Reality officially was allowed to sink in Thursday afternoon at Texas Rangers Inc., as general manager Jon Daniels and his front-office staff gathered for a meeting with manager Ron Washington and his coaching staff.
Over the course of two-plus hours, it became reality that the goals for the rest of 2014 are to make the 2015 club better. Hope remains that the 2014 team will turn the page on a miserable June and climb its way up the standings.
But the realistic goal after 162 games is to just be better through developing young players at the big-league level and pushing players under contract for 2015 to make improvements.
Daniels will consider all trade offers that come across his desk the rest of the way, but the plan is to keep together veteran players to be part of a contending club when everyone is healthy again next season.
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That’s what happens when a team besieged by injuries loses eight straight games. No. 8 arrived Thursday night, 6-0 to complete a three-game sweep by Detroit and send the Rangers to their longest skid since 2005.
“Nobody wants to lose, especially the way we’ve been losing,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “We don’t want to lose, and we don’t want it to keep going. We’ve got to find a way to stop the streak.”
Daniels and Washington can only do so much to help with that. The rest is up to the patchwork roster that has the Rangers looking toward 2015.
“I want to look up at the end of the year and say, ‘We’re better,’ ” Daniels said. “We’ve got some answers; we know where these guys stand; we know who has the aptitude and the ability to help us going forward.
“I don’t say that to suggest we’re looking past this year exclusively. I’m just trying to be realistic from a staff standpoint, both front office and coaching staff. That’s going to be a big part of how we evaluate the year.”
Daniels named names. He wants to see Michael Choice, Nick Martinez, Nick Tepesch and other young players continue to develop.
Martinez took a step back Thursday after two nice starts. He allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings and was victimized by a sudden lack of control that led to five walks.
“When you’re talking about a kid that just got out of A ball and was supposed to start in Double A, when things go smooth they are able to continue to drive with it,” Washington said. “When it got out of control, he just couldn’t stop it. He just couldn’t find the strike zone, and it ended up biting him.”
But Daniels also mentioned Elvis Andrus, who is in his sixth season, and fourth-year man Leonys Martin.
Count Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland in the group, too. Feliz has improved to the point at Triple A where he might be an option should a bullpen need arise, Daniels said, and Holland will pitch in 2014 to get a feel for his left knee and to knock the rust off his left arm.
“Wash talked about one day at a time, one game at a time, one player at a time, a lot of focus on player development at the big league level while these guys are playing,” Daniels said. “In doing that, the focus is on the players and improving where they’re at and attention to detail. I think we’re going to play better as a team, and that’s where our focus is right now.”
If the focus is shifting to 2015, then Joe Saunders might not want to get too comfortable. He’s taking a rotation spot that would be better served for prospects Luke Jackson and Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez.
Matt Harrison (back) might not be able to pitch much next season, maybe never again, and Martin Perez (Tommy John surgery) likely won’t be back until the All-Star break next year.
Jackson and Gonzalez could be needed if the Rangers aren’t inclined to pursue a quality arm via free agency.
“I think the development of that group is critical,” Daniels said.
Critical to 2015. That’s the target the rest of this season after reality set in Thursday.