The Texas Rangers are less than two weeks away from reporting to their spring training home in Surprise, Arizona and have lofty expectations for themselves after what transpired last season with the worst luck in injuries most have ever seen.
Derek Holland, while on 105.3 FM’s The Ben and Skin Show a few days ago, responded to those fans who were upset that the Rangers had not made an off-season acquisition, aside from the trade that brought pitcher Yovani Gallardo to Texas from the Milwaukee Brewers, or big time trade to improve the club. “We did acquire something, health.” One of the best answers Holland could have given and he’s absolutely right. The players who missed most, if not all, of last season, himself included, will return 100 percent and ready for this season.
Holland himself missed almost the entire 2014 season due to a fluke injury that occurred at his own home, Prince Fielder, who hadn’t missed a single game in five years, missed all of last season after undergoing neck surgery, Shin-Soo Choo was hobbled by a high ankle injury, Martin Perez was shut down after undergoing Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out at least half of this season, Tanner Scheppers missed a lot of time due to injury and the list goes on and on and on.
With those players coming back and being able to play, along with having what looks to be the best competition among the starting rotation that the Rangers have seen in recent years, things are looking up. Not only that, Texas also has a new manager to steer the ship.
After the surprising resignation of Ron Washington, before the 2014 season came to a close, the Rangers went looking for a guy who could turn this organization around and put them back on top of not only the AL West but the entire American League. They apparently found that guy in Pittsburgh Pirates’ bench coach Jim Banister, a native Texan who played high school baseball at La Marque High School in La Marque, Texas before moving on to play at Lee College in Baytown, Texas and then receiving a scholarship from the University of Houston.
Banister apparently has a philosophy that he will preach to the pitchers on this Rangers’ staff — pitching inside. It’s something that he has already discussed at length with catcher Robinson Chirinos. “Pitching inside and getting quick outs go hand-in-hand,” Banister told Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. “I believe being able to attack inside sets up the entire at-bat and the entire tone. But it’s a team effort. It’s something that everybody has to be on board with.”
If you question whether that can really be effective in changing a pitcher’s numbers, just go look at Grant’s piece from this past Monday where he talks about Edinson Volquez during his time with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers and compares it to his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates with Banister as the bench coach. Question it if you want, but the numbers definitely speak for themselves.
Health is the number one concern for this team as they head into spring training. If they can keep their core guys on the field for the entire season, this Rangers club should be able to contend with the new look Seattle Mariners, with a familiar face in former Ranger Nelson Cruz, for the division crown. You can bet this roster is ready to be back on top and guys like Fielder, Choo, Holland, Darvish among others are ready to bring home the first ever World Series championship to Arlington, Texas.
Wouldn’t it be something if a title is celebrated in Arlington but it wasn’t a Dallas Cowboys celebration? That would be one for the history books.