Texas Rangers

A look back at the busy week that was for the Rangers as spring training inches closer

The Texas Rangers found themselves in the news quite a bit last week, while someone here found himself using up some vacation before spring training?

What possibly could have been missed?

Most Rangers officials were headed to the Dominican Republic for the annual winter program. Most players were packing up and getting ready to leave for spring training in Surprise, Ariz.

The week should have been a breeze, from a news perspective.

Well ...

Here is some off-season Rangers Reaction from a busy final week of January:

1. The only surprising thing about last week’s announcement that the Rangers would be using fake grass at Globe Life Field is that they actually announced it well before the completion of the new ballpark.

The final decision to forgo the natural surface, which players and fans want and love, is not at all surprising.

Globe Life Field is not going to be a baseball-only stadium. It will host concerts, wrestling cards, tractor pulls, monster-truck rallies, anything that will generate money for ownership. Don’t believe otherwise.

There was concern that grass would be difficult to grow because of the depth below ground level where the playing field will reside and the retractable roof blocking the sun part of the day.

That’s partly accurate.

Grass can be grown. The Star-Telegram spoke last year to former Minute Maid Park groundskeeper Luke Jenkins, and he was certain that Rangers groundskeeper Dennis Klein could keep the surface in tip-top shape despite the depth and the burdens of the retractable roof.

However, grass can’t be grown well enough and safe enough for major-league baseball (and be aesthetically pleasing) in the three days between the end of the World BMX Championship and the beginning of the Rangers’ next homestand.

The surface in June after Paul McCartney gets done with not-roofed, all-grass Globe Life Park is going to be a challenge.

So, the Rangers are going with fake stuff, a term that that owner Ray Davis really hates. In his defense, “Synthetic Turf Playing Surface,” as the Rangers are calling it, sounds super fancy.

The Rangers put a lot into this decision. They have a video that shows you all that they put a lot into this decision -- a study in conjunction with Auburn University, the MIT of Alabama; experts in the field of “Synthetic Turf Playing Surface;” and the Rangers’ chief of medicine, Jamie Reed, giving his stamp of approval.

Final judgment will be cast by Rangers players and how the Rangers fare in free agency.

Players are wary of the artificial surfaces in Toronto and Tampa Bay, and will not be as open-minded as the Rangers desire when testing out the Globe Life Field turf.

Free agents will probably be wary of the effects of the “Synthetic Turf Playing Surface” until they hear from Rangers players how well it plays and treats their joints.

The good news is that ownership -- thanks to Shock City: Grave Digger vs. Big Foot, XV, and the like – will have extra money to attempt to lure free agents to play on turf and entice current players to sign contract extensions.

But the decision is made, well ahead of time. The players have time to come to terms with it, and the fans have time to forget about it.

Like that’s going to happen.

2. The Rangers’ young and inexperienced bullpen isn’t going to be all that young and inexperienced, it turns out.

A week after adding Zach McAllister to a one-year deal, the Rangers added fellow right-hander Shawn Kelley to another one-year deal. A third righty, Jesse Chavez, signed early in the offseason.

The Rangers have added pitchers like Michael Tonkin, Jeanmar Gomez and David Carpenter, who have at least some big-league time, to minor-league deals with spring invites.

Closer Jose Leclerc, Kelley, Chavez and McAllister will take up four spots in the bullpen, and Chris Martin will take up a fifth. That leaves two or three spots, depending on how much the Rangers will rely on their bench, and no left-handers.

One spot appears headed to Jordan Romano, another right-hander but a Rule 5 pick. If Carlos Tocci can survive an entire season, surely Romano can.

It would appear, then, that Jeffrey Springs and C.D. Pelham, rookies who debuted last season, along with Zac Curtis and Kyle Byrd, part of the Jurickson Profar trade, have a shot at making the Opening Day roster.

And, how about this guy: Jake Diekman? He remains a free agent, badly wants to return to the Rangers, and would easily make the team even though it might push Springs, Pelham, et al, to the minors.

That might not be the worst thing.

Diekman is likely holding out for an MLB contract, which he deserves, but a minor-league deal with an invite, at least from the Rangers, would amount to the same thing come March 28 against the Chicago Cubs.

3. The free-agent market remains filled of quality players like Diekman and superstars Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel, and that again brings into question if the Rangers are, at minimum, kicking the tires on any of these guys.

If they aren’t, why not, especially with all that tractor-pull money about to come in?

It would that general manager Jon Daniels, who enjoys competing and making deals and finding value, would at least kick the tires on the trio. Maybe he has and is learning that Harper and Machado are going to get the lengthy, mega-bucks deals they seek, and that Keuchel is still going to go for behind Daniels’ comfort zone.

But at this point, it would seem their final prices have come down. They might have to come down significantly for the Rangers to become involved, but Daniels would never know if he hasn’t at least checked in.

Curiosity is bound to get the best of him, right? The “leaving no stone unturned” philosophy of business that he has had in the past, and has passed to former lieutenant A.J. Preller in San Diego, would seemingly force Daniels to make some calls.

Preller, meanwhile, has jumped into the Harper mix. Maybe his rebuilding Padres are closer to being ready than Daniels’ rebuilding Rangers, but Preller doesn’t have all that tractor-pull money coming in.

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