For the second consecutive season the Texas Rangers are headed to spring training hoping to pull another diamond out of the rough.
A year ago, it was former infielder-turned outfielder Delino DeShields, whom they selected in the Rule 5 draft. That turned out pretty well as the rookie eventually took the center field starting job from Leonys Martin and helped ignite the Rangers’ lineup batting leadoff.
In 2016, the club is hoping outfielder James Jones, who was primarily a pitcher in college, earns a spot on the major league roster as the fourth outfielder. That’s what Jones is hoping to do.
“That’s my goal,” said Jones, who initially came to Texas from Seattle in the Leonys Martin/Anthony Bass trade for reliever Tom Wilhelmsen. “I definitely want to make this team out of spring training and help this team win.”
Jones, 27, who attended the Rangers’ media luncheon Tuesday in Dallas, said he’s glad to be starting a new phase of his career.
“The past six years I’ve been focusing more on playing the outfield,” he said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot, within the past two years especially.”
That includes having the confidence to stay with the same approach at the plate. He has 128 stolen bases in seven minor league seasons, including 25 in Triple A last season while hitting .272 with 12 doubles.
“That’s definitely something I’ve developed. It wasn’t there all the time,” he said of his speed. “It’s something I want to take into this season.”
DeShields led the Rangers in bunt singles as a rookie and finished fifth in the American League in triples (10) and stolen bases (25). Jones is confident with his bunting game.
“It’s something I need to learn how to do even when they’re playing in,” he said.
Catcher Bobby Wilson signed a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Wilson, 32, batted .221 with five doubles and 10 RBIs in 31 games after coming to the Rangers on a waiver claim from Tampa Bay on July 31. General manager Jon Daniels said signing Wilson doesn’t preclude the club from trying to add more depth behind the plate.
“We might still add there, but we view Bobby as a big league catcher,” he said. “He came up huge for us last year. He’s above average catch-and-throw, above average with the pitching staff, a great teammate, smart player ... really nice addition back in the mix.”
Veteran broadcaster Dave Raymond is joining the Rangers’ broadcast team in 2016. Raymond, who has worked in television and radio for the Astros, Orioles and Giants, is scheduled to do play-by-play on approximately 45 games for Fox Sports Southwest and will also work some games on KRLD/105.3 FM The Fan, as well as television and radio for Rangers spring training games.
Steve Busby will continue in the role as the Rangers’ primary television play-by-play announcer and will also provide analysis on some telecasts in 2016. Tom Grieve will continue to be the primary television analyst.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760