Opening day roster has changed dramatically

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014

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By Dic Humphrey
In our spring training preview article, we indicated that barring injury, there were basically five roster spots up for grabs – two pitchers and three backup position players.  That was February.  Next week is April.  “Barring injury” proved to be the key part of that assertion.  Unfortunately for the Rangers, there have been injuries and with just days remaining until Monday’s season opener, the roster that will be announced prior to Monday’s game will have little resemblance to the roster envisioned last winter.
The Rangers announced their starting rotation this week.  Tanner Scheppers will be the opening day starter, followed by Martin Perez, Robbie Ross, Joe Saunders and Nick Martinez.  Who would have guessed?  Perez is the only one that was projected to be in the rotation when the spring training preview was published.
Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison will start the season on the disabled list.  Alexi Ogando will start in the bullpen. This starting five will likely be temporary.
Colby Lewis needs more time to regain his form after two surgeries, but he could be ready by April 11.
Darvish has neck stiffness, but should be ready soon after.
Matt Harrison is projected to return by April 23.
Tommy Hanson, one of the other starting rotation candidates, was released.
Scott Baker was also signed to a minor league contract this week to add depth to the starting pitching in the system, though he has an “opt out” clause if he isn’t in the Majors by May 1.
It is exciting that Ross and Scheppers pitched themselves into the rotation.  Ross has been the best starting pitcher in camp, while Scheppers has electric stuff.  He will join Fernando Valenzuela as the only pitchers to make their first Major League start on opening day.
One major question at the start of camp was who would be the closer.  Neftali Feliz was assumed to be the favorite, but that didn’t work out.  He didn’t have his old velocity or much command and has been optioned to AAA to continue his come back from Tommy John surgery in a less pressured environment.  Joakim Soria won the closer competition, as he was the best relief pitcher this spring. That leaves Jason Frasor and Ogando from the right side and Neal Cotts and Nelson Figueroa from the left in the bullpen.
Two more spots are up in the air.  Michael Kirkman is a consideration.  He has been inconsistent this spring, and he’s out of options.  Consequently, if the Rangers don’t keep him on the roster, he must go through waivers before he can be sent to the minors.  Texas feels he will likely be claimed if he is waived.  The Rangers also claimed Rule 5 draft pick Seth Rosin on waivers.  He has to make the roster or be offered back to the team that lost him in the draft.
The bottom line here is that the bullpen doesn’t look any better than the starting rotation.
On the position player side, the situation isn’t much better.  The projected starting lineup when camp began never played an inning together in the Cactus League, and they won’t any time soon.
Projected starters Jurickson Profar at second base and catcher Geovany Soto are sidelined for at least 10 weeks.
Elvis Andrus was out earlier this week with elbow problems in his throwing arm.
Mitch Moreland, Adrian Beltre, Sin-Shoo Choo and Alex Rios have all been troubled by nagging injuries.
Outfielders Michael Choice and Jim Adduci have had nice springs.  Choice is on the roster.  Adduci, who has hit .326, is still a long shot, especially with Mitch Moreland getting a look in the outfield.
Engel Beltre was also a backup outfield candidate, but broke a bone and will start the season on the disabled list.
Infielder Donnie Murphy was acquired Wednesday and is assured a roster spot.
At press time, two position player roster spots were up in the air.   One was likely going to Adam Rosales, Josh Wilson, or Kensuke Tanaka.  3B/1B backup Kevin Kouzmanoff likely gets the other, but the Rangers could go with Adduci to reward him for his fine effort and results in spring training.
With Soto out at catcher, J. P. Arencibia likely takes the lion share of the catching duties with Robinson Chirinos as the backup.  Veteran Chris Snyder, a graduate of Spring Woods High School in Houston, was signed this week, but he’s likely to be the main man at AAA.
Two of the top Ranger prospects are second baseman Rougned Odor and catcher Jorge Alfaro.  The Rangers are saying now that they will not rush either of these two to the Majors because of need.  Odor, who is slated to start at AA Frisco, is farther along in his development than Alfaro.  If he starts fast, and the journey men replacements don’t work out, Odor could get into the second base picture.
The Rangers envisioned a very good team on the field this year.  Ranger fans may see that team on the field at some point, but it won’t be anytime soon.  At a minimum, key players Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto will start the season on the disabled list.  Staying in the race early until the A team gets back on the field will be the immediate goal when the season begins.  However, the injury of most concern is Darvish.  If he misses a material amount of time from the active roster, this team could be scrambling to finish .500 instead of competing for a playoff spot.

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