04/05/10 10:16 PM ET
Harden, Wells have plenty to prove
The Rangers and Blue Jays played a crisp and compelling game Monday, and they'll have the luxury of a few intriguing plots for Wednesday's rematch. Outfielder Vernon Wells jumped out of the gates in Toronto's Opening Day loss, and Texas will try to keep things rolling with free-agent acquisition Rich Harden.
And in both of their cases, there will be some intense scrutiny. Harden may actually be able to enjoy the brief honeymoon associated with coming to a new team, but Wells is trying to rebound from an off year. The center fielder had three hits and three RBIs in Monday's 5-4 loss to Texas, an effort the Jays would love to see him repeat.
"I was real happy with the way Wells started," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston after Monday's game. "Hopefully, there's just more to come, certainly from Wells. We'd like to see him have a great year this year. If he can do that, it's going to help us."
Wells, the longest-serving position player on a team that has seen quite a bit of turnover, finds himself as the bellwether of a top-heavy offense. Both Aaron Hill and Adam Lind had career seasons in 2009, and both will be hitting in front of Wells this season. Now, the Blue Jays need to find a way to keep him in the lineup and keep him consistent.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are more concerned with preventing runs. Texas has scored more than 800 runs 13 times in the last 14 seasons, with last year serving as the lone exception. The Rangers saw several of their young arms step forward in 2009, and then they went out on the open market and brought in Harden to help carry some of the momentum forward.
And with Harden, the story has remained the same for most of his career. Harden has pitched fewer than 150 innings in each of the past two seasons, and that was after missing virtually all of the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The high-impact right-hander has only made 30 starts once in his career, but he remains confident in his ability to stay intact.
"I'm feeling good," Harden said recently. "I have my pitch count up and my arm strength up. Everything is right where it should be. I'm not worried about anything. I got my work done in Spring Training like I planned, and I'm excited and ready to go."
Tallet the grizzled veteran
The Jays may be getting younger in the rotation, but don't tell Brian Tallet. The 32-year-old worked his way back into a starting slot after an injury to southpaw Mark Rzepczynski got hurt, and Gaston is comfortable he'll be able to handle the job. Tallet has spent the vast majority of his career as a reliever and won a career-high seven games last year.
Rzepczynski is sidelined due to a left middle finger, and Dustin McGowan is dealing with a case of shoulder fatigue. Toronto's pitching staff also has three arms -- Scott Richmond, Jesse Litsch and Dirk Hayhurst -- on the 60-day disabled list.
Keeping an eye on Harden
The Rangers will have to watch Harden carefully, because he's missed time due to a strained oblique as well as shoulder and elbow ailments in the recent past. The right-hander's durability affected his standing on the free-agent market and may explain why the Rangers were able to sign him to a one-year contract with a lucrative mutual option for 2011.
Texas has five players on an Opening Day roster for the first time, and two of them will figure into heavy playing time in the early going. Andres Blanco started at second base for the injured Ian Kinsler on Opening Day, and Joaquin Arias is expected to start there on Wednesday. Jarrod Saltalamacchia started -- and starred -- Monday, but Taylor Teagarden will start Wednesday.
Toronto starter Shaun Marcum took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Monday, but it was broken up on a hit by Vladimir Guerrero. ... Saltalamacchia came up with the game-winning hit on a bases-loaded single Monday, marking the first time in 30 years that the Rangers have had a walk-off win in their home opener. The last time was 1980, when Mickey Rivers scored on a wild pitch by future Hall of Famer Goose Gossage to beat the Yankees. ... Outfielder Nelson Cruz drove in four runs on Monday, marking the second-highest RBI total for a Rangers player on Opening Day. Ivan Rodriguez drove in five runs on Opening Day in 2000.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.