Notes: 'Optimism is very high'
Final bullpen spot still up for grabs as club leaves Arizona
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers came to Arizona with the intention of being a contender in the American League West, and they left here Thursday night with that still in mind.They will not have pitcher Adam Eaton for the first three months of the season but that has not changed their stated goal of winning a division title. "That's the only way to look at it," shortstop Michael Young said. "If you don't feel strongly about it, then you really don't believe it. There is a lot of talent in this clubhouse, now it's a matter of going out on the field and letting it loose." The Rangers will get that chance soon. They wrapped up their desert operations on Thursday with a 6-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals, and headed back to Texas for two exhibition games with the Florida Marlins. On Monday, it's for real against the Boston Red Sox. Improved starting pitching was the primary reason why the Rangers felt good about themselves. But that took a hit when Eaton suffered a strained tendon in the middle finger on his right hand in his final start of the exhibition season on Wednesday. "Injuries are a part of the game, you can't dwell on that," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "Unfortunately we still have a lot of question marks at the back of the rotation, but you still go out there with 25 guys, play the game hard and win as many games as you can. "We're undefeated right now. We have as good of chance as anybody to win games. Optimism is very high." Those left behind: Eaton was on the plane to Texas but others were not. Left-handed reliever C.J. Wilson pitched two-thirds of an inning in a Minor League game Thursday and will remain behind in extended Spring Training to get more work. The Rangers have ruled him out as an option for the rotation because of his physical setbacks this Spring. "Right now we want to get him back as a reliever," manager Buck Showalter said. "He could come back quicker as a reliever." Gary Matthews Jr. (strained rib cage) is staying behind and going on the disabled list, but Showalter said he could be ready for a rehab assignment in the Minors on Thursday. Also staying behind are pitchers Brian Anderson, Ryan Bukvich, Frank Francisco and Josh Rupe. All are trying to mend bad elbows, and the Rangers still hope they could eventually become options for them at some point in the next two months.
Teixeira goes deep again: Teixeira hit his second home run in two games on Thursday, a three-run blast off Royals left-hander J.P. Howell.They are Teixeira's only two home runs of the spring, and he is hitting .229 since returning from the World Baseball Classic. But he also left Arizona with a five-game hitting streak, going 7-for-19 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. This hasn't been his best spring, which included going 0-for-15 in the Classic. But it appears he is finishing it up strong with two games to go before Opening Day. "I'm always ready on Opening Day," Teixeira said. "It's been the weirdest Spring Training that I've ever had. The World Baseball Classic didn't help, but I feel great and my body feels great." He obviously prefers that he had not played in the Classic but he has tried to make up for it by playing as much as possible since his return. "When you're trying to get ready for a season, playing four games in 15 days doesn't help," Teixeira said. "There's a reason for Spring Training, we're here to win a championship for the Texas Rangers. Bullpen taking shape: The Rangers have pretty much set their bullpen. With Antonio Alfonseca and Rule 5 Draft pick Fabio Castro expected to make the team, the final spot could come down to left-hander Erasmo Ramirez and right-hander Scott Feldman. Castro has not been officially named to the team but he is expected to pitch Friday night against the Florida Marlins in Frisco, and the Rangers have a strong desire to keep him. "He's obviously got a future or he wouldn't have been drafted," Showalter said. "We wouldn't have carried him this far if he didn't have a chance to make the team." Ramirez is out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to the Minors. Feldman has options, so from a contract standpoint, Ramirez might have an advantage. The Rangers could also take eight relievers because Matthews is starting the season on the disabled list. But it appears more likely that they'll carry D'Angelo Jimenez as a utility infielder so that Mark DeRosa can play the outfield. However, outfielders Adrian Brown and Adam Hyzdu are still with the club and they remain options for the last spot on the bench. Briefly: Pitcher Jon Leicester has cleared waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma. ... Hank Blalock, who was 1-for-3 on Thursday, said his lower back problem has cleared up and, "I feel good at the plate. I'm right where I want to be." ... Kevin Mench left Arizona with a nine-game hitting streak and is hitting .463 for the spring. ... Defensively, the Rangers committed just 16 errors in 27 games in Arizona. Coming next: The Rangers return to Texas and host the Florida Marlins at 7:05 p.m. CT at their Double-A ballpark in Frisco. Kameron Loe makes his final start of the spring against right-hander Brian Moehler for the Marlins. The game will be broadcast on KRLD 1080 AM.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.