Texas Rangers

The Rangers are now Elvis’ team. He is one of five position players to watch this spring

Rangers manager Chris Woodward explains vision for the team

Texas Rangers Manager Chris Woodward wants his players and everyone else in the organization to understand his vision for the team.
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Texas Rangers Manager Chris Woodward wants his players and everyone else in the organization to understand his vision for the team.

Spring training is all about the pitchers.

Position players say they need half the time it takes to conduct a major-league camp, if that, before they would declare themselves ready for Opening Day.

Adrian Beltre would have been just fine cutting out spring training altogether.

But the pitchers can’t just go straight to the season. They need to log innings and build arm strength and fine-tune their pitches. They need time, which explains why they report earlier than position players.

Rangers pitchers and catchers reported last week to Surprise, Ariz.

Position players were due in town Sunday, though many have already report, and the first full-squad workout was Monday.

These are the position players that are especially intriguing for the Rangers as spring training heats up:

Texas Rangers shortstop and presumptive clubhouse leader Elvis Andrus arrived to spring training Saturday without Adrian Beltre, who retired in November.

Willie Calhoun

The prize of the Yu Darvish trade, which seems like five years ago, is still trying to crack an MLB Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, and his off-season work could have him on the right track.

The problem? His best bet is a bench role, and the Rangers might want him to play every day even if it meant a third season at Triple A.

But, as general manager Jon Daniels said, things happen. Players get hurt in spring training. Players get traded in spring training.

Daniels also noted that Calhoun appears to have finally taken hold of his career. He’s grown up and slimmed down, in other words, and is doing what is needed to be an MLB player.

Hunter Pence

The best it appears that the Arlington product can hope for is a bench spot, and it’s seems he would be happy with that coming out of camp. As was mentioned earlier, things happen to a baseball team during a season.

He can’t just rely on the things that were said about him after he signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to camp. As good as a model he is for the kind of player new manager Chris Woodward wants his players to be, Pence still needs to be productive.

The good news is that he can play the outfield corners, understands what it takes to come off the bench, and is healthy after a down 2018. He was also energized by an eight-game stint in the Dominican Winter League and is in Surprise ready to compete.

Hunter Pence is in Texas Rangers camp as of Saturday and ready to begin his quest for the Opening Day roster. But playing for his hometown team is a big deal.

Ronald Guzman

The Rangers have said publicly that Guzman still has to win the job at first base this spring, a grand statement considering they didn’t bend over backward trying to find competition for him.

Patrick Wisdom can play first base, and so can Matt Davidson and even Joey Gallo. But none of them can play it as well as Guzman, whose fielding prowess was overshadowed by an inconsistent bat.

The good news is Guzman has made adjustments in the minors following down seasons, and he is a smart player who strayed from his approach. Sticking to his plan, as well as using information that will be provided to him, could make a big difference.

Joey Gallo

Like Andrus, Gallo’s spot on Opening Day is secure.

He’s going to be the left fielder, not the third baseman to replace Beltre, and is likely to play all three outfield spots this season.

He’s going to threaten 40 home runs, where he’s been the past two seasons, and 200 strikeouts, which he eclipsed last season. His average is not going to match his weight of 250 pounds, judging by his .203 lifetime average.

But it seems there’s still hope internally that Gallo, only 25, will be a better hitter. New hitting coach Luis Ortiz might have an impact as he is already preaching to Gallo the importance of patience and battling with two strikes.

Nothing radical is being done to his swing, but a better approach would make the results better.

Elvis Andrus

Make no mistake: This is Andrus’ team now.

The shortstop entering his 11th season, all with the Rangers, and has been handed the leadership torch after his best bud Beltre sailed off into retirement.

Andrus is also coming off an injury-marred season in which he dipped from a career-high 20 homers in 2017 to six. He didn’t sniff .300 after either reaching it or just missing it the previous two seasons.

For the Rangers’ offense to work, they are relying on Andrus to be the player he was in 2016 and 2017. His arm is healthy and stronger than when he tried to return from the first stint on the disabled list in his career.

He’s got a lot on his plate.

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

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