Texas Rangers: Jorge Cantu

Surprise positional outlook: First base

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
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Let's take a look at the infield as we continue to get prepared for spring training with our Surprise positional outlooks.

[+] EnlargeMitch Moreland
AP Photo/LM OteroIt was difficult in 2011 to evaluate an injured Mitch Moreland, who nevertheless saved some pop in his bat for the postseason.
Today's position: First base

The biggest free agent on the market is Prince Fielder, and while the Rangers have said obtaining Fielder is "unlikely," you never know what may transpire. We've discussed Fielder a lot on this blog and the reason Texas is mentioned as a possible destination is that there's a need. The Rangers didn't get much production from the position in 2011.

Actually, since the Mark Teixeira trade, the club has attempted to find a full-time first baseman who can produce consistent offensive numbers. Among those who have played the position since: Justin Smoak, Chris Davis, Jorge Cantu, Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland.

Again, don't count the Rangers out of the Fielder sweepstakes. But as of now, Moreland is the first baseman.

Moreland's 2010 season, especially how he improved after getting called up in June and then his solid postseason performance (in which he became the everyday first baseman even against left-handed pitchers, making Cantu a bench player), made him the club's first baseman heading into 2011. But knowing how he struggled against left-handed pitching, the Rangers traded for Napoli and had Young learn first base to give them options. But Moreland was the guy.

RANGERS POSITION OUTLOOK
Jan. 23: Catcher
Jan. 24: First base
Jan. 25: Second base
Jan. 26: Third base
Jan. 27: Shortstop
Jan. 30: Left field
Jan. 31: Center field
Feb. 1: Right field
Feb. 2: DH/Utility
Feb. 3: Bench
Feb. 6: No. 1 starter
Feb. 7: No. 2 starter
Feb. 8: No. 3 starter
Feb. 9: No. 4 starter
Feb. 10: No. 5 starter
Feb. 13: Middle/long relief
Feb. 14: Late-inning relief
Feb. 15: Coaches
Feb. 16: Manager
Feb. 17: Front office
He's still the guy as the Rangers head into 2012. A wrist injury bothered him for most of the second half of the season, making it difficult for the club to fully evaluate him. He ended up hitting .259 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs in 2011, which included batting .241 after the All-Star break and .167 in September. Moreland was just 3-for-29 with two homers and three RBIs in the 2011 playoffs.

But how much of that was Moreland's injury? It bothered him enough that he had surgery this offseason. Moreland is a hard worker and committed to improving. He showed enough promise late in 2010 that the club wants to see what he can do in 2012. But he won't have to do it all alone. Young played the position some in 2011 and said in December that he's focused on detail work there this spring. Napoli can also play first.

So it will be interesting to see how Moreland looks this spring and how the position shakes out. He's going to come in a little bit behind but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

Is first base destined for a platoon?

March, 2, 2011
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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Southpaw first baseman Mitch Moreland is working toward becoming the Texas Rangers' every day first baseman, and that means convincing manager Ron Washington that a platoon is simply unnecessary.

The Rangers acquired right-hand-hitting Mike Napoli to bat against left-handers, which he does quite well, and he has experience at first. Micheal Young is also expected to play some at first. Moreland performed well for the Rangers last season after Chris Davis couldn't get the job done and Justin Smoak was dealt to Seattle.

Moreland took off during the postseason, playing strong defense and batting .348 overall and a whopping .462 in the World Series when all other bats went silent. As the club broke for a short offseason, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said first base was Moreland's job to lose.

"The postseason definitely gave me some confidence going into the offseason," Moreland said. "I got to where I was playing day in and day out. You can get comfortable when you’re doing that. You don’t have to sit a couple days and then play. Sometimes that can take a toll on you. You get in there day in and day out and you know I’ve got to go out there today and do my job knowing I can go do it tomorrow."

It beats platooning, which Rangers manager Ron Washington did in the regular season -- using Jorge Cantu against lefties -- and planned to do in the postseason. That is until Cantu didn't produce in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Tampa Bay. Cantu was in the lineup against hard-throwing lefty David Price, but continued to slump.

Washington could no longer ignore how well Moreland was playing in the field and he stuck with him for Game 5 of the ALDS against Price. Moreland went 1-for-4 in the clincher and didn't sit in another postseason game while continually raising his average -- against righties and lefties.

"It’s definitely a possibility," Moreland said of a platoon situation in 2011. "We have the same team goal, that's to get back where we were, whether it’s me playing first or Mike playing first or Napoli at first. Either way, we’re going to go out and do one thing and that’s try to win a ballgame. If I’m out there I’m going to do whatever I can to help us win."

Last season as a rookie, Moreland hit just .200 against lefties and .264 against righties. He played in only 47 games so it's not as though he has a large sample size to draw conclusions. In Tuesday's game against Seattle, Moreland was 0-for-2 with groundouts against lefty Nate Robertson and former Rangers prospect, righty Blake Beavan.

"I think he's a good hitter," Washington said. "But, we have a lot of versatility on our team and we've got to use it."

Meanwhile, Napoli, who did not play Monday and is 3-for-6 with a home run in the first two games, has a five-year track record of tagging lefties. He's a career .289 hitter against southpaws and just .238 against righties.

Last season with the Angels, Napoli took it to more of an extreme, hitting .305 against lefties and .208 against righties.

With a right-handed stick that pokes lefties at that kind of rate, it's easy to see why Washington will have thoughts to platoon.

"I'm going to try to put the best lineup out there every day,"Washington said. "If there's a tough lefty and I don't want to expose Moreland to it, Napoli will get that at-bat."

Jon Daniels gets deserving honor as top exec

December, 4, 2010
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Jon Daniels was named Baseball America's 2010 Major League Executive of the Year on Friday. There's little doubt he deserved that one. And the timing is fitting leading into the Winter Meetings.

It was last year at the Winter Meetings that Daniels really started putting together a World Series team. He traded Kevin Millwood to free up space in a tight budget. That enabled him to eventually sign Rich Harden, Vladimir Guerrero and Darren Oliver. Going 2-for-3 on that front wasn't bad. But to review what Daniels did in less than a year to put this team on its way (note that this isn't all of it, but some of it):

* Traded Millwood to sign other free agents, including the guy that led the team in RBIs (Guerrero)
* Signed Colby Lewis out of Japan
* Moved C.J. Wilson from reliever to starter
* Acquired Andres Blanco and Matt Treanor before spring training ended
* Traded Chris Ray and Michael Main to get catcher Bengie Molina
* Traded for Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman in an effort to help bolster club at deadline
* Made the biggest acquisition of the season in getting Cliff Lee from the Mariners
* Found time to attend a court hearing or two and did all of this with the team in bad financial

There's, obviously, more to list, but you get the point. Few executives did what Daniels did and they weren't GMs of a team in bankruptcy.

Dazzling Dozen: Clinching the AL West

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
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It may find odd to find the Rangers' AL West-clinching game at only No. 8 on the list of the 12 top moments, but maybe that speaks more to what the club did after that game (and maybe I have it ranked too low). But here goes:

No. 8: Rangers clinch the AL West behind Jorge Cantu's memorable game.

[+] EnlargeRangers Celebration
AP Photo/Ben MargotMichael Young was the first to reach closer Neftali Feliz to celebrate when the Rangers beat the A's to clinch the American League West title.
What I'll remember more than the actual clinching game itself are the days on the road trip leading up to it. The Rangers embarked on a 10-game road trip in late September through AL West locales Seattle, Anaheim and Oakland. The trip didn't start very well. Texas lost two of three in Seattle and fell to the Angels in the first two games of that three-game series. There were grumblings that if the A's continued a strong surge, they could make things interesting before a four-game series played in Oakland on Sept. 23-26.

But Wednesday, Sept. 22 was a big day (not quite big enough to make our dozen, but worth a mention). The Rangers faced the Angels in the final game of the series. Oakland lost earlier in the day, so it was an opportunity to gain a full game and reduce the magic number to 4 before the series began. Texas needed 12 innings, but Jeff Francoeur doubled and eventually scored on a passed ball and the Rangers escaped with a 2-1 win.

After falling 5-0 to the A's with Cliff Lee on the mound in the first game of the series in Oakland, Texas rebounded with a 10-3 drubbing in the second game. It was as relaxed as I saw the clubhouse all season as players gathered for a Saturday afternoon game on Sept. 25. The magic number was 2 and they knew they just needed one win in the final two games of the series to clinch the division.

Jorge Cantu, who had no RBIs in 24 games with the Rangers, picked a great time to get his first (and second). The first baseman hit a solo homer in the eighth inning (after he had hit the go-ahead single in the sixth) to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Neftali Feliz closed it out.

As soon as the final out was made, Feliz headed toward Michael Young at third base and that's where the celebration started. Players hugged and enjoyed the moment as some Rangers fans in Oakland cheered. They then went into the visiting clubhouse and soaked themselves in champagne.

A gaggle players tried to douse Josh Hamilton with water bottles, but he was already dressed and on his way to speak at Faith Day in Oakland (the Rangers would later get Hamilton with ginger ale in Tampa Bay). But it was pure joy on the players' faces and they had fun. That was especially evident for Young, who had waited 10 years to experience it.

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"I'm glad I'm a Ranger," Young said that day, drenched in a mixture of beer, alcohol and water. "This is where I've always wanted to be. This is the place I call home. These are the fans I'm proud to represent. This is an organization I'm proud to represent."

Why this was in my dazzling dozen:

* Cantu's contribution represented that everyone on the team helped get the Rangers to the division title. Cantu was in the lineup against a righty late in the game because manager Ron Washington had a feeling. And, as was the case so often in 2010, his feeling was right.

* It was fun to see Washington completely soaked, cigar in his mouth, enjoying every minute with his team. He had an up-and-down season and a roller-coaster ride since being hired, but he stuck to his philosophy and it paid off. It was nice to see him enjoy it.

* The Rangers didn't allow the A's to feel like they could make an impossible comeback. When they had the chance to close it out, they did it in the first opportunity. That also afforded the team a chance to get some rest and relax a little before the playoffs and set up the pitching staff just like they wanted it. I'm convinced the extra time helped them in Tampa.

* Feliz was on the mound for the clinching out, and that was fitting. He had 40 saves in 2010 and few were bigger than that one.

* That was supposed to be the game that wasn't on TV, but the Rangers made sure it got on the air. Good thing, too. Can you imagine if they'd clinched the title and no one in Dallas-Fort Worth saw it live?

What do you remember about the game? Where were you watching it?

Rangers adjust to shorter offseason

November, 3, 2010
11/03/10
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One thing about playing in the World Series: The offseason gets shorter.

In the last decade, the Rangers have finished the season in late September or very early October, giving the players more time to rest and get going on their offseason program and management more time to put a plan together for the offseason.

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That's shortened now, thanks to a trip to the World Series that lasted until the calendar flipped to November. It shouldn't impact the players very much. They'll take some time off like they normally do, but just won't get quite as many weeks as in season's past. No big deal there.

For the front office, it just means a different schedule.

"It's new for us, this schedule," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I'd welcome having the challenge of a month shorter offseason any time. A lot of the meetings we would have had at this time in previous years we still have to have, so we'll squeeze it into a shorter time period. It's an additional challenege with the new timing of free agency, but we'll figure it out."

Daniels said after Game 5 that his group was planning on meeting the next day (Tuesday) to continue to put a plan together for the offseason.

He said his first mission is to get manager Ron Washington signed up for the long-term and then go about addressing the club's own free agents. He included Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Bengie Molina, Frank Francisco, Matt Treanor, Jorge Cantu among others.

As for the offseason schedule for pitchers, the club is discussing whether to just push everything back a month or if the pitchers should get extra time off because of the additional innings.

"I know Tampa Bay did that a couple of years back where they gave them a little later start into spring training, pushed back the offseason program a little bit," Daniels said. "We'll definitely do something along those lines. It's still in pencil."

Daniels said the club hasn't mapped it out, but that he expects most will just push back and get more of a breather heading into next season.

Matt Treanor wants back behind plate

November, 3, 2010
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Matt Treanor doesn't want to be a free agent for long and he certianly doesn't want to change addresses.

The journeyman catcher came to the Texas Rangers a couple weeks before opening day in an under-the-radar trade with Milwaukee. He started the season in the minors, but when Jarrod Saltalamacchia was injured out of the gate and Taylor Teagarden didn't pan out, Treanor came up and eased tensions about the wayward position.

He quickly won over his teammates and fell in love with the organization. Before the club acquired Bengie Molina on July 1, Treanor was the Rangers' No. 1 catcher. he posted career highs for games (82), at bats (237), runs (22), hits (50), homers (five), RBIs (27) and walks (22).

"I would love to come back. It's been a great year," Treanor said. "I know J.D. [Rangers general manager Jon Daniels] has a long list of things to do, but I will definitely be waiting for a phone call."

Once Molina arrived, Treanor mainly became C.J. Wilson's personal catcher all the way through the World Series. Molina is considering retirement and said after Monday' Game 5 end to the Series that he is leaning in that direction. Clearly, the Rangers have a need at catcher, and the 34-year-old Treanor who played in the minors from 1994-2004 and received praise from Daniels and teammates for his steady work behind the plate, could earn him another round with the Rangers.

"He played hard, played hurt, was a leader, a great clubhouse guy and just played extremely well," Michael Young said. "He’s a guy that we’re all really proud to call our teammate."

On Daniels' offseason to-do list, re-signing manager Ron Washington is tops on his list, followed by dealing with the club's own free agents.

"We've got a few notable free agents on our club - Cliff [Lee], Vlad [Guerrero], Bengie, Frankie [Francisco], a few other guys, Matt and [Jorge] Cantu," Daniels said. "So we've got to sit down and address those guys."

Roster: Mark Lowe gives club extra arm

October, 27, 2010
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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said Wednesday that he doesn't expect to use Mark Lowe in the eighth inning.

That's been Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver's domain, with some occassional help from Alexi Ogando.

But without Frank Francisco in the bullpen, bridging the gap to get to that eighth inning and then to closer Neftali Feliz in the ninth has been a challenge at times. That's where Lowe might be able to help. He's a hard-throwing right-hander who Washington sees as someone who can get a few outs to close out an inning like the sixth or seventh.

"We don't need any length," Washington said. "We like what we saw in batting practice from him. He's been in big games before. We'll pick our spots, but he'd be a guy for earlier in the game."

Washington said Lowe's breaking stuff was better in his recent bullpen sessions than what he showed right at the end of the regular season.

"He's got a good changeup, sinker and he hits the bottom part of the strike zone," Washington said.

Lowe took the place of Clay Rapada. Some other roster notes:

* The team also decided to keep Jorge Cantu on the bench as a right-handed bat to go along with Jeff Francoeur.

Washington said he may try to get Cantu into a game over the weekend in Arlington, when the club faces a left-hander (like Jonathan Sanchez, for instance).

* Washington has talked about putting Guerrero in right field for Game 1, but could he be there in Game 2 as well?

"Let's see how he does tonight," Washington said. "If he's not having any problems, I may go with him again."

World Series position outlook: 1B

October, 24, 2010
10/24/10
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We continue our run through the Rangers positional outlooks heading into the World Series with first base.

Like catcher, offensive production at first base was minimal during the regular season. The Rangers started with Chris Davis, but he couldn't find his offensive rhythm and was sent down before April was over. Justin Smoak then took over and went through the typical growing pains of a first-time major league player. He was, of course, traded to the Mariners as the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal.

That left things to Mitch Moreland and veteran Jorge Cantu, acquired at the trade deadline. Moreland, selected in the 17th round of the 2007 draft by the Rangers, has emerged at the position in the postseason.

The plan when the ALDS began in Tampa was for Moreland, a left-handed hitter, to play against right-handed pitchers and Cantu, a right-handed hitting veteran, to play against lefties.

But Cantu has hit just 0-for-7 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Moreland is .303 (10-for-33) with three doubles and four RBIs. He earned the start against left-hander David Price in Game 5 of the ALDS and started all six games in the ALCS.

Moreland has seized the job, not only for the World Series, but will head to spring training as the probable 2011 starter. He's performed well on the big stage and there's no reason not to expect the same in the World Series.

Thoughts: Cliff Lee masterful in Game 3

October, 18, 2010
10/18/10
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The Rangers crushed the Yankees, 8-0, in Game 3 of the ALCS behind a typically brilliant performance by Cliff Lee, some early runs and then an avalanche of six insurance runs in the ninth. They'll take a 2-1 lead in the series into Tuesday night. Some quick thoughts on Game 3:

* It was a sensational performance by Lee in a postseason history full of them. The guy has been automatic in the playoffs. How else do you say it? He was dominant again on Monday. He had his usual excellent command, including the very effective cutter. He kept the Yankees off-balance, mixing speeds and locations of his fastballs, something he does better than most in the majors. But that cutter was going to all parts of the plate and had good movement. Lee has actually gotten better in each postseason start. Makes you wonder what he might do in a Game 7, doesn't it?

"It was a pretty good game," said Lee, when asked about his performance on TBS after the game. "Anytime you can get that deep in the game without giving up a run, you've got to be pretty pleased about it."

Cliff Lee
Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireCliff Lee outdid himself with Monday's performance in New York, striking out 13 Yankees and allowing just two hits.
Pretty good? That's underselling it.

* How good was his stuff? Well, for the third straight postseason game, Lee had more than 10 strikeouts, this time 13. He's the first pitcher to have three 10 or more strikeouts in the same postseason and the second to do it three times in a row (Bob Gibson over two seasons was the other). His 10th was a strikeout of Derek Jeter in the sixth with a runner at second and no outs, blowing a high fastball right by him. Lee used the curve a lot midway through Game 5 of the ALDS against Tampa. He didn't use it quite as much Monday, but did get a few strikeouts with it.

* According to Elias Sports Bureau, Lee's 28 strikeouts before issuing his first walk this postseason are the most playoff strikeouts before a walk in big league history, blistering the mark of 17 by Josh Beckett in 2007 for the Red Sox.

* The win puts the Rangers up 2-1 in the series and with Lee looming for a Game 7 if needed and the inconsistent A.J. Burnett going in Game 4 for the Yankees. The Rangers scored two in the first and a whopping six in the ninth (more on that later in this entry). How often do you see Yankee fans leaving a postseason game early? It happened on Monday.

* The closest thing the Yankees came to a scoring opportunity off Lee was the sixth, when Brett Gardner led off with a single. He stole second, but Lee struck out Jeter and got Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to ground out to end the threat. Before that, the Yankees had just two base runners in the first five innings (a two-out Teixeira walk and a two-out flare to right by Jorge Posada for the first hit of the game for New York).

* The second inning was particularly impressive for Lee. He got Alex Rodriguez on a knee-knocking cutter that had A-Rod headed to the dugout immediately after he saw it, knowing it was a strike. Robinson Cano hit a soft liner to short as he broke his bat and it was an easy play for Elvis Andrus, and Marcus Thames struck out on a cutter.

* Lee also showed off his ability to get off the mound and cover first quickly. The speedy Gardner, who started the eighth inning rally in Game 1 by beating C.J. Wilson to the bag, tried to do the same with two outs in the third. But Lee outran him to first, taking the throw from Mitch Moreland and stepping on the bag as Gardner slid in headfirst (and appeared to miss first).

* Early runs have really helped the Rangers in the ALCS. They've scored in the first inning of every game in this series and in four straight postseason games going back to Game 5 of the ALDS. Texas has scored the game's first run in seven of the last eight games, including all three of Lee's starts (thanks, ESPN Stats & Information). It helps calm the nerves of everyone when you can hand the pitcher a lead quickly. Lee said the early runs allowed him to get even more aggressive with hitters.

* Michael Young's long at-bats set an example for the Rangers' patient approach against Andy Pettitte. It started in the first. With one out, Young had a nine-pitch at-bat after falling behind 0-2. He worked the count full, fouling off pitches around the zone and staying away from those that weren't close and then got a fastball he wanted and hit a line-drive single to center. That put a runner on with one out for Josh Hamilton, who ended up hitting a homer (more on that shortly). Young then came up with two out in the third and had an eight-pitch at-bat that turned into an infield hit. In that inning, three of the Rangers' four batters had 3-2 counts, forcing Pettitte to throw a bunch of pitches. Young had hits in his first three at-bats of the game.

* Hamilton sure does love New York. The slugger, who became a national story at the Home Run Derby at (old) Yankee Stadium in 2008, got the count in his favor by taking the first two pitches for balls. He was rewarded for his patience with an 85 mph cutter that he was able to turn on, and he hit it to right field for a two-run homer. It was the second time this series that Hamilton has hit a first-inning home run with runners on (had a three-run blast in Game 1). The left-handed hitter should find that right-field porch awfully appealing this series.

* Teixeira took a walk in the fourth to become the first baserunner of the night for the Yankees. Lee has put the walk on the endangered species list this season and Teixeira's base on balls was the first Lee has issued in the 2010 postseason. He went 19 2/3 innings without allowing a walk in the postseason before Monday night.

* Lost in Lee-mania was the fact that Pettitte was very good. He gave up two runs on five hits with no walks in seven innings. He gave up two runs in the first inning, the first time he's given up a run in the first inning in nine postseason starts. Pettitte allowed just three hits after the first inning.

* Two-strike hits helped the Rangers tack on insurance runs in the ninth. Hamilton hit a two-strike double and Vladimir Guerrero, who was struggling in this postseason, got a tw0-strike single to put runners on the corners. Then Nelson Cruz came up with the big hit. Cruz has been the club's best clutch hitter this season and he gave the team some breathing room.

* The Yankees walked pinch-hitter David Murphy in the ninth to get to Bengie Molina, who hit a single to score the fourth run of the game.

* Washington decided to go with Moreland at first base over Jorge Cantu, and that call paid dividends in the ninth as Moreland hit a two-run single.

* Andrus was able to keep his playoff hitting streak alive thanks to the wild ninth as he had a single to drive in another run. The Rangers ended up with six in the inning.

* Before the inning started, it was 2-0 and Washington was faced with deciding whether to send Lee out for the ninth (I know I would have and I think Washington would have too). But the runs made that decision moot.

"I was going out there and the inning lasted quite a while and they decied to put Nefi in right there and he did the job 1-2-3," Lee said on TV right after the game.

* The big ninth gave Washington the perfect opportunity to use closer Neftali Feliz, who needed a confidence-builder after two shaky performances this postseason. Feliz got all three batters he faced -- Jeter, Swisher and Teixeira -- to end the game. Feliz hit 100 mph on the Yankee Stadium radar gun.

Should Jorge Cantu start Game 3?

October, 18, 2010
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NEW YORK -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington has a choice to make at first base. Does he stick with his usual platoon and start right-hander Jorge Cantu against New York Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte, or does Washington go against the grain and go with rookie Mitch Moreland, a left-handed bat that has started to make things happen?
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Cantu is 0-for-7 in two postseason appearances. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and 0-for-3 in Game 1 against the Yankees in the ALCS. It's not easy to come in cold after long stretches and hit against good pitchers. But, this is the postseason and that's the job.

Though, it's not a job that Cantu performed with great efficiency during the regular season. The Rangers acquired him on July 29. He played in 30 games and had 105 plate appearances. He hit .235 and remarkably did not drive in a run until the day the Rangers clinched in Oakland.

Defensively, Cantu has not made an error in the postseason, however it is debatable if he should have been able to get rid of the ball quicker and get it to C.J. Wilson covering first base on the Brett Gardner infield hit that started the Yankees' devastating eighth inning in Game 1.

Ron Washington likes to say that he sticks with what's worked when it comes to personnel decisions. He's taken great pride in utilizing the full 25-man roster and would prefer not to stop now. But, the platoon at first ceratinly hasn't been productive.

Moreland was drafted as a first baseman, but he started this season at Triple-A Oklahoma City playing right field. After Justin Smoak was traded to the Seattle Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal, Chris Davis again became the Rangers' first baseman, but not for long.

"[Oklahoma City manager] Bobby Jones said look, 'You need to start taking some balls at first. You’re going to be playing a few games over there and you need to be ready,'" Moreland said. "I think I started 11 or 12 games there and that’s when I got called up."

Moreland didn't tear it up once he came up, but he's been making steady progress in the postseason to the point now that he is a threat every time up at the plate. Washington turned to Moreland's his left-handed bat in Game 5 of the ALDS against Rays lefty David Price. Washington said he didn't want to throw Cantu back in the mix after not playing since Game 1, so there is precedent to go with Moreland.

After his 2-for-3 performance in Game 2, Moreland is batting .316 in the postseason. Against the lefty Price in Game 5, Moreland was 0-for-2 with a strikeout and fly out to left. During the regular season, Moreland hit .200 (4-for-20) against left-handed pitchers. But, against left-handed starters, his average dips to .118 (2-for-19).

Before the start of the ALDS, Washington referred to Moreland's defense as "adaquete." He's been solid so far, which makes Washington's decision for Game 3 that much more difficult.

C.J. Wilson does job, but 'W' eludes him

October, 16, 2010
10/16/10
1:14
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ARLINGTON, Texas – The towel-waving bandwagon was loaded for bear and C.J. Wilson had the wheel as the radio blared out of windows cranked all the way down.

The next thing anyone can remember, the Texas Rangers swerved sideways in a ditch and the big, bad New York Yankees rumbled by, making off with the hubcaps, the fuzzy dice, and most remarkably, Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

C.J. Wilson
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRangers starter C.J. Wilson described Texas' lost lead in Game 1 as surreal.
“They used to have this show called The Twilight Zone,” Wilson said as he tried to explain the feeling of watching his 5-2 lead erode to a 6-5 deficit in the nightmarish eighth inning. “We were all kind of like pacing the dugout because it was just kind of surreal in a way.”

Seven innings into Game 1 and the Rangers were stunning the baseball world, even if the Yankees were not yet impressed. Texas had put together a near-perfect game. It tagged CC Sabathia for three runs after three batters. Josh Hamilton broke his offensive slumber with a three-run, line-drive homer, teeing off on a Sabathia curve ball, no less.

The Rangers made it 5-0 in the fourth as Michael Young’s bat also finally joined the postseason parade. He singled in front of Hamilton in the first and doubled in a pair in the fourth, and the party was just getting started.

Wilson was befuddling the Bombers, mixing his pitches and keeping his count low. Through six innings, he reduced the first four mashers in the Yankees' lineup, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, to boys. None hit the ball hard as they combined for a doughnut in their first 12 at-bats.

Wilson had retired the side in order three times and hadn’t faced more than five batters in any inning.

“I put together a really good game plan,” Wilson said. “I know what my strengths are and I know what their strengths are. I attacked pretty much straight on my plan.”

Even when he made a mistake as he did in the seventh -- a changeup down the pipe that Robinson Cano popped into the right-field bleachers to end the shutout -- Wilson responded with three quick outs, and more roars from the red-drenched sellout crowd.

“The only ball that was really hit hard was Cano’s,” Wilson said. “Everything else was like fisted, pine-tar shot or off the knob with a Rafael Nadal one-hand backhand. I did what I set out to do -- almost. I pitched almost good enough.”

And then came the eighth inning, when glory turned to dust. Scrappy No. 9-hitter Brett Gardner led off and poked a grounder to first. Wilson threw a slider that he wanted in the dirt, but it didn’t go there. Gardner bolted out of the left-handed batter's box. First baseman Jorge Cantu gobbled it up and tossed it underhand to Wilson as he raced to the bag. But, Gardner slid head-first and his hand reached the bag first.

“I stepped on his hand so he was safe,” Wilson said. “That’s what he’s good at, hitting little choppers and beating them out.”

Jeter then doubled into left and the scrappy Gardner came all the way around to score. After 104 pitches and a standing ovation, Wilson’s day was done. A victory seemed inevitable.

“C.J. was great,” Young said. “He threw a great game.”

But, then Wilson could only pace the dugout as manager Ron Washington made the slow walk to the mound not once, not twice, but three more times before the first of five Rangers pitchers in the inning could record the first out. And by then, Wilson and the Rangers no longer had the lead.

“We were still trying to keep it loose out there and we understand what’s going on and realize we need a stop somewhere,” said David Murphy, who pinch-hit in the fifth and then took over in left field. “By the time we got it, it was too late. They did a great job of putting together a big rally and a lot of good at-bats.”

As crushing a loss as it might have been, and the subdued clubhouse suggested it was, Wilson and his teammates tried to trumpet the spirit of optimism. They spoke of this ALCS being a seven-game series for a reason, of feeling good about battering Sabathia, about how close they had come to seizing a 1-0 lead and how they would come back strong in Saturday’s Game 2.

“I think everybody in here is kind of taken aback a little bit by the fact that we lost, but at the same time we’re all kind of thinking about it as you know if we just execute our plan a little bit better than we walk away with it easy,” Wilson said. “I don’t think anybody in here is worried at all. I think we’re all in here a lot more confident than anybody else thinks we would be at this point.”

Wilson will have to wait until Game 5, or if they’re desperate enough, perhaps Game 4 to get back on the mound. Game 2 is mere hours away (3:07 p.m.), leaving little time to process the Game 1 collapse. Of course, Wilson attempted to make it seem as though the team had already put it behind.

“It’s baseball,” Wilson said. “Like Wash says, that’s the way baseball go.”

Today's Rangers' lineup: Cantu at 1B

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
3:18
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- First baseman Jorge Cantu will start tonight's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia. It will be Cantu's first action since Game 1 of the ALDS.

"They got two left-handers," said Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, referring to Sabathia and Game 3 starter Andy Pettitte. "We have to get him geared up."

Cantu, who will bat ninth, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his lone postseason appearance.

Rookie Mitch Moreland, a lefty, will start Saturday's Game 2 against Yankees righty Phil Hughes.

Washington started Moreland (3-for-15 in ALDS) in Game 5 despite facing tough Rays southpaw David Price, and Washington didn't rule out sticking with Moreland in Game 3, but he wasn't ready to commit beyond the first two games. Still, Washington knows Yankee Stadium favors left-handed hitters.

"Against Andy Pettitte, I'm going to get as many of our righties in there as I can," Washington said. "The only lefty you may see [outside of Josh Hamilton] if I decide not to put Cantu in there is Moreland."

Here is the Rangers' Game 1 lineup:

SS Elvis Andrus
3B Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Nelson Cruz
2B Ian Kinsler
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Matt Treanor
1B Jorge Cantu
P C.J. Wilson

Matt Treanor to start; roster, 1B undecided

October, 14, 2010
10/14/10
3:29
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Matt Treanor will catch C.J. Wilson in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Friday night at Rangers Ballpark, his first action since Game 2 of the ALDS when Wilson was also on the mound.

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Rangers 3B Michael Young discusses preparing to face the Yankees in the ALCS, C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton and Texas' 2010 season.

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As for who will start at first base, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said that remains a topic of disussion. Against New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, Washington's choices are the right-hand hitting Jorge Cantu or lefty rookie Mitch Moreland.

Washington said he has not yet decided on which pitcher he will add to the 25-man roster, which must be completed by 10 a.m. Friday. The Rangers will drop pinch-runner Esteban German and add an 11th pitcher for the best-of-7 ALCS. The most likely candidates are lefty relievers Clay Rapada, Michael Kirkman or Matt Harrison.

As for the first-base discussion, Washington platooned Cantu and Moreland during the regular season, but he stuck with Moreland against Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price in Game 5 of the ALDS because Moreland played in Games 2, 3 and 4 and Washington said he didn't want to go back to a cold Cantu.

Moreland has never faced Sabathia. Cantu is 1-for-12 in his career against the big lefty with four strikeouts. He did not face Sabathia this season.

"Whatever his decision is, I'll be ready either way," Moreland said. "If he calls for me being on the bench and supporting them, I'll be there. If he calls me late in the game to pinch-hit, I'll be there. If I need to run, defense, whatever, I'll be ready to go."

Moreland was 4-for-20 (.200) against left-handed pitchers during the regular season and said he feels comfortable in the box against southpaws.

"I've always felt like that was something I could do. I've never doubted myself vs. a lefty or felt uncomfortable against a lefty. I've always tried to stick with my game plan and I felt like if I did that -- lefty, right, whomever -- that I would be all right."

Behind the plate, Treanor hasn't played since last Thursday in the Rangers' 6-0 win. He had one of the stranger postseason games in that he was hit in the back by Rays starter James Shields on consecutive lead-off at-bats and both innings results in runs. Treanor has become something of C.J. Wilson's personal catcher. Bengie Molina is expected to start Game 2.

"C.J. is a guy that has a lot of movement on his pitches and throws a lot of breaking balls and Treanor is very good with balls in the dirt and he also calls a a pretty good game," Washington said. "The times he's caught C.J., he's done a good job of getting him through the innings. I want to have him to be a part of this, also, and the one opportunity I give him is with C.J."

Jorge Cantu likely to get a shot in ALCS

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
5:15
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas --Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington stuck with the left-handed first baseman Mitch Moreland over righty Jorge Cantu against Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price in Game 5. But, Washington said he plans to get Cantu back in the lineup against at least one of the New York Yankees' left-handed starters.

The Yankees will throw lefty CC Sabathia in Game 1 and Andy Pettitte will start either Game 2 or 3.

"Probably going to give Cantu a start or so against these lefties because at some point we will need him," Washington said Wednesday, an off-day for the players after clinching the ALDS Tuesday night at Tampa Bay. "So, he will get him some repetition."

Washington stayed with the rookie Moreland in Game 5 because the Rays threw righties in Games 2, 3 and 4 and Washington wasn't comfortable going back to Cantu against a fastball pitcher after five days off. Cantu was 0-for-4 in Game 1 against Price with three strikeouts.

Moreland went 3-for-15 (.200) in the ALDS with all three hits being doubles, and all coming off right-handers.

Several hundred fans greet team plane

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
7:18
AM CT
Chuck GreenbergTravis L. Brown/ESPN DallasRangers owner Chuck Greenberg spent the most time with the fans after the team's arrival at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, shaking as many hands as he could.

IRVING, Texas -- Several hundred Ranger fans lined a parking lot at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport early Wednesday morning to greet the team when they arrived home after winning a deciding Game 5 of their ALDS against Tampa Bay -- the first postseason series win in franchise history.

[+] EnlargeKinsler
Travis L. Brown/ESPN DallasSecond baseman Ian Kinsler joined in yet another celebration upon the team's arrival just before 3 a.m., running all the way down a very long line of fans to thank them for their enthusiasm.
The Rangers' chartered plane landed just before 3 a.m. and players spilled out into the parking lot to give high-fives to fans who had waited hours for the players to arrive. Among those players who spent the most time running all the way down the very long line of fans were Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Jorge Cantu and Vladimir Guerrero.

Relief pitcher Darren O'Day joined the party atmosphere by carrying an iPod connected to speakers with music cranked up as he greeted fans.

Most of the players waved back to the crowd in appreciation of their support and took pictures and videos of the wild fan reaction from their cars as they drove away.

[+] EnlargeO'Day
Travis L. Brown/ESPN DallasRelief pitcher Darren O'Day helped liven the party atmosphere at the airport by turning up the music.
Owner Chuck Greenberg spent the most time with the fans, shaking as many hands as he could before retiring to his car. Manager Ron Washington and club president Nolan Ryan left in a car before the players hit the parking lot, but not before both came to the fence separating the runway from the parking lot to wave at the gathered fans.

The players seemed slightly surprised by the size of the crowd that showed up to welcome the team home, and they looked like they were having as much fun meeting the fans as the fans were having meeting the players.

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TEAM LEADERS

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