Hamilton, other Rangers may undergo moving experience

Coming months likely to be moving experience for key Rangers

10/07/2012 12:05 AM

03/24/2013 1:08 AM

ARLINGTON -- The day after the end of the season is reserved for players to pack up their lockers and tip out the clubhouse attendants before heading to wherever it is they call home in the off-season.

Some members of the 2012 Texas Rangers did some heavy lifting Friday night after Baltimore ended their season by winning the inaugural American League wild-card game.

The next time the majority of them are back in the clubhouse will be either in January during FanFest or in April for the 2013 season.

Others, though, won't be back at all, and Josh Hamilton is chief among a group of free agents who might have played their final game in a Rangers uniform.

Who doesn't come back won't be determined until the off-season, and Friday and Saturday were too early for some to wrap their minds around what the 2013 Rangers will look like.

The season-ending loss was still too fresh of a memory.

"We still feel we should be there, but we're not," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "That's the disappointing part of it, that we're not.

"However, we've got a lot of things to look forward to and reflect back on the good year that we had. A lot of good things happened. I think we're a better team for what happened. We know we can't take things for granted."

The decision on Hamilton is the biggest off-season issue facing the Rangers, who saw the five-time All-Star hit 43 homers, drive in 128 runs and score 103 times from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

Though he struggled mightily in July and over the final two weeks, he carried the offense the first two months and made significant August and September contributions until being felled by ocular keratitis.

"He has been the centerpiece of this organization since the day he walked through the door," outfielder David Murphy said Friday night. "He has earned the right to be a free agent now. We all wish him the best."

Catcher Mike Napoli is also in a free-agent class that includes right-handed relievers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. Ryan Dempster, acquired to plug Colby Lewis' hole in the rotation, also could be headed elsewhere.

The rotation will have two holes to start the season, with Lewis and Neftali Feliz unavailable until at least summertime because of arm surgeries. They can be filled with Alexi Ogando, an All-Star starter in 2011, and left-hander Martin Perez.

"I want to be a starter," Ogando said Saturday. "That's my goal. That's what I like. That's what I hope."

The Rangers also need to figure out what caused their collapse over the final two weeks of the season. The Rangers got nothing in three starts by their No. 5 starter, and the offense fell into a skid that saw them falter with runners in scoring position.

It wasn't just a failure to get hits, but a failure to execute. All manager Ron Washington asks of his players is to do whatever the game asks of them.

"We just didn't get it done," Washington said Friday. "It came down to being able to execute against good pitching, and it wasn't the base hits or anything like that. It was just the fundamentals that we just... we tried and we just couldn't get it done."

In the end, though, there were several theories as to what went wrong after holding a five-game division lead with nine games to play.

Murphy suggested the Rangers ran out of gas, possibly a by-product of playing more games than any other major-league team the past two years. Derek Holland said that the Rangers lacked their usual energy and didn't play their usual brand of baseball.

Michael Young, the longest-tenured Rangers player, couldn't put a finger on it.

"I really can't," Young said. "The effort level was there every night. It was one of those things that seemed like the harder we tried, the tougher it became."

Now, a tough off-season awaits a team that expected to still be playing baseball.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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