Rangers midterm report
Reasons for optimism remain for the second half of 2007
Rangers manager Ron Washington has enjoyed the improvement that his team showed in June, but still has no illusions about the loss of first baseman Mark Teixeira and third baseman Hank Blalock to injuries."Every night I go home, I think about what my lineup would be like with Tex in there and with Hank in there," Washington said. They aren't in there though, and that's just part of what went wrong with the Rangers in the first half of the season. Injuries cripple any team and the Rangers had to deal with their share of training room issues, not only with two big bats in the middle of the order, but also with four of five members of the Opening Day rotation spending time on the disabled list. It was a tough first half, right from the beginning as Washington tried to assert the brand of winning baseball that he knew so well in Oakland. It might have gone over easier if the starting pitching had been better, but it wasn't. It was a disaster at least for the first two months, and at one point every member of the active rotation had an ERA of over 6.00. By the beginning of June, people were openly wondering what the Rangers would do with next year's first overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. But Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career home run to continue his rebirth as a big-time run producer and other positive signs arose from the muck. Marlon Byrd, Kenny Lofton and Michael Young were terrific in June and Kameron Loe has pitched the same way he did in Spring Training. The bullpen has been outstanding. Brandon McCarthy recovered from a terrible April to have a good May before his blister problem took him out of the rotation. Adam Melhuse has been a nice addition as a backup catcher. Frank Catalanotto and Brad Wilkerson are healthy again. So is Kevin Millwood. The Rangers dug themselves a deep trench with two bad months in April and May. But June showed not all is lost and the Rangers may not end up drafting as high as people think next year. Club MVP: The Rangers were hoping for 20 home runs and 80 RBIs from Sosa. He should soar past both -- especially RBIs -- as he continues to demonstrate that he can still be a force in the middle of the lineup.
Call him Ace: Millwood is the ace of the Rangers starting rotation. That he has struggled mightily in the first half speaks eloquently about the Rangers starting pitching problems.Greatest strength: The bullpen has been terrific, from long relief to Akinori Otsuka and Eric Gagne at the end. The Rangers problem is they've needed their long and middle relievers way too much and Otsuka and Gagne not enough. Team needs: The Rangers remain on their eternal quest for starting pitching, but they also need more offense from their outfield. Byrd has been a huge boost in that regard and Lofton has done well in the leadoff spot, but power is lacking. Oh doctor:
Ian Kinsler -- Sidelined with a sprained left foot. Teixeira -- He is sidelined with a strained left quadriceps muscle. He should be back shortly after the All-Star break in time to re-ignite the trade rumors. Vicente Padilla -- The Rangers' No. 2 starter has triceps inflammation behind the right elbow. He should be back right after the All-Star break, but this could also linger for a few more weeks. Blalock -- He had surgery in May to remove a rib bone under his right shoulder that was pressing on a nerve. It could be well into August or even the beginning of September before he is back. Millwood -- Made just one start in May because of a hamstring injury. McCarthy -- Was bothered by a blister problem in June but seems to have it under control. Ron Mahay -- Missed a month with a strained oblique muscle, but is back in the bullpen. Gagne -- Had to go on the disabled list in April for a strained hip but came back strong. Frank Catalanotto -- Missed three weeks and most of May with biceps tendinitis in his right arm. Jamey Wright -- Made just one start as the Rangers' fifth starter before going on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Jerry Hairston Jr. -- Missed almost three weeks with a pinched nerve in his right shoulder. Brad Wilkerson -- He was also out for over three weeks with a pulled hamstring muscle. He said it: "As far as wins and losses are concerned, it's unacceptable. I don't want to rebuild, I want to fix it immediately. Winning is my concern. I know it's not going to be easy, but that's what we all signed up to do." -- Shortstop Young. Mark your calendar: July 19-22 vs. Cleveland; August 6-8 vs. Oakland; August 10-12 vs. Tampa Bay (Hall of Fame weekend); Sept. 7-9 vs. Oakland; Sept. 24-26 vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Fearless second-half prediction: The Rangers want to see if they can continue the success they had in June, but will likely trade at least a couple of key players, fill the gaps with some young guys and then try to finish as strong as they can.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.