend the lead, but Jeff Baker and Mitch Moreland struck out to end the threat.

Ogando's night: Alexi Ogando kept the Rangers in the game, leaving with the score tied at 3-3, but he did give up the lead in the top of the fifth. Leading 3-1, Ogando allowed a leadoff single to No. 9 hitter Austin Romine, who had also singled and scored in the third inning. After Erick Aybar flied out, Kole Calhoun had a ground-ball single into right field to put runners at first and third. Ogando then walked the dangerous Mike Trout to get to former Ranger Josh Hamilton, who grounded a single through the right side to score Romine and Calhoun to tie the game at 3-3.

The 'pen: Wilson and the Angels found out for the second straight night that the Rangers' bullpen is hardly out of steam. The trio of Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers did serious damage Friday night. They retired all eight batters they faced and totaled six strikeouts. Scheppers had the big inning, facing Trout-Hamilton-Howie Kendrick. Scheppers blew 98 mph fastballs by Trout and Hamilton and got Kendrick to bounce out to second.

Just missed: Leonys Martin almost played the hero again for the Rangers. With runners at first and second and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Martin stung a line drive on C.J. Wilson's 120th pitch into center field. For a moment it looked like Martin would give the Rangers a lead for a third straight night, but Hamilton and his fake beard were able to run it down for the third out.

Up next: The Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have to set the alarm clocks way earlier for Saturday's new start time of 11:05 a.m. in Arlington with rain expected later in the day. For Texas, left-hander Derek Holland (10-9, 3.33 ERA) will face Angels right-hander Garrett Richards (7-7, 4.09) on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540-AM.

Matchup: Alexi Ogando vs. C.J. Wilson

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
1:30
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers try to make it five straight wins when right-hander Alexi Ogando faces Los Angeles Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson at 7:05 p.m. Friday night on TXA Ch. 21 and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Deportes 1540 AM.

Ogando (7-4, 2.93): Ogando pitched beautifully in his last start, throwing seven shutout innings in a no-decision Saturday at Kansas City. He allowed two hits and a walk while striking out five. ... Since returning from his third stint on the disabled list, Ogando has allowed one run and five hits in 18 innings. Opposing batters are 5-for-55 against him since his return. ... Ogando is 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his career against the Angels, the lowest ERA among active pitchers against the Halos. ... He is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA in four career starts against the Angels. ... Ogando is 12-6 with a 3.17 ERA in 76 games at Rangers Ballpark.

Wilson (17-7, 3.36): The former Ranger has had an exceptional season, but he did see his nine-game winning streak come to a halt on Sunday against Seattle. He allowed three runs in 8 1/3 innings. ... Wilson is 13-2 with a 2.94 ERA in his last 19 starts. ... Wilson has struggled against the Rangers. He is 1-2 with a 7.92 ERA in seven career starts against Texas. The Rangers have hammered him to the tune of a .349 batting average and have forced Wilson into 19 walks in 30 1/3 innings.

Hitters: Rangers hitters have tortured Wilson, from Alex Rios (8-for-19, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs) to Ian Kinsler (8-for-16, 1 HR, 3 RBIs). Mike Trout (4-for-9, 1 HR, 6 RBIs) and Mark Trumbo (6-for-16, 1 RBI) have had success against Ogando. Former Ranger Josh Hamilton is 0-for-6 against him.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Angels

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
1:00
PM CT
Texas Rangers (87-71, 2nd place/AL West) vs. Los Angeles Angels (78-80, 3rd place/AL West)

Thursday: RHP Matt Garza (4-5, 4.56) vs. RHP Jerome Williams (9-10, 4.55), 7:05 p.m.

Friday: RHP Alexi Ogando (7-4, 2.93) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (17-7, 3.36), 7:05 p.m.

Saturday: LHP Derek Holland (10-9, 3.33) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (7-7, 4.09), 7:05 p.m.

Sunday: RHP Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.82) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (9-7, 4.01), 2:05 p.m.

Here's what to watch for in this final series of the regular season:

Upper hand: The Rangers have dominated the Angels this season, winning 11 of 15 games, but don't expect this to be an easy series. The Halos won two of out three from the Rangers earlier this month in Anaheim. The Angels are 23-9 in their last 32 games for the second best record in the majors. They are 9-0-1 in their last 10 series. The Rangers swept their last home series against the Angels in July, winning all three games on walk-off home runs.

Wilson goes for 18:
Former Ranger C.J. Wilson is having a sensational second second with the Angels. He is 17-7 with a 3.36 ERA. Wilson lost for the first time in 14 starts in his last outing. He is 13-2 with a 2.94 ERA in his last 19 starts. Alexi Ogando will face Wilson on Friday night. Ogando had seven shutout innings Sunday in Kansas City.

What about Josh?: Former Ranger Josh Hamilton comes back to Baseball Town on a nice run. He has a 10-game hitting streak and had two hits and two RBIs in the Angels' 3-2 victory over first-place Oakland on Wednesday. Hamilton is batting .325 for September with four doubles, two triples, two home runs and 16 RBIs. That's significantly better than last September when Hamilton faded, batting .245 as the Rangers blew a big lead in the American League West.

Trout the MVP: You can't talk about the Angels and not mention All-Star outfielder Mike Trout, who is having another MVP-type season. Trout is closing in on becoming baseball's first 10-20-30-40 player, 10 triples, 20 homers, 30 steals and 40 doubles. He needs a double and triple in the four games against Texas. He currently has nine triples, 26 home runs, 33 steals and 39 doubles.

No Weaver: The Rangers avoid Angels ace Jered Weaver, who made his final start of the season Wednesday and beat the A's 3-1, allowing a run in seven innings. Texas still has to deal with Wilson and another lefty, Jason Vargas, on Sunday. Wilson and Garrett Williams beat the Rangers in the last series the teams played in Anaheim Sept. 6-8. Matt Garza and Derek Holland, who will start Thursday and Saturday, took losses in that series.

Matchup: Matt Garza vs. C.J. Wilson

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
4:00
PM CT
The Rangers open a three-game series Friday night in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels with right-hander Matt Garza on the mound facing former Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson. First pitch is at 9:05 p.m. on TXA21 and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Deportes 1540 AM.

PODCAST
Michael Young joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to catch up and discuss if he still follows the Rangers, his fascination with fantasy football and much, much more.

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Garza (9-3, 3.55): Garza is 3-2 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts since coming to the Rangers in a trade from the Cubs. ... As a Ranger, Garza has struck out 53 and walked 13 over 55 2/3 innings while allowing nine home runs. ... He's 0-0 with a 2.73 ERA in two starts against the Angels this season, including one as a Ranger. ... On July 29 against the Angels, Garza allowed three runs and five hits over seven innings and got a no-decision in a 4-3 Rangers win. He struck out six, walked three and gave up one home run. ... For his career against the Angels, Garza is 0-1 with a 5.45 ERA in six starts. ... Garza got a no-decision in his last start, allowing just one run over seven innings in a 2-1 Rangers loss to Minnesota. He struck out nine and walked three.

PODCAST
Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss what the Rangers need to do to grind out the AL West, what he sees when he looks at Yu Darvish right now and a lot more.

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Wilson (14-6, 3.35): Wilson is 0-2 with an 8.63 ERA in two career starts against the Rangers. ... In his only start against the Rangers this season, Wilson gave up six runs and 11 hits over four innings in a 14-11 loss. ... Wilson owns a six-game winning streak and a 10-game unbeaten streak. Over his past 10 starts he is 6-0 with a 3.09 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 23 walks. ... In his last start, Wilson allowed three runs (two earned) and three hits over six innings, getting the win in a 5-3 Angels victory at Milwaukee.

Hitters: Howie Kendrick is batting .667 against Garza, going 6-for-9 with a home run and a double. ... Former Ranger Josh Hamilton is just 4-for-21 with a double against Garza. ... Erick Aybar is batting just .200 versus Garza, but he has a triple and three RBIs. ... Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler is batting .462 (6-for-13) against Wilson with one double, one triple, one home run and three RBIs. ... Adrian Beltre is batting .367 (11-for-30) against Wilson with one home run, four doubles and five RBIs. ... Elvis Andrus is batting .357 (5-for-14) with two doubles and a triple, while Alex Rios owns a .353 career average (6-for-17) with one home run and one double.

Lineups: For a change, not many changes

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
4:18
PM CT
The top six spots in the batting order remain the same for a second day in a row for the Rangers against the Angels. Leonys Martin is leading off once again and Ian Kinsler is batting third. Jeff Baker and Craig Gentry are in the lineup in place of Mitch Moreland and David Murphy to face left-hander C.J. Wilson. Derek Holland is on the hill for the Rangers. Here are the lineups:

PODCAST
Rangers catcher Geovany Soto joins Galloway and Company to discuss his walk-off home run against the Angels.

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RANGERS
LF Leonys Martin
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Adrian Beltre
DH A.J. Pierzynski
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Jeff Baker
C Geovany Soto
CF Craig Gentry

ANGELS
SS Erick Aybar
RF Collin Cowgill
CF Mike Trout
1B Mark Trumbo
2B Howie Kendrick
DH Josh Hamilton
3B Alberto Callaspo
C Chris Iannetta
LF J.B. Shuck

W2W4: Rangers-Angels

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
9:52
AM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton is hardly the focus this time around as the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels renew acquaintances in Arlington.

No, this time it's about an anemic Rangers offense. The trade deadline. Albert Pujols.

And then maybe Hamilton's second return to Arlington.

Here's what to watch for as two rivals who were supposed to be closer to first place in the American League West at this point in the season meet up:

PODCAST
Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzimmons and Durrett to discuss the Matt Garza trade and if the Rangers are done shopping before the deadline.

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1. No Pujols: Don't look for Pujols. He won't be around, maybe not for the rest of the season for the Angels. Pujols suffered a partial tear of the plantar fascia in his left foot Friday night in Oakland and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. He is expected to be out at a minimum of six weeks. Considering the Angels' huge investment in Pujols and that they are all but out of the AL West race, it might best serve them to focus on getting their slugger healthy for 2014 and beyond. The Angels are still on the hook for eight years and $212 million with Pujols after this season. The 33-year old Pujols has been hobbled all season with the painful foot injury -- you might have noticed the way he was running the bases in the first series between the clubs back in April. Pujols is batting .258 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs, so his production will be missed in the Halos' lineup.

2. Trade deadline: Will the Rangers acquire a bat or two? Are the Angels sellers? The backdrop to this series will be Wednesday's trade deadline. Media reports over the weekend had the Angels being "open for business," with shortstop Erick Aybar, second baseman Howie Kendrick and others available to be discussed. Left-handed reliever Scott Downs, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, is an attractive trade piece. Obviously, young superstar Mike Trout will not be dealt. But how about Hamilton's mega contract? Surely the Angels would discuss getting out from under that bad contract. Kendrick, a reliable hitter, is an interesting trade piece making $9 million in 2014 and 2105. The Rangers are rumored to be looking for one or two hitters to add to their slumping offense, but now six games back of Oakland after a rotten week, general manager Jon Daniels and company may decide to hold on to prospects and try to win with the players currently on the roster. Engel Beltre anyone?

3. Rangers offense: The numbers during the Rangers' ugly 2-13 stretch are depressing. They've scored 2.4 runs, the lowest average in the majors. There's a .232 batting average, 26th in baseball, and a .621 OPS (which combines on-base and slugging percentages), which is third-worst in the majors. Don't let the starting rotation off the hook -- they have a 5.18 ERA in the last 15 games, also third-worst. The bullpen has a 2.31 ERA during the span -- seventh-best in baseball -- but Joe Nathan's blown save last Tuesday against the Yankees gets worse with each passing day.

4. Now to Hamilton: Hamilton the fourth storyline? Actually, yes. Mostly because he's having a season to forget, one that got off to a brutal start and has now included minor injuries that have forced him to miss seven games. Hamilton enters Monday batting .223 with 15 home runs and 43 RBIs. He appeared to be getting out of a slump, but July has suddenly turned into a bad month. He's hitting .205 with a .234 on-base percentage. His strikeout percentage of 29.9 is his worst of any month this season. He's also chasing more pitches than ever -- 44.7 percent for July.

5. C.J. on a roll: C.J. Wilson will start Tuesday night for the Angels. The former Ranger has been very good for the struggling Halos. He is 7-1 in his last eight starts with a 1.96 ERA. Wilson has gotten control of his pitches -- he hasn't walked more than three batters in any of the eight starts after struggling with his command early in the season.

Back to St. Louis: These aren't those Texas Rangers

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
1:14
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ron Washington won't have any flashbacks when he walks back into Busch Stadium on Friday afternoon. He said so.

PODCAST
Eric Nadel joins Galloway & Company to discuss the Rangers returning to St. Louis for the first time since their World Series loss to the Cardinals in 2011.

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We know that won't be true. This isn't like going to Minute Maid Park.

The Rangers are making their first return to the scene where they came so close to winning it all.

One strike away -- twice.

One catch away.

A lot has changed since the Rangers lost Game 6 of the 2011 World Series to the Cardinals in heartbreaking fashion. And then Game 7.

These aren't those Rangers anymore. Josh Hamilton is gone. Michael Young, too. Mike Napoli. C.J. Wilson. Scott Feldman. Darren Oliver. Mark Lowe.

[+] EnlargeNelson Cruz
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelThe Rangers are returning to St. Louis for the first time since their heartbreaking World Series loss there in 2011.
So instead of flashing back, let's look forward to the more pressing question.

Can the Rangers get back to the World Series?

The Rangers are in position to make another run. They're only one game back of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West after taking three of four games -- all comeback wins -- from the A's this week. This silver lining capped a disappointing 11-game homestand where they suffered through one of the worst offensive ruts in franchise history.

Health and the success of front office maneuvering will likely determine whether the Rangers make a fourth straight playoff appearance and get to their third World Series in four seasons.

Reinforcements are on the way for the beat-up pitching staff in the next month. Reliever Joakim Soria should come first, and the former closer will give a major shot in the arm to an already solid bullpen. Then Alexi Ogando. And Colby Lewis. And then Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz.

Just getting two back would arm the Rangers for the stretch run and potentially make them a team to beat in the American League.

The Rangers' minor league system is healthy at all levels, and the blockbuster trade they didn't make in the offseason could happen around the July 31 trade deadline.

PODCAST
ESPN Insider and senior baseball analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss some interesting trade ideas for the Rangers.

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Maybe a key bat. Maybe Cliff Lee.

The Rangers are ninth in the AL in runs scored, so the offense must pick it up. The return of Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland, who is enjoying a breakout season, will help immensely.

Jurickson Profar is here to stay, and he will only get better. The 20-year-old infielder and, maybe, soon-to-be outfielder could provide that youthful exuberance in September.

Despite the injury to Ogando and placing two rookies in the rotation, the Rangers are fourth in the AL with a respectable 3.76 ERA.

And the Rangers need look no further than across the field to see a club that has handled transition well since the 2011 World Series. The Cardinals have moved on from Albert Pujols and boast baseball's best record at 47-26. They made the playoffs last season, too.

The Rangers aren't the same team they were during their last visit to St. Louis. Maybe a club in a little bit of transition. Maybe not.

But they're poised to contend this season. And the next. And beyond.

Maybe the next time that Washington walks into a ballpark full of memories for the first time since playing in a World Series, he'll think about the final out -- and the Rangers dog pile that ensued.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Angels

April, 22, 2013
4/22/13
4:00
PM CT
The focus is off of Josh Hamilton's return to Texas and back on baseball as the Rangers swoop into Anaheim to begin a three-game series against the Angels on Monday night at Angels Stadium.

There will still be interest in Hamilton because of his brutal beginning with the Angels -- a .176 batting average with two home runs. But the focus is and should be on the teams who both come into Monday's opener off of home sweeps against the Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers, respectively.

Here's what's to watch for the next three nights:

Pujols hobbling: Albert Pujols will be in the Angels' lineup as the designated hitter for the fifth straight game Monday night; at least that appears to be the plan. You may have noticed that Pujols wasn't running well at all when the Angels were in Texas for the Rangers' home-opening series April 5-7. You can read more about Pujols' pain here. Pujols is still swinging that bat well with a .317 batting average, two home runs and 13 RBIs.

Angels' starting rotation: The Angels took a big hit when they lost Jered Weaver to a fractured right arm on April 9 after a start against the Rangers in Arlington. Weaver is expected to be out at least another month. The Angels starters have not been very good in his absence. Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas, who will pitch the first two games of this series, are a combined 0-5 with a 7.67 ERA. Wednesday's starter, right-hander Tommy Hanson, has been OK with a 2-1 record and a 4.24 ERA. Former Ranger C.J. Wilson (1-0, 4.13) was able to go six innings against Detroit on Sunday despite throwing 52 pitches in the first two innings. Garrett Richards (1-0, 2.55) has been the Angels' best starter filling in for Weaver after opening the season in the bullpen.

Infield injuries: The Angels have two starting infielders on the disabled list -- shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Third baseman Luis Jimenez, called up from Triple-A Salt Lake City on April 12, had a six-game hitting streak snapped Sunday. He is batting .370. Brendan Harris (.308 BA) and Andrew Romine (.077 BA) have been splitting time at shortstop.

Frieri the great: The Angels haven't been able to get to closer Ernesto Frieri much in save opportunities. He had his last save on April 14. He has two on the season. Frieri has pitched well at home, not allowing a run in four appearances. The Angels acquired him in one of the best trades of 2012 from the San Diego Padres.
Former Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson did an extensive Q&A with Bryan Curtis at Grantland and it included some questions about Josh Hamilton and his comments about the Dallas-Fort Worth area not being a true baseball town. Here's part of that interview:
PODCAST
Derek Holland joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the benefits of pitching in the World Baseball Classic and why he thinks letting Nolan Ryan leave the Texas Rangers would be a mistake.

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Q: I’m Josh Hamilton. What’s the biggest difference between playing in Anaheim and playing in Texas?

A: Baseball is baseball, you know? The only difference is he’s trading one hostile environment for the other.

Q: Did you agree with Hamilton’s assessment that Arlington isn’t a “true baseball town”?

A: There are so many different ways to slice that. I’ve been editorialized (against) plenty, so I can relate to the reaction that he got.

If you really look behind the quotes, what he said was: Texas is a football state. Everybody loves football in Texas. That’s never going to change. The Cowboys are always the biggest show in town. Always.

Now, (the Rangers) draw a lot of fans — at least, they have the last couple of years — but that’s because the team has been so good. When I was a rookie, when I first came up, we were not drawing 3 million fans a year. It wasn’t like the Cubs.

More people get turned on to baseball because the team’s winning. The quote might be a little bit weird, but if you step back and take a look it, it’s like, well, yeah, every city whose teams wins, more people go to the games.

I see Wilson's point. And he was smart enough to be careful in answering the question. I think those of us that live here understand this is a winner's town. That's the case in a lot of places. But I also think some folks tend to underestimate how this area supports its winners. Some cities may have sellouts here and there for winning teams. But the Rangers had 3.4 million fans last year. It was a consistent crush of fan support as the team tried to hang on to the division. And they came in April and stayed through September. So winning or not, that's to be applauded. It shows me that this is a baseball town. It's first and foremost a football town. We all know that. But the two aren't mutually exclusive. You can be a football town and a baseball town.

Don't you think? (You can check out Wilson's comments about other things as well here.)

Is AL West the best division?

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
11:25
AM CT
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark took a look at the six divisions in baseball and ranked them. Here's how he did it:

I surveyed one baseball executive in all six divisions, including three who formerly worked for teams in the AL East. I also had Dan Szymborski project records for every team and every division in 2013. Then I did team-by-team, division-by-division power rankings. And, finally, I factored in payrolls, Vegas odds and all sorts of other data. So what's the answer?

Stark says the AL East has the best division. It has the most depth and, for the first time in a long time, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees could be at or near the bottom of that division as it stacks up.

But what about the AL West? Stark puts them No. 2. You can blame the Houston Astros a bit for that as they drag the bottom of the division now. Here's what one executive told Stark about the AL West:

"I'd still put the AL West at No. 1," said one of the NL execs quoted earlier, "because the Angels are unbelievably talented, Texas is perennially really good, Oakland is really good, and Seattle, I think, is underrated. It drags them all down some that they could have a 115-loss team in their division. But the other teams are so good, I think it balances out."

I think you've also got a rivalry that is still coming into its own in the Rangers vs. Angels. Unlike last season, we'll get our first taste of that one in the home-opening series for Texas in early April (they didn't see each other until mid-May last year). Consider the amount of money the Angels are spending and how they scooped up former Rangers C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton the past few years (and how the Rangers beat out the Angles on Adrian Beltre) and it's got the makings of a really good rivalry for a really long time.

The A's won the division last year and are young. They should only continue to get better. The Mariners have a few pieces here and there. The Astros are a long way from contending, but every division team gets the same edge in playing them.

It's not difficult to imagine that two playoff teams -- again -- come from the AL West, is it? It may not be quite as deep as the AL East, but it's just as competitive in my mind. What do you think?

2012 Rangers timeline: Late offseason

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
2:00
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We move on to December and January in the offseason, a period dominated with news of Yu Darvish's posting bid and signing.

[+] EnlargeArte Moreno, Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson
AP Photo/Alex GallardoArte Moreno and the Angels served notice in the AL West with the offseason additions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson on the final day of the winter meetings.
Dec. 1: Taylor Teagarden is traded to Baltimore for two prospects.

Dec. 2: Tim Purpura, former Astros GM, is named the Rangers’ director of player development.

Dec. 6: The Rangers meet with Bob Garber, C.J. Wilson’s agent, during the winter meetings.

Dec. 8: The Los Angeles Angels sign Wilson and Albert Pujols on the final day of the winter meetings, making the AL West even more competitive.

Dec. 14: The Rangers place a bid for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish through the posting process. They wait to find out if it was enough.

Dec. 19: Around 10 p.m. Texas time, the Rangers find out their bid of $51,703,411 was enough to give them a 30-day negotiating window with Darvish.

Jan. 1: The Rangers host Darvish, his father and his agents for a few days. They get a tour of the ballpark and look at areas where Darvish could live if a deal is worked out. The Rangers treat it like a recruiting visit, wanting to impress Darvish in the hopes of getting a contract done.

Jan. 3: The Rangers send cash considerations to Baltimore for Brandon Snyder, who makes the club out of spring training.

Jan. 4: Mike Adams has offseason hernia surgery. He begins spring training behind but catches up.

Jan. 13: Club officials meet with Prince Fielder and his representatives at a Dallas-area hotel. Both sides want to gauge interest and figure out where each is as Fielder looks for a new team.

[+] EnlargeYu Darvish
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Ranger reeled in Yu Darvish just before the negotiating window deadline with a six-year deal worth a guaranteed $56 million.
Jan. 18: Just before the 4 p.m. deadline, the Rangers sign Yu Darvish to a six-year deal worth a guaranteed $56 million.

Jan. 20: Darvish is officially introduced in a crowded news conference with plenty of reporters. He said he wants to do his best and help the team. He also poses for pictures on the mound at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Jan. 24: Reports surface that Fielder is going to sign a nine-year deal with the Detroit Tigers.

Jan. 30: A few Rangers officials meet with Roy Oswalt over lunch to discuss potentially signing the free agent.

2012 Rangers timeline: Early offseason

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
2:00
PM CT
Now that the Texas Rangers have ended the 2012 season, let's take a look back at the past 11 months, starting with the moment the 2011 season ended in late October. Here is October and November, 2011:

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Oct. 30: Rangers players clean out their lockers in Arlington and try to move on after difficult GameS 6 and 7 of the World Series in St. Louis.

"We appreciate what we've done and we're happy and blessed, but at the same time it's a letdown to lose," Rangers left-hander Derek Holland said. "We made it for a second year in a row and we didn't get the job done. We feel like we let ourselves down, our fans down, Texas down. We had the team to do it."

Oct. 31: The club exercises the option on Colby Lewis’ contract, meaning the veteran returns for the 2012 season at $3.25 million. He has been the club’s top postseason pitcher the last two years. The club also picks up the 2012 option on Yoshinori Tateyama’s contract.

Nov. 1: Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre wins a Gold Glove for his work defensively. It’s his third Gold Glove.

[+] EnlargeCJ Wilson
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireMike Maddux (center) drew interest from the Cubs and Red Sox about their managerial vacancies following the Rangers' second straight World Series appearance.
Nov. 3: Rangers announce plans to make renovations to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, including reconfiguring the visitor’s bullpen and building a new area in the outfield. The club grants the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs permission to talk to pitching coach Mike Maddux about their managerial openings. Michael Young wins the 2011 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.

Nov. 4: Scott Servais leaves the Rangers to become assistant GM, scouting and player development, with the Angels.

Nov. 7: The Rangers say they are investigating a leak of Rangers manager Ron Washington’s speech prior to Game 7 of the World Series. They eventually find out who leaked the recording; that employee is no longer with the club. Maddux withdraws from the Red Sox search.

Nov. 10: The club announces that the broadcast teams that finished the 2011 season will be back for 2012 -- Dave Barnett and Tom Grieve in the TV booth and Eric Nadel and Steve Busby in the radio booth.

Nov. 11: Josh Hamilton has hernia surgery. He had torn adductors and played through the pain during the postseason.

Nov. 15: C.J. Wilson finishes sixth in the Cy Young voting, which was won unanimously by Justin Verlander.

Nov. 18: Maddux announces he’s staying in Texas, saying his family is comfortable and loves it here.

[+] EnlargeJoe Nathan
AP Photo/ Richard W. RodriguezCloser Joe Nathan's two-year deal with the Rangers moved Neftali Feliz to the rotation.
Nov. 21: Rangers sign closer Joe Nathan to a two-year deal worth $14.5 million with a club option for a third season. The move means Neftali Feliz is headed to the starting rotation. Young finishes eighth in the AL MVP voting, which is won by Verlander.

Nov. 22: Nathan is introduced in a news conference in Arlington and says he’s healthy and excited about having a full offseason with no injury issues. He is also pleased to be closing for the two-time defending AL champs.

Nov. 28: The Milwaukee Brewers hire Johnny Narron has hitting coach. Narron was a big part of Hamilton’s support system, and the club begins a search for his replacement.

Nov. 29: The Astros ask for and are granted permission to talk to Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine about their GM opening. Greg Maddux decides to join his brother, Mike, as a consultant with the Rangers.

Nov. 30: Levine decides to stay with the Rangers. Young and Wilson win Rangers player of the year and pitcher of the year as voted by the local chapter of the BBWAA.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.327 15 58 57
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 15
RBIA. Beltre 58
RA. Beltre 57
OPSA. Beltre .890
WY. Darvish 10
ERAY. Darvish 2.90
SOY. Darvish 167