ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – The Texas Rangers are already hurting significantly even before the start of a new season.
In a span of three days the week before opening day, the Rangers scratched ace Yu Darvish from that scheduled start because of neck stiffness, and found out they would be without second baseman Jurickson Profar and catcher Geovany Soto for 10 to 12 weeks each because of injuries.
Sure, the Rangers know there are going to be injuries during the season.
“We just didn’t expect it to be all at this point,” general manager Jon Daniels said.
The Rangers, after missing the playoffs last year for the first time in four seasons, already knew they would be missing lefty starters Matt Harrison and Derek Holland to start the season.
At least Harrison, who had a mild setback early in camp after his back issues last season, should return within the first month. Holland could miss at least half the season because of left knee surgery after being tripped by his dog on stairs in his home in January.
The only three position players remaining from the Rangers’ last World Series in 2011 also missed games this spring with lesser nagging issues. But shortstop Elvis Andrus, third baseman Adrian Beltre and designated hitter Mitch Moreland should all be in the lineup Monday against Philadelphia.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in four years and scoring their fewest runs (730) in a full season since 1992, the Rangers’ two most significant offseason moves were to improve their offense.
They got durable slugger Prince Fielder from Detroit by trading Ian Kinsler, a move that cleared the way Profar to be an everyday player. Free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was signed to a seven-year deal — the same time left on Fielder’s contract — to take over the leadoff spot.
Only Mike Trout (564) and two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera (562) reached base more the past two season than Choo (556) and Fielder (542), who has the longest active streak in the majors playing in 505 consecutive regular-season games — and 809 of 810 the past five years.
“I just want Prince to be Prince,” said manager Ron Washington, starting his eighth season in Texas. “I just want him to do what he does, and let everyone else does what they do, and everything will work out.”
Five things to know about the Rangers heading into the 2014 season:
RELIEF STARTERS: Texas went into the offseason seemingly set with its starting rotation. Martin Perez is the only of the expected five who will start the season there. Besides with the injured trio of Darvish, Harrison and Holland, right-hander Alexi Ogando was moved back to the bullpen. Two converted relievers will be starting. Tanner Scheppers was one of majors’ best setup relievers in his first full major league season, and Robbie Ross has made 123 relief appearances the last two seasons.
MVP PRINCE?: Fielder batted ahead of MVP winners the last three seasons, Ryan Braun in Milwaukee and then Cabrera the last two years in Detroit. Fielder will bat between Andrus and Beltre, who has said it’s Fielder’s turn to be an MVP. “That sounds good, I’m not going to argue that. I hope that happens,” Fielder said. “Hitting in front of Beltre, that’s not a bad thing.”
YU NEEDS RUNS: Darvish finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting last season, when he was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA. He led the majors with 277 strikeouts, but also was the first MLB pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1989 to absorb four 1-0 losses in the same season.
CLOSING TIME: Joakim Soria was a two-time All-Star closer in Kansas City before Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in 2012. The Rangers knew when they signed him before last season that they had to be willing to wait. Soria is the closer going into second year of his two-year deal. Neftali Feliz, the closer for the Rangers’ two World Series teams, was sent to Triple-A Round Rock. Feliz, who also had Tommy John surgery in 2012 after being a starter, struggled this spring in his return to the bullpen.
OUTFIELD CHOICE: Michael Choice gets to play at home. The Fort Worth native who went to college at Texas-Arlington, only a few blocks from where the Rangers play, had a stellar spring, hit .367 through the first 25 spring games, with team highs of four homers and 15 RBIs. He made his major league debut with nine games last season for Oakland, which traded him for Craig Gentry.
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