Every day in spring training until we're finished with the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team that we visit in Florida and Arizona. Hitch up your saddle and jangle those spurs — it's time to go for a ride with the Texas Rangers.
2009 RECORD: 87-75, 2nd in AL West
BIG ACQUISITIONS: The Rangers were only middle-of-the-pack in runs scored, so the addition of slugging DH Vladimir Guerrero(notes) (if he stays healthy) should help move the offense. ... Rich Harden(notes), back in the AL West, becomes the team's ace. He'll probably be good for 25 starts, lots of strikeouts and a few too many walks. ... The arrival of lefty reliever Darren Oliver(notes), whose career has turned into all kinds of awesome as he nears 40, gives C.J. Wilson(notes) a chance to start.
BIG DEPARTURES: With Kevin Millwood(notes) earning his expensive option year, he was shuffled to Baltimore. ... Texas also said so long to free-agent Marlon Byrd(notes), who had a career year at age 31. ... Hank Blalock(notes) was, in some ways, the face of the franchise. An oft-injured and disappointing face. He's not with the Rays. ... Former hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is called the best in the biz by many, but Clint Hurdle's your new Rudy now — try him out! ... Ancients Omar Vizquel(notes) and Ivan Rodriguez(notes) took their combined 1,000 seasons of experience to other cow pastures.
* * *
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RANGERS:
1. Is owner Tom Hicks still here? Yes, and even when the sale of the team is completed, he's not going anywhere. He's selling the team to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan, but will maintain a part of it, or is supposed to. The Biz of Baseball has an excellent post on how it all might finally go down. Hicks' financial limbo didn't exactly help the Rangers add pieces down the stretch to make a harder run at the Angels. Ryan, who stays as team president, says the team will be in position to add payroll this season, if its place in the standings calls for it.
2. How's Josh Hamilton(notes) doing? Three different injuries ruined Hamilton's season in 2009, along with what could have been a fun pennant race in Arlington. Hamilton had a bruised shoulder early in camp, but is healthy at the moment. At the plate, he says he wants to work counts and wait for mistakes to crush. He's also moving to left field, which might take away some of the pounding his body experienced in center. Hamilton is also hopefully staying out of places that lead to this.
3. Can Julio Borbon(notes) have an impact in center like Elvis Andrus(notes) did at short in 2009? He might not be quite the defensive prospect that Andrus was, but Borbon can run and is a strong leadoff option. His arrival allows Ian Kinsler(notes) to move into the middle of the lineup between cleanup man Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz(notes) and assuming that Hamilton, Kinsler and Guerrero are healthy, Borbon becomes the biggest "X" factor in the offense. If he sets the table, the big dogs will eat.
4. Can pitching coach Mike Maddux help Rich Harden go deeper into games? Maybe, but Harden probably is what he is at this point in his career because injuries always seem no further away than the horizon. Maddux has helped developed the rest of Rangers staff which, while youthful, might be one of the deepest in all of the majors. Maddux says reliever C.J. Wilson can transition into a starter, but Wilson might get beat out for a spot anyway.
5. Speaking of pitchers, the Rangers going to get anything out of Brandon McCarthy(notes)? Maddux thinks McCarthy, who cost the organization John Danks(notes) in a trade with the White Sox, is turning the corner. He changed his delivery last season because he kept suffering stress fractures in his shoulder blade. The transition is still being refined.
"I think it's an opportunity to have a breakout year," Maddux said. "I think he's pretty close. He's been busting his tail, trying some different things. He's just got to remember to stay with what made him successful. Kids with new toys, they're going to go back to the old favorite one. We've got to see what the new stuff can do for us. It's going to take some trial and error to see how everything blends together."
Dave's tour of the Cactus League continues. Follow him on Twitter — @answerdave.