Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and the Texas Rangers still have the same storylines as they did going into spring training.
The fifth starter spot remains an open competition. Nobody has emerged as a favorite to win the center field job, although Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry are off to impressive starts. And the bullpen remains a mystery outside of Joe Nathan, Jason Frasor and Michael Kirkman, who essentially has won a job with a strong spring to date.
There are players remaining on the free-agent market who could help, namely pitcher Kyle Lohse, but don’t expect the Rangers to make any significant acquisitions between now and March 31.
“I would expect the 25 will come out of that room,” president of baseball operations/general manager Jon Daniels said on Tuesday morning, pointing to the clubhouse. “I never 100-percent rule out an external acquisition and we do our due diligence and make our calls and things come about, but you’ve got to be prepared to go in-house.”
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Daniels touched on a variety of baseball-related subjects, but not the ongoing Nolan Ryan saga, with reporters.
How do you feel about the competition for the final rotation spot? Our depth is being tested, but we’ve got a couple of guys who are throwing the ball well in that mix. You’d always like to have more. I’m not so concerned who it will be on Opening Day, but it’s more the next injury, the next issue. We’re going to get some of these guys back [like Colby Lewis and Martin Perez], but until they do our depth is a little bit of a concern for me.
Where do you view Kyle McClellan at this point? We’ve got to see how he does [Tuesday], and we’ve got to continue to get him stretched out. A lot depends on how he throws and how he feels. He’s capable of filling a variety of roles if he’s 100 percent healthy. Whether there is time to get him ready as a starter — that’s going to depend on how he’s feeling and how quickly he’s ramped up.
What do you make of the center field battle? There are times when you come into camp with a competition with four or five guys and none of the four or five have impressed, and this is just the opposite. There’s nobody that hasn’t played well. Leonys has stepped up. Gentry has been outstanding — not only the performance but the mindset. Julio Borbon has played really well. Engel Beltre and Jim Adduci have played well. It’s not a situation where any one is playing themselves out of it.
Switching to the bullpen, what do you make of it? We’ve got a number of guys that have thrown the ball well and put themselves in good position. I think the bullpen is something you’re always looking to improve. Last year we had more of a set ’pen on Day One. Coming into this year, with Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz coming back over the course of the season, the ’pen may continue to grow once we break camp and early into the season. But we like a lot of our candidates. There are a lot of opportunities for some of these guys.
Is there a concern level with the bullpen? We’ve got enough pieces that we like that we’ll be able to put a quality ’pen together, but it may not be a name-brand bullpen on Day One.
You promoted minor league relievers Lisalverto Bonilla and Ben Rowen to big-league camp Tuesday. Where do they fit in? Both guys were discussed before camp as far as coming in. We had quite a few numbers, but they’ve come over and everyone wanted to see a little more of them. We’re getting them around this environment, getting them with Mike Maddux, and both guys have impressed and they deserve to be over here.