The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Rangers attempt to build on surprise 2004 success

 Rangers attempt to build on surprise 2004 success
Photo by Nate Regan, The Daily Campus
Rangers attempt to build on surprise 2004 success

Rangers attempt to build on surprise 2004 success (Photo by Nate Regan, The Daily Campus)

It appears as if the Texas Rangers will approach the 2005 season with much of the same sentiment that has been affiliated with the organization since its inaugural year of 1972 – great hitting, poor pitching.

The Rangers gave fans a pleasant surprise last season by winning 89 games and staying in the playoff chase until the final days of the regular season. They did so behind the young infield corps of first-baseman Mark Teixeira, second-baseman Alfonso Soriano, shortstop Michael Young and third-baseman Hank Blalock. They became just the second group of infielders in major league history to each hit over 20 home runs, and the quartet combined to drive in 412 runs.

But the all-star infield is not the problem; if the Rangers hope to amass last season’s success, young pitchers must step up and make their presence felt on the mound.

Only two members of last year’s squad – Ryan Drese (14-10, 4.20 ERA) and Kenny Rogers (18-9, 4.76) – threw more than 200 innings, and they are the only sure bets for the 2005 starting rotation. A handful of others are vying for the final three slots as spring training goes into its final two weeks.

“The ideal thing you’d like is to have five guys who are going to throw 950 to 1,000 innings,” Rangers general manager John Hart said in an MLB.com article. “If you can get 1,000 innings out of your rotation, you are nails.”

Five pitchers who bounced between starter and reliever last season are all hoping to secure a spot in the rotation: Joaquin Benoit (3-5, 5.68), R.A. Dickey (6-7, 5.61), Juan Dominguez (1-2, 3.91), Chan Ho Park (4-7, 5.46) and Ricardo Rodriguez (3-1, 2.03). Youngsters such as Nick Regilio and Highland Park native Chris Young have also had encouraging performances in recent days.

In addition, veteran off-season acquisition Pedro Astacio (3-2, 7.36 with the 2003 Mets), who is recovering from a shoulder injury that kept him benched last year, looks to compete but faces an added challenge with this being his first season in the hitter-friendly American League.

“We realize there has been a durability issue the last couple of years,” Hart said, “but maybe this is the year Pedro comes back and throws a lot [of innings].”

Astacio shares much of the same hope. “I still feel like I can make a big contribution,” he said. “This team has a chance to win and I’d love to make that happen.”

The Rangers also added two veteran bats to the roster during the off-season in the form of catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. and outfielder Richard Hidalgo.

While Alomar is not expected to be a driving force behind the Texas offense, his 15 years of Major League experience leave coaches and players alike looking forward to his wisdom from behind the plate.

“Sandy is a good addition,” said defending American League Manager of the Year Buck Showalter. “His reputation is as good as anybody in baseball.”

Alomar will begin the season as the backup to catcher Rod Barajas, with young slugger Gerald Laird waiting for his chance to step up to the big-leagues.

Hidalgo, who brings one of the strongest arms in baseball with 78 career assists, is expected to bring veteran leadership to an already deep outfield mix. He is expected to be the team’s starting right fielder, with Laynce Nix and Kevin Mench corralling center and left, respectively.

In addition, the Rangers re-signed David Dellucci and Gary Matthews, Jr., who each played key roles in the club’s 2004 success.

“I think it is safe to say that the outfield has become an area of strength for the organization,” assistant general manager John Daniels said. “We have two power right-handed bats in Kevin and Richard … two left-handed bats with Nix and Dellucci [and] Matthews is a switch-hitter.”

Another of last season’s strong points was a quickly emerging bullpen.

In addition to those who do not make the starting rotation, right-handers Carlos Almanzar, Doug Brocail and Frank Francisco and lefties Ron Mahay, Erasmo Ramirez and Brian Shouse can be expected to come out of the pen after each had prolonged stretches of success last season.

Closer Francisco Cordero finished second to the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera with 42 saves last year and was selected to his first All-Star game. He feels the bullpen will once again play a key role to the Rangers’ win column.

“We’ve got a great group of guys down there,” he said. “We all pull for one another to have success and help our ball club.”

If the Rangers hope to keep pace with the offensively improved Seattle Mariners, 2002 World Series Champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and young and hungry Oakland A’s, the homegrown pitching prospects that have been touted for years must step up to the plate and take a swing at major league success.

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