Texas Rangers: Geovany Soto
Andrus is throwing again and participated in most of the team drills Monday. He could get in a game in the next day or two.
* C Geovany Soto (foot surgery) is out of his boot and is hitting soft toss and off a tee as he continues to ramp up for what he hopes is a mid-March return.
* RHP Nate Adcock, a nonroster invitee to spring training, felt some numbness in the fingers on his throwing hand and will not pitch until team physician Dr. Keith Meister can take a look at him. That may not be until this weekend.
* RHP Miles Mikolas (elbow soreness) and RHP Shawn Tolleson (back) are throwing from 90 feet.
Soto, who had arthroscopic surgery Saturday to remove a small bone in his left foot, is back in Arizona and can’t do any baseball activities until the sutures heal. He’s wearing a boot as a precaution, but he is able to walk.
“I should have plenty of time (to get ready for the season),” Soto said. “Everything went well. Hopefully, here in a couple of days I’ll start working out in the gym on the bike.”
Soto said the bone in his foot hadn’t bothered him at all before last week. But because the recovery time isn’t long, Soto decided to get it done now instead of trying to deal with it the entire season.
“I spent the whole offseason working out and getting better in every aspect – catching, hitting – and I came out here and spent a week and a half preparing myself,” Soto said. “It’s a minor setback, but starting March 15 I should have plenty of time.”
Soto was signed this offseason to be the club’s primary catcher. He hit .245 last season with nine homers and 22 RBIs. His pitchers have raved about how he calls games. The Rangers also signed J.P. Arencibia this winter and he’ll get plenty of time behind the plate in the first few weeks of Cactus League games as Soto rehabs.
Shin-Soo Choo (Korea), CF Leonys Martin (Cuba), RF Alex Rios (Puerto Rico).
The infield: 1B Prince Fielder (United States), 2B Jurickson Profar (Curacao), 3B Adrian Beltre (Dominican Republic), SS Elvis Andrus (Venezuela)
The battery: RHP Yu Darvish (Japan), C Geovany Soto (Puerto Rico)
"I'm just putting baseball players out there on the field," Washington said. "I never really thought of that, but you're right."
Washington was asked what it would take for that many cultures to be a cohesive unit.
"The same mindset," Washington said. "Wanting to win, be a good teammate, exhibit good character, attitude, all the things it takes in a normal clubhouse. I think we have those kinds of guys. I don't think our clubhouse is going to be an issue.
"Baseball is baseball. All of those guys are good players and they all have one goal in mind: being the best they can be for each other. That's where the cohesiveness comes in."
Rios has managed the toe since then and eased off it for a few days. But he's back and expected to participate in drills today. He's not in the lineup for the intrasquad game.
* INF Kevin Kouzmanoff (sore back) will not participate in drills today and is listed as day-to-day.
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today.
* C Geovany Soto (left foot surgery) is in Arizona and is expected to come by the facility at some point today. His timetable is 10 days to let the sutures heal before he can resume baseball activity. The Rangers hope he can get in some Cactus League games in the final two weeks before the season starts.
* RHP Ben Rowen (biceps tendinitis) will start a throwing program the first week of March.
* RHP Daniel Bard (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) is in the early stages of his throwing program.
* Assistant GM Thad Levine (broken left thumb) injured the thumb playing basketball. He's wearing a brace on it and certainly can't play basketball for a while.
Feliz did make a slight mechanical change, dropping his glove before delivery to better hide the ball as he grips his changeup. So he'll start at the belt, rather than up higher.
But his pace was slowed just a bit by the soreness. The shoulder was fine when he threw Friday, and because of that he's scheduled to have a 10-minute live batting practice session Sunday. It means he's not too far behind the other pitchers.
Other injury news:
* The big one of the day is catcher Geovany Soto having surgery on his foot. You can read more about that here.
* LHP Matt Harrison (back tightness) will return to Texas on Sunday to see Dr. Drew Dossett, a back specialist, on Monday. Harrison said his back felt "100 percent" this morning but isn't sure if that means anything or not. He'll get more tests and be evaluated. But he's certainly going to be behind the rest of the pitchers.
* RHP Derek Holland (knee surgery) is off crutches but won't come to camp until after Dr. Keith Meister has seen him next week. It's unclear when the timetable is for Holland to come to Arizona.
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back) played catch Friday and felt good. He's now continuing to throw and prepare for the season.
* SS Jurickson Profar (shoulder tendinitis) didn't have any issues with swinging a bat Friday and will continue to do that. He can't throw yet, however.
“If this was the season, this would be no problem, put a little bit of tape on it and just go out there,” Soto said. “But we’re not even in March. I want to take care of minor aches and pains. I’m jumping around (and he did, in fact, jump as he said it). I just want to get it checked because it’s so early and see what’s going on.”
Soto said he started to feel something as spring training began, and since he experiences a little pain when he puts weight on it he wants to have it looked over.
* RHP Neftali Feliz (shoulder tightness) will throw a five-minute live batting practice today and then continue to progress. Feliz threw on the side earlier this week.
"After he threw the first time, he had some localized soreness in his arm, and where we are in spring training we thought we'd back off and then re-engage him," assistant GM Thad Levine said.
* 2B Jurickson Profar (shoulder tendinitis) has been cleared to swing the bat again today and will go through some drills, but he is still not throwing.
* RF Alex Rios (sore left big toe) is listed as day-to-day and just won't do quite as many things. He was out with the team stretching (and I can tell you I saw him jogging out there and he looked normal, for what that's worth).
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back) will play catch and see how he feels.
Now, he's at least a week behind. Back stiffness -- which Harrison hopes is all it is -- has him shut down from baseball activities until he can get an MRI. That will happen today. He'll see Dr. Drew Dossett, who handled both of Harrison's back surgeries in April and May of last year, on Sunday or Monday to get completely checked out.
Harrison doesn't know yet how serious it may or may not be.
“There's obviously some concern there from what happened last year,” Harrison said. “I just hope that it's not a serious issue and something I can take a few days down and stay on top of my core program and get right back out there, and hopefully that's the case. But it's not fair to say that I'm not worried about it, because I've had a lot of issues recently.”
A stiff neck kept Harrison from throwing a scheduled live batting practice session Tuesday. He fought the decision and still wanted to throw, but the Rangers wanted to be cautious. Harrison isn't complaining about that now.
"I'm not going to argue with them this time, especially because I know how it ended up last year," Harrison said. "I may have pushed it too far last year. So we're still in spring training and get it taken care of now."
Harrison was asked if there was a "big alarm" going off in his head.
"Not a big alarm, but a little bit concerned," Harrison said. "The issues I had last year and it being some stiffness in my back, they want to try to nip it in the bud as soon as possible and get it checked out by Dossett and make sure it's nothing serious going on.
"I felt 100 percent coming in here, but it's a little bit different -- the offseason program as it is when you get out there and you start doing everything 100 percent," Harrison said. "(That's when) your adrenaline is going, and so I really don't know what happened."
* C Geovany Soto has left Achilles soreness. He can do everything but run and could still be ready for intrasquad games next week.
* RHP Tanner Scheppers (back stiffness) is tossing today but won't throw a live BP session.
That includes Prince Fielder, who arrived at camp Wednesday, batting third and Adrian Beltre staying in the cleanup spot.
“I’m set in stone with that,” Washington said, as he spoke with a group of beat writers in a dugout on the back fields prior to workouts. “You’re not going to change my mind moving Prince out of the third hole.”
More to come on that shortly.
A look at Washington's lineup:
LF Shin-Soo Choo
SS Elvis Andrus
1B Prince Fielder
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Alex Rios
DH Mitch Moreland
C Geovany Soto
2B Jurickson Profar
CF Leonys Martin
"If he gets the footwork, everything else will come," Washington said.
The official report date for position players isn't until Thursday, but the manager was busy with his coaching staff the past few days getting all the schedules planned. One of Washington's routines during spring training is to work with the infielders on an individual basis early in the mornings. You can bet that he'll be watching and working with Profar.
By footwork, Washington means he wants Profar taking the right angles and consistently getting into better position around the bag. That helps make a double-play combination even more successful.
"That's something we'll get done," Washington said.
Profar is now the starting second baseman and has known that most of the offseason, since the trade of Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder was finalized before Thanksgiving. So he comes to spring focused on making sure he's comfortable at second.
Washington said if Elvis Andrus needed to miss a few days for any reason, it would be Profar who shifts to shortstop. He could play third, but Washington wants to keep him in the middle of the infield.
• Washington said the plan is for Rougned Odor to work out at second base and Luis Sardinas to stay at short, at which they've played most of their minor league careers.
• The backup middle-infield spots come down to Adam Rosales, Brent Lillibridge and Josh Wilson. Washington said Rosales can play some third, and he thinks Lillibridge could, too. "We'll let it all play out," Washington said.
• Washington is very unlikely to play both J.P. Arencibia and Geovany Soto at the same time, meaning he won't rotate the DH spot to include catcher. The plan is for that spot to be rotated at first base (when Fielder needs a break) and the outfield.
Today's position: Catcher
Texas came into the offseason needing to fill a hole at catcher. With an aging A.J. Pierzynski back on the free-agent market, the Rangers needed to figure out what they wanted to do behind the plate. Brian McCann was a name that was talked about, but the club decided to not pursue the high-priced backstop and opted to re-sign Geovany Soto, who is familiar with the pitching staff and performed well at the plate in the clutch.
The club made Soto the primary catcher when he was signed earlier this offseason and the club then determined to add a low-risk/high-reward option in J.P. Arencibia, who struggled at the plate last season but showed power. He'll back up Soto.
The Rangers were middle of the pack offensively at the catching position, finishing seventh in the AL in RBIs and seventh in batting average. To improve on that in 2014, they'll need both Soto and Arencibia to hit better. Soto hit .245 with nine homers and 22 RBIs. But it sure seemed as if many of his hits came in key situations, especially late in the season. Arencibia, who just turned 28, batted .194 but had 21 homers and 55 RBIs. The Rangers are counting on that power to help them and that Arencibia, with some work with hitting coach Dave Magadan, can get his average up.
OUTLOOK: Catching, of course, isn't just about the offensive numbers listed above. Just ask manager Ron Washington. He stresses that the No. 1 job by his catchers is to manage the pitching staff. Soto knows the staff. He caught Yu Darvish down the stretch and the Rangers' ace certainly seems more comfortable with Soto behind the plate.
The first thing Arencibia mentioned in his conference call with reporters after his signing was that he wanted to get to know the staff's tendencies and put the pitchers in position to succeed. He knows that's his top job.
The Rangers need their backstops to give them some offense, but they are hoping that the trade for Prince Fielder and the signing of Shin-Soo Choo might lessen the pressure on the catchers to do too much. The high priority is to learn the staff and navigate them through games. The Rangers have two guys who can do that.
- Find a powerful left-handed bat for the middle of the lineup.
- Eliminate the logjam at middle infield.
- Find another bat that could help with the club's lack of consistent run production.
- Figure out the catching position.
While many folks are racing to malls and stores to stock up on last-minute Christmas items, Daniels and his staff have nearly all of their presents under the tree. They still need a few stocking stuffers, but the big items are in hand.
Daniels found his left-handed power bat in the form of Prince Fielder, trading for the first baseman before Thanksgiving. The club dealt All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit to make the deal happen and received $30 million. Those checks won't come in until the final five years of Fielder's deal, but they offset some of the cost. And taken on an annual average, the Fielder deal doesn't look nearly as out of whack as you might expect (a little more than $18 million a season).
By trading Kinsler, Daniels eliminated the middle infield issue. Jurickson Profar can now play second base, with Elvis Andrus at short. Profar was up and down as he moved around and never really got a chance to have a steady position in 2013. Now, he'll get the opportunity to focus on second base. There are many within the Rangers' organization confident this will make him a more productive player.
While Fielder bolstered the middle of the order, the Rangers' front office knew it needed some more punch. Hitting coach Dave Magadan preaches a disciplined, patient approach. Shin-Soo Choo personifies it. He saw an average of 4.23 pitches per plate appearance, second-most in the National League last year. Choo's .423 on-base percentage in 2013 was fourth in MLB overall and the fifth-highest by any left-handed hitting outfielder over the last 10 years.
Choo is likely the leadoff hitter, giving the Rangers someone who can set the table and get on base with the added bat of Fielder in the middle of the lineup -- and now, perhaps, a chance to drive him in.
So two deals gave Daniels a chance to check off three items on his list. And it was once again a strong signal from ownership. The Rangers have a budget, but it's clear they aren't afraid to increase it when the right circumstance presents itself. They'll add payroll in the form of Fielder and Choo, spending the bulk of their offseason money on hitting, which was the biggest need.
Signing Geovany Soto and then inking J.P. Arencibia to a deal means the Rangers' have the catching situation lined up. Soto is another patient hitter, making this offense look a little more in Magadan's mold before spring training even begins.
The Rangers aren't through. They could still use some starting pitching depth, though that doesn't mean any big names. As we've seen since Daniels took over, you never count the Rangers out of any deal. So I won't sit here and tell you they are out of the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, should the Japanese pitcher get posted. I would think it's unlikely, but they might as well get involved and see where the negotiations go. They have nothing to lose (you only pay the $20 million posting fee if you sign him).
Perhaps Texas finds another right-handed bat that can play some first base or DH.
And here's one big key: The Rangers improved the lineup without parting with any of their top prospects. The Fielder deal cost them Kinsler. Choo is a free agent. And acquiring Michael Choice meant they had to say goodbye to Craig Gentry, but not any of their prospects. Texas still has plenty of assets on the farm to either eventually reach the big league club or be used at the trade deadline or next offseason to make the team better.
So Daniels has nearly completed his shopping, days before Christmas. It's a different offseason than last year, when the Rangers tried to convince Zack Greinke to come to Texas and to get Josh Hamilton to stay, playing the waiting game. Both, of course, signed elsewhere, as did Mike Napoli, leaving the Rangers' lineup a bit depleted in comparison.
That's not the case this year. There was no waiting. Texas saw opportunities and took advantage. Daniels joked last week that he didn't want any kind of negotiations to linger into early next year.
"I'd like to enjoy my January," Daniels said.
Looks like he'll get the chance to do just that.
The Rangers want to see that power from Arencibia, who was officially signed Tuesday at the winter meetings. But they hope that along with it comes a steady climb of his batting average and OBP. Perhaps hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will help the right-handed hitter.
In a small sample size, Arencibia has a .256 batting average (11-for-43) with seven homers, 10 RBIs and eight runs scored. That includes two multi-hit games and a .360 average (9-for-25) with the bases loaded. Arencibia has four home runs in his last four games at the park.
"I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is I’d like to bottle it up," Arencibia said. "I’ve enjoyed the park. One thing I enjoy is the heat. I really do like playing in the hot weather. That’s what I grew up doing in Miami. I enjoy that part of it and the atmosphere. The stadium always has a large amount of fans and that makes playing more enjoyable."
Arencibia gives the Rangers a catching tandem at an affordable price -- for around $5 million -- and he said he has no issues with his role as the backup to Geovany Soto.
"My job is to go out there and try to work with Geo every day, whether it be going over scouting reports or playing," Arencibia said. "It’s about putting the best team out there and helping out pitchers get through the games."
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.
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.
Geovany Soto, the club's backup last season, was signed Tuesday and named the starter by general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington. Both said that Soto "is our guy" at catcher. But does that mean Brian McCann is off the table? No. Don't take the news of Soto as the primary catcher to mean the club won't go after McCann. Daniels wouldn't rule out the possibility of a high-priced player who could perhaps play catcher and some other spots -- like DH or first base.
"We had a player that the more we talked about it, the more we liked what he brings to the table," Daniels said. "You don’t want to ignore what’s under your nose or put all your eggs in one basket from someone outside that you can’t control. But we haven’t ruled anything out."
McCann was the name most figured would be the Rangers' top target and this move doesn't have to change that. (And we'll explain why McCann still makes sense for this team in our "Hot Stove Talk" post Wednesday morning). But Soto gives them some options and an insurance policy of sorts. They like the fact that he improved offensively in the second half of the season and that he knows the pitching staff.He's worked well with Yu Darvish, the club's top pitcher. The price isn't bad, either, at $3.05 million plus incentives. And if they find someone on the market whom they'd like to try more at first base or DH, but also a bit at catcher, it means Soto carries more of the load. By the way, McCann can be that guy too. If you're making a 5-year investment at something like $75 million, why not guard against wear and tear and have him play some first base or DH? Soto gives the Rangers the option of choosing whether to spend a big piece of their financial pie on catcher or using that money elsewhere to plug other holes.
Soto was clearly excited about the opportunity.
"I mentally know these guys and what works for them in crunch time and what doesn't," Soto said. "You can know this guy has a slider or the other guy has a fastball, but when do you throw it? When does he have confidence in it? I think I have an ability to mentally get pitchers ready. I feel like I can make them give that extra bit."
He added that he thinks that will only "blossom" now that he's the primary catcher. Soto is pleased with his improvements with the bat, crediting hitting coach Dave Magadan for helping him.
"To be honest, where I fell off in my career, I stopped hitting because I was trying too hard or searching too much," Soto said. "Every time I made an adjustment, I made a change four days later because it wasn't working. Dave told me to stop searching. Sometimes you want to do more. But if I'm guilty, I'm gulity of trying to fix whatever was wrong really badly instead of taking a step back and keeping it simple.
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