I figured I should do some Rangers links tonight, since it appears there are enough out there already to make the Sunday morning links post rather unwieldy...
Evan Grant did a live blog session from the game this afternoon that included fielding a number of questions. One of the items he hit on in the session, in answering a question about why Andruw Jones is here, is something that I think is worth highlighting:
I think a huge part of what this team is doing is trying to construct a roster that will give it the best chance at a strong start in April.
If this team had played .500 ball the past two Aprils, I think the Rangers -- Ron Washington and Nolan Ryan, in particular -- would be less likely to roll with Andruw Jones. But I think there's a fear of untested guys like Chris Davis and Nelson Cruz struggling early and the team getting off to a bad start yet again, and I think that Jones represents a security blanket, a guy they feel like they can turn to try to provide some help in the middle of the order.
I think that is also driving the notion of moving Scott Feldman to the pen and putting Kris Benson in the rotation to start the season. I don't think the Rangers really think Benson is a long-term solution...but they are, I think, very worried about the lack of quality RHP options in the bullpen right now, and scared that the bullpen will blow leads early, leading to getting in a hole and demoralizing teams and fans both (leading to lower attendance). So I think they are willing to make a few peripheral moves that aren't necessarily helpful in the long-term in an effort to try to solidify the short-term.
T.R. Sullivan, in a piece talking about how the Angels' rotation problems may create an opening for the Rangers, echoes that theme:
The Rangers' bigger concern is avoiding another bad start. That weighs more than anything that's going on in the Angels camp. The Rangers were 10-15 in April of 2007 and 10-17 for the month last season.
"The last thing we want to do is worry about our start and thinking that our season begins and ends in April," Young said. "At the same time, we'd like to establish some momentum early and not have to be clawing back from the beginning. If we have to make adjustments, do it right away instead of the middle of May."
The Rangers started off 7-16 in 2008 and spent the rest of the summer trying to get back into contention. They reached six games over .500 in the first week of August and then just ran out of gas. In '07, the Rangers were 10 games under .500 in the middle of May and 23-42 on June 13. Their season was effectively over."Frustrating," Kinsler said. "Very frustrating. The last two seasons we thought we had quality teams and April definitely put a damper on the beginning of our season. We understand how important the first month is. Last year, all year long we were talking about what would have happened if we could have gotten off to a better start. Everybody understands it."
The Rangers, as an organization, appear to be doing everything they can to ensure that the Rangers get off to a good start this year. And if they don't, I don't think it is unrealistic to expect that heads will roll.
Grant also has some talk from Mike Maddux about wanting to maintain a regular rotation early in the season and not skip the 5th starter, something that Maddux believes will help the starters be better rested in August and September. Don't know what Ron Washington thinks about this, but my guess is that Maddux's opinion on the topic is going to end up being the more influential one, and if he doesn't want the 5th starter skipped, the 5th starter won't be skipped.
Jeff Wilson says it will apparently be either Kris Benson or Brandon McCarthy pitching in the #3 spot in the rotation, with Matt Harrison and (if he's in the rotation) Scott Feldman locked into the back two spots.
T.R. Sullivan has some blog thoughts on the pitching situation, saying, among other things, that Washington seems to really want Derrick Turnbow to make the team. The pecking order for those final four spots seem to be in constant flux, particularly with Nippert and Eyre having injury issues. Nippert seems a lock for the d.l., and if Eyre ends up there as well, I think we'll see Madrigal, Rupe, and Turnbow make the team, along with a waiver claim or trade acquisition.
Sullivan also has a story on the importance of pitching to the organization in general, which includes a quote from Mark Connor about Martin Perez having three above-average major league pitches, and some discussion from Nolan Ryan and Ron Washington about where they expect to see improvement.