Rangers believe regular season will bring power surge

Posted Monday, Mar. 26, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Only one team in the majors hit more home runs than the Texas Rangers last season.

Only one team -- the Rangers -- had three players with 30 or more homers, and they missed a fourth when Nelson Cruz's final regular-season at-bat resulted in a fly ball that was caught at the left-field wall at Angel Stadium.

No team hit more homers in its home park than Texas.

But the Rangers' power stroke has been missing this spring with only six games remaining on the Cactus League schedule.

They entered Monday with 18 homers, a total that eclipsed only six other teams. Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli had combined for the same amount of homers as Larry, Moe and Curly -- none.

Yet, the Rangers' power sources seem about as worried about their low homer totals as they are about where they will get their next meal.

It's spring training, sure, but power at the plate isn't as simple as turning on a switch. Timing is everything, and the expectation is that it will come over the final week in the desert and during the three exhibition games next week in Texas.

"The main thing with power guys is it's hit and miss because of the timing mechanisms," Rangers hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. "All of those guys, other than Beltre, have some big movements. The timing aspect is the biggest deterrent from the power. They can try to search for that power, and a lot of times they get out of whack."

Coolbaugh has been telling his hitters to not worry about hitting for power. The key is to feel the swing coming together in time for Opening Day.

Cruz, who has one homer, said that he isn't worried as long as his hits are line drives rather than weak grounders or bloopers.

Hamilton, who doubled to the wall Saturday, said that he has tightened the coil at the start of his swing to make sure his hands are going straight back.

"It's understanding you're not going to make anything happen in spring training," Hamilton said. "None of us are worried about any of that. You don't try to hit home runs. Home runs just kind of happen."

The Rangers hit 210 homers in 2011, second to the Yankees' 222. The Rangers smacked 34 last spring.

Hitters typically need 50 at-bats before the timing starts to click, and 100 at-bats before they are in a groove. No Rangers player will hit 100 at bats this spring, but the majority of the regulars will enter the regular season pushing 60 to 70.

Manager Ron Washington will start to play the projected everyday lineup more this week, and Coolbaugh expects to see all aspects of the offense tighten up before the April 6 season opener against Chicago.

Situational hitting, for instance, hasn't been at the level it needs to be, said Coolbaugh.

"For guys to not show a lot of power during spring training is not really a big concern for me," he said. "Over the next seven to 10 days, hopefully some things will start clicking for them as the focus level starts to turn up.

"Everybody likes it when they hit home runs and it's great for the crowd, but is that really the reason why you win a lot of ballgames? I think it's more about having that productive at-bat, and guys making solid contact consistently."

Ian Kinsler, part of the 30-homer trio in 2011, is the spring homer leader with four after hitting one Monday in a late game against Cincinnati. He also has a team-best .684 slugging percentage among regular contributors.

His goal this spring has been to hit to the opposite field, and he's proof that power just happens when a hitter has found his timing.

But Kinsler is no different from his teammates, who say the power will come when it counts.

"I don't think we're worried about anything offensively," Kinsler said. "We're going to run the same lineup out there that we had last year. We know what we're capable of doing."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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