SAN FRANCISCO -- Rangers reliever Darren Oliver has been around -- 17 Major League seasons, eight clubs, three separate stints with Texas. He looks at this all-West, new-names World Series as a good thing, even if it's missing the familiarity of the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies brands.
"Everybody likes to see the Yankees in the Series for some reason," Oliver said. "I like this. People get to see a lot of other players."
Involved in his fifth consecutive postseason with three different teams, Oliver has come close twice to the Fall Classic, missing with the 2006 Mets and the Angels of 2009 in League Championship Series disappointments. Reaching the big show at age 40 has him gratified that he didn't walk away from the game.
"I saw it before, just playing against these guys," Oliver said when asked about the Rangers' potential to go the distance. "They were good last season. Everything came together this year, and the team was going to roll. I'm just glad I was here with them."
He enjoyed one of his finest seasons with his 2.48 ERA in 64 games, but Oliver isn't looking beyond this showdown, admitting that retirement has to come eventually.
"It's getting close," he said.
Told that he's been saying that for several years, Oliver grinned.
"Yeah," he said, "I know. But it is getting close."
-- Lyle Spencer
Moreland a true professional at young age
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland has made the biggest games of his young career seem as if they're no big deal.
Moreland went 7-for-18 (.389) with three RBIs in the Rangers' six-game American League Championship Series victory over the Yankees, and has a .303 postseason average. Moreland, who started the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City but took over as Texas' regular first baseman late in the year, said it wasn't until the Rangers were on the cusp of the World Series that he stopped to feel the emotion of the moment.
"Before the last out of Game 6 at home, I stopped, took a step back, looked around, all the fans were on their feet and all the guys, you could see the grins on their faces," Moreland said. "We knew that we were about to have a shot at history. It set in for everybody."
For the most part, though, Moreland, 24, has kept emotion out of his approach to the game. That's one reason Moreland beat out Chris Davis for the regular job after being called up on July 29, after the Rangers sent Justin Smoak to the Mariners in the Cliff Lee trade.
"His approach to the game is very similar to his approach hitting," Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle said. "It's very short, compact. He's all about barrel to the ball. He's a no-nonsense kid from Mississippi State. He's a baseball player, flat out a baseball player. He's in the game, used to pitch, has a little bit of knowledge of the game from that angle.
"He was the third seed coming out of Spring Training. He's the last man standing."
Moreland was a first baseman, outfielder and left-handed pitcher at Mississippi State. He pitched two games in the Minors in 2008, and went to the fall instructional league before he and the Rangers settled on having him pursue a career as a hitter. After Moreland hit .341 in 73 games at Class A Bakersfield and .326 in 73 games at Double-A Frisco, then followed that up with a strong spring this year, it was clear the club made the right move.
"When we saw him in Spring Training and sent him down, we said, 'We'll see you before the year is over, we can guarantee that,'" Rangers third-base coach Dave Anderson said.
Moreland displayed the same confidence in himself while hitting .255 with a .364 on-base percentage and nine home runs after joining the Rangers.
"That's always been the way I approached the game," Moreland said. "I try to tell myself, 'the more comfortable I am, the better I'm going to play.' If I feel I'm starting to press, I try to take a deep breath, relax a little bit and start off. It's worked."
-- Thomas Harding
Righty Lowe may replace lefty Rapada in 'pen
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Rangers have yet to set their World Series roster, but there is a good chance that right-hander Mark Lowe could replace left-handed specialist Clay Rapada in the bullpen.Rapada was added to the playoff roster for the American League Championship Series to help deal with some of the left-handed hitters in the Yankees' lineup. But the Giants' lineup leans strongly to the right, and the Rangers would prefer another right-handed reliever. "We haven't made any final decisions about it," manager Ron Washington said. "We like to hold out until the last minute. We haven't come to any conclusions yet." The roster for the World Series doesn't have to be set until Wednesday at 1 p.m. PT.
The Rangers have to decide if Lowe is ready for the assignment. Frank Francisco was Texas' primary right-handed setup reliever, but he has been sidelined since the end of August with a strained muscle in his right rib cage.Lowe, like Francisco, is also a right-handed reliever who relies on power, but he also missed almost five months of the season because of back surgery. The Rangers acquired him from the Mariners on July 9 as part of the Cliff Lee trade, but he didn't pitch in a Major League game until the final week of the season. He made three appearances and allowed four runs in three innings. But Lowe has continued to throw on the side during the playoffs, and the Rangers believe he has become a serious option. The other option would be Dustin Nippert, who was 4-5 with a 4.29 ERA in 38 games during the regular season. He made one appearance against the Rays in the AL Division Series and allowed two runs in one inning before being replaced by Rapada in the ALCS. Replacing a left-handed reliever with a right-hander is likely to be the only roster change made by the Rangers for the World Series.
-- T.R. Sullivan
Texas' pitchers look forward to hitting challenge
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Rangers do not believe that losing the designated hitter for the first two games of the World Series is a losing proposition.
"The only disadvantage I think we might have is our pitchers haven't hit all year," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We give them an opportunity to bunt, but it's not the same. So right there is the disadvantage, where their pitchers have been doing it all year."
But the Rangers have been competent in what little hitting they have done. Their pitchers have hit a respectable .182 in 22 at-bats, and put down three sacrifice bunts.
The Rangers also have an offensive threat in Game 1 starting pitcher Cliff Lee, who hit .212 last year for the Phillies during the regular season and turned in a .273 average in five postseason games. Lee also stole second in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Rockies.
"We can get a bunt down, a slug-bunt, things of that nature," Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle said. "And we actually have some guys that are athletic that might be able to throw a base hit out there. They're looking forward to the challenge."
One of the biggest swings of this season came from a Rangers pitcher. Colby Lewis, who hit five home runs in Japan over the 2008 and '09 seasons, knocked a key two-run single in a 7-2 victory at Milwaukee on June 14. The victory was part of an 11-game win streak for Texas.
But Lewis isn't all that excited about hitting. He's not due to start until Game 3 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. If he ends up hitting, it means the Series will have returned to San Francisco. He'd rather be celebrating a championship by then.
"I want to hit, but I don't want to hit," Lewis said while standing near the batting cage during batting practice Tuesday.
-- Thomas Harding
Another Molina gets in on Classic act
SAN FRANCISCO -- For the sixth time in the past nine seasons, a Molina is catching in the World Series. Bengie, the Rangers' receiver, is appearing in his first Fall Classic since 2002, when he steered the Angels to a championship against the Giants.
Brother Jose also appeared in that '02 Series as Bengie's backup and was a member of the 2009 World Series champion Yankees.
Yadier, the youngest of the Molina catchers, caught for the Cardinals in the 2004 and '06 World Series.
"We don't talk about that," big brother Bengie said. "Once we're done with baseball, we're going to sit down with pina coladas somewhere and talk about what we've done in baseball."
-- Lyle Spencer
T.R. Sullivan is the Rangers' beat reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. MLB.com reporters Lyle Spencer and Thomas Harding contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.