First-time skipper Woodward inherits young Rangers team
ARLINGTON — The Texas Rangers are not only young, with all those 20-something position players, they go into spring training with a first-time manager and minus retired third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Chris Woodward has never been a manager. But the 42-year-old former utility infielder spent the last three seasons as thirdbase coach for the Dodgers, who have something in common with the Rangers.
Los Angeles lost in the World Series the past two years. The last team to do that was Texas, which hasn’t won another playoff series since its back-to-back AL pennants in 2010 and 2011. The Rangers are coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 2008.
“I’m not really putting any limitations or expectations on this team,” Woodward said. “My goal is to not have a team that’s going to sneak up on people. Maybe this year we will, because the expectations around the league are not high. … These players want to win, and I’m not going to sit here and tell them that they can’t.”
The Rangers had seven position players 25 or younger play at least 106 games last season. Six are back, including slugger Joey Gallo as a full-time outfielder after consecutive 40-homer seasons.
Nomar Mazara, only 23, has hit exactly 20 homers in each of his three seasons. The right fielder missed a month late last season with a sprained right thumb. He avoided surgery and said the thumb is better with the extended offseason rest.
“My main thing is stay healthy. I think I can do a lot of damage out there,” he said.
New look: Besides a new manager, the Rangers also have a revamped starting rotation with lone returner Mike Minor and four pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery. Switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera, a two-time All-Star shortstop for Cleveland early in his 12-season career, has been at third base for only 52 of his 1,426 big league starts. Those starts at third came the last two years for the Phillies and Mets.
They’re set: With Minor and free-agent addition Lance Lynn, the Rangers have their top two rotation spots filled. Minor led the Rangers in starts (28), wins (12), innings pitched (157) and strikeouts (132) last season, when he was closely monitored in his return to the rotation. The former Braves starter missed two full years because of a torn labrum and was a full-time reliever for the Royals in 2017. Since missing 2016 after Tommy John surgery, Lynn has gone 21-18 with a 4.04 ERA in 64 games for the Cardinals, Twins and Yankees.
They’re not: While the Rangers have pitchers expected to fill out the rest of rotation, all are coming off Tommy John surgery. Drew Smyly hasn’t pitched since 2016. Edinson Volquez returned to the team last year to go through his rehab. Shelby Miller, who had surgery in May 2017, was shelved in mid-July with right elbow inflammation after only four starts for Arizona.
Rookie to watch: Yohander Mendez, a 24-year-old lefty, could be a starting option if all of the surgically repaired pitchers don’t make it through the season.
Texas slugger Joey Gallo is eyeing a third consecutive 40-homer season.