While not many baseball fans watch a lot of spring training play, the ones that do are making a big todo about the Texas Rangers‘ slow start in Cactus League play. The Rangers have yet to win a game this spring, losing their first three to the Kansas City Royals and then getting rocked on Monday night by the Colorado Rockies. The numbers are all there as well, albeit not very relevant: the team is hitting .215 as a whole and only .125 with runners in scoring position. However, this is expected, just as Rangers manager Ron Washington said after the 0-4 start.
Texas’ primary focus this entire offseason, and even from the end of the 2012 MLB regular season, was defense. The Rangers traded away Michael Young and allowed both Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli to walk via free agency, so clearly team president Nolan Ryan thought his lineup would be fine without those three sluggers. He’s exactly right and although it’s not evident in late February, it will be by the time the Rangers open the 2013 regular season in Houston.
David Murphy and Mitch Moreland are full-time starters for the first time in their careers while Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin are both playing much larger roles as well while vying for playing time in center field. That’s three new bats (Gentry and Martin count as one rotating) in the lineup that weren’t there all the time last year, so there will definitely be adjustments. Of course, several players are also focusing on the World Baseball Classic, so that plays a factor as well.
In addition to the Rangers’ new faces in the starting lineup and overall focus on pitching, the team is without slugger Adrian Beltre and consistent starting pitcher Colby Lewis right now. With Young now gone, many players are looking to Beltre as the new leader in the Texas clubhouse, so not having a leader and not having the guy who’s supposed to be the new leader is also a primary reason why the Rangers are “struggling” this spring.
Finally, Cactus League play started very early this year due to scheduling conflicts with the World Baseball Classic, so that has definitely put the Rangers behind about two weeks in their typical offseason routine. So in short, Texas fans have no reason to be worried; it’s not even March yet! Be patient, Rangers fans. It’ll pay off in October.