What do you need to know about the 2017 Texas Rangers season?
Glad you asked! As we prepare for Monday’s Opening Day, here’s a look at some of the storylines, important dates and moments every Rangers fan needs to plan for:
1. Third time’s a charm? The Rangers have won the American League West the past two seasons under manager Jeff Banister. Both times they’ve been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Toronto Blue Jays. Do they have a deeper run in them in 2017?
2. Beltre in the books: Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who turns 38 on April 7, is poised to surpass several Hall of Fame level milestones. He begins the season 58 hits shy of 3,000, something only 30 players have accomplished. He’s 29 RBIs shy of 1,600, the 35th most in history. He is nine doubles from 600, good for 17th all-time. At 445 career-homers, he needs 30 to tie Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 30th all-time at 475. He’s also 72 runs shy of 1,500 and 505 at-bats from 10,800, which would rank 15th all-time.
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3. Cashner’s Texas return: Much of the Rangers’ 25-man roster will look familiar. In fact, for Opening Day, there may be only two new faces. But in a couple of weeks right-hander Andrew Cashner is expected to join the rotation. He grew up in Conroe, attended TCU in 2008 and pitched for the Padres the past five seasons before being traded to the Marlins last season.
4. Saturday Night Special: Globe Life Park should be rocking on April 29 for a 6:15 p.m. Saturday night nationally televised game against the A.L. West rival Angels. Not only do the first 15,000 get Adrian Beltre “Dancing Legs” bobbleheads, venerable Fort Worth rock band Toadies will play a post-game concert.
5. Yu the Man: Right-hander Yu Darvish, who will make his first Opening Day start for the Rangers on Monday, appears poised for a huge season. At 30, Darvish is two years removed from Tommy John surgery and will be a free agent at season’s end.
6. Pudge’s moment: Rangers’ legend Pudge Rodriguez will enter baseball immortality when he’s officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 30, along with Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines. On Aug. 12, the Rangers will retire Rodriguez’s jersey and the first 15,000 fans get a Pudge Hall of Fame bobblehead.
7. Bullpen backbone: The Rangers bullpen could be the backbone of the club. Closer Sam Dyson, coming off a lock-down performance for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, leads a group of familiar names from a year ago. Matt Bush and Tony Barnette return after outstanding rookie seasons and join established hurlers such as Keone Kela, Jeremy Jeffress and Alex Claudio, who, like Dyson, pitched brilliantly in the WBC.
8. Concession stars: Globe Life Park features 19 new concession items this season, including a 24-inch hot dog-filled tamale, an all-encompassing sandwich called The Farm that includes a burger, fried chicken breast and bacon under the same bun, and the Texas Snowball, a ball of chopped brisket deep fried in funnel cake batter and covered in powdered sugar. (It’s surprisingly tasty.)
9. Days off and 20 straight: The Rangers have nine days off by June 15. A year ago, they had six in the same time frame. They’re going to need the rest because they begin a season-long stretch of 20 games in 20 days on June 16, including 10 at home and 10 on the road, against the Yankees, Indians and White Sox.
10. University Days: For the fourth season, fans can combine their university pride and Rangers fandom into a single event at Globe Life Park during one of 11 Texas Rangers University Days. Students and alumni can purchase discounted tickets through participating schools, which include Oklahoma and Arkansas for the first time, who join Baylor, North Texas, Oklahoma State, SMU, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Texas and UT Arlington. Fans receive Rangers caps in their school’s colors.