Four of the greatest words in baseball could finally be uttered Wednesday afternoon.
Spring training is over.
The Texas Rangers broke camp after their Cactus League finale against Kansas City, a 5-1 win, and were scheduled to arrive in the Metroplex after nightfall. All that’s left before Opening Day are two exhibition games Friday and Saturday against Cleveland at Globe Life Park.
The Rangers left the Surprise Recreation Campus a confident bunch. Everything that happened in the desert only reinforced their belief that they will successfully defend their American League West title and play into October.
He and another newcomer, right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen, found a welcoming clubhouse with a winning chemistry.
Holdovers from 2015 saw a team that got better during spring training.
“We have a better team than we had last year,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “We can’t wait until April 4.”
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With the exception of outfielder Josh Hamilton and right-hander Tanner Scheppers, the Rangers didn’t have any significant injuries to players expected to be on the roster for Opening Day on Monday against Seattle.
It looks like we’re going to get out of here healthy, which is good.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre
“We’ve still got two games left,” manager Jeff Banister said. “If we get out of here and the next two games in Arlington, I’ll consider it a highlight then.”
Shawn Tolleson (back) and Rougned Odor (right oblique) were the most significant contributors besides Hamilton and Scheppers to be slowed. Banister said that Tolleson, the team’s closer, has found his rhythm, and Odor, the second baseman, answered any questions with a three-homer game Friday.
Right-hander Yu Darvish (Tommy John surgery) remains on track for a mid- to late-May return.
“It looks like we’re going to get out of here healthy, which is good,” Beltre said.
Desmond does it all
The Rangers made their biggest splash Feb. 29 by signing Desmond, a free-agent shortstop, and making him their left fielder, a position he had never played. Ever.
He never gets tired. We call him the Energizer Bunny. He lasts forever, man.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus, on new left fielder Ian Desmond
A month later, he has pushed his way into the picture in center field and could get spot duty at his old position.
“He can catch, too,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “He might be able to pitch.
“Geez. He never gets tired. We call him the Energizer Bunny. He lasts forever, man.”
Banister said that Desmond’s quick transition didn’t rate as a surprise.
“He’s a highly educated baseball player with a high baseball IQ, and along with that he’s physically gifted and talented,” Banister said. “It’s a highlight for us because we were looking for a guy like that.”
Wilhelmsen was an enemy for his entire career before being traded by Seattle to the Rangers, so he wasn’t sure how he would be treated initially by his teammates.
It took all of about, oh, a few seconds for him to feel completely at ease.
“The chemistry is probably the biggest thing, and I could feel it Day One,” Wilhelmsen said. “The second I walked in, I felt like this is home. It’s really comfortable.”
When you’re playing with guys you like and get along with, it’s a lot easier to play better baseball.
New Rangers reliever Tom Wilhemsen, on the team chemistry
The chemistry is unlike anything he felt with the Mariners and is something he thinks can be an edge as the Rangers push for another division title.
“It’s by far much better,” Wilhelmsen said. “It goes a lot further than just overall talent. When you’re playing with guys you like and get along with, it’s a lot easier to play better baseball.”
Stronger and stronger
Delino DeShields didn’t see one thing this spring that absolutely had to be addressed. In his mind, everything was fine entering camp, but everything is better leaving it.
Everybody believes the sky is the limit for this team.
Center fielder Delino DeShields
“Our bullpen got stronger, stronger than it already was,” the second-year center fielder said. “Our lineup got stronger. We were looking for a right-handed bat and went out and got Ian. That definitely helps.”
It goes behind the players. DeShields praised new pitching coach Doug Brocail and new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce for the way they quickly built relationships in their first spring camps.
“We improved on a lot of aspects of our team,” DeShields said. “We have a great squad and are capable of doing the things we’re supposed to do. Everybody believes the sky is the limit for this team.”
The Rangers’ quest begins Monday. Spring training is over.