Evan Grant has a profile on Ian Kinsler today, a lengthy piece with the usual "underdog overcomes the odds" angle...
Kat O'Brien, meanwhile, profiles Vicente Padilla, while Randy Galloway talks to Rudy Jaramillo about this year's lineup:
On Friday morning here at the Rangers' baseball complex, I happened to ask Rudy about Hank Blalock's extended batting slump in the second half of last season.
"Last year? Who the hell cares about last year?" Jaramillo quickly stormed. "I ain't talking about no bleeping last year. Bleep all that.
"Now, this year, let me tell you about this year. Hank and me, we've got a new plan. Hank is a man with a new plan. Don't worry about Hank."
OK, I think I'll take Rudy's word for it.
* * *
So before the Rangers lost 7-6 here Friday to the Royals, Jaramillo gave a hard stare to a guy asking a question about what appears to be missing pieces in the batting order.
"I think the pieces are in place," answered Rudy.
OK, but we're talking about the four and five holes. Two extremely key areas, huh?
Jaramillo's answers are Blalock and Phil Nevin, in either spot.
But look at what will probably be Showalter's top-to-bottom batting order:
Either newcomer Brad Wilkerson or David Dellucci leading off, Michael Young hitting second, Mark Teixeira third, then say Nevin fourth, Blalock fifth, Kevin Mench sixth, Dellucci (for now) seventh, Rod Barajas eighth and rookie Ian Kinsler (for now) ninth.
The major questions in all that center around Blalock and Nevin, based on what was seen last seen.
"Some people have dropped Hank from the Big Three of Tex, Mike Young and Blalock," said Showalter. "But I haven't. Hank is still right there. He tailed off last year, we know that.
"But Hank is still only 25. He will be back. He's too good not to be back. The Big Three will ride again."
Jaramillo is convinced of that. In fact, don't get him started again on his Blalock rant.
But at 35, where is Nevin's bat? The Padres thought it was gone, which is why he was swapped, contract for contract, for Chan Ho Park last season.
"You get to a certain age, have a couple of down months, and people start asking what you have left," said Nevin. "So to get ready for this season, I did things I've never done before."
Like hire a personal trainer plus a nutritionist for the winter. Then fly to Texas twice at his own expense for personal workouts with Jaramillo.
"Just write it down," Rudy said. "Nevin is back. Quote me. The bat speed is there. The gut he had when we got him last season is gone. He's in top physical shape. I see big things from Nevin. He can hit cleanup if Hank doesn't, but both can be in the middle of the order for us."
I certainly hope that Jaramillo is right, about Blalock and Nevin both. Big seasons from those two, and the Rangers are likely going to be right there with the A's atop the A.L. West this season.
Athlon has its MLB previews up, and you can check out their look at the Rangers here.
And finally, Gammons weighs in on the Soriano fiasco:
If Alfonso Soriano starts ahead of Ronnie Belliard at second base in the WBC, then the Dominican isn't trying. As for the Washington situation, Soriano's value as a free agent next November is far greater as an outfielder -- if he hits in big parts -- or as a DH. Finding teams that would take him as a second baseman are few and far between. Great advice.