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Hitters

Yellow lightC Rod Barajas: Barajas is a decent backup, forced into the starting role by an injury to Gerald Laird. Barajas had a hard time toward the end of the season, even with limited at bats. With Alomar behind him, he’ll be asked to shoulder a heavy load.

Green light1B Mark Teixeira

Green light2B Alfonso Soriano: His steals were down due to persistent soreness in his hamstrings. Keep an eye on it this spring.

Green lightSS Mike Young

Green light3B Hank Blalock: He had some mid-season wrist problems. If he avoids those, the sky is the limit.

Yellow lightLF Kevin Mench: Mench is a tantalizing player, reminincent of Austin Kearns. Every time he shows something, he follows it with an injury that seems to last forever. Last year, he got over 400 AB despite a chronic oblique strain. Some teams really covet Mench–if I were the Rangers, I’d take one of them up on it.

Yellow lightCF Laynce Nix: In his rookie season, Nix fought a shoulder injury, but put up just about the numbers we expected from him. He split time with Gary Matthews Jr. and will do so again.

Yellow lightRF Richard Hidalgo: He and Jose Reyes worked with Mackie Shillstone this offseason. Shillstone has mixed results–anyone that touts that he bulked up Jonathon Bender (7’0″, 180, seriously) might want to get a better example of his work. Hidalgo’s groin problems aren’t enough to keep this from being a great signing.

Red lightDH David Dellucci: He has ankle and knee problems, but it’s the back and wrist that are most troubling. The back could sap his power and the wrist is a chronic condition that he’s fought since he was in the minors. At 31, he’s relatively cheap and the DH slot may keep him from getting too banged up.

Red lightC Sandy Alomar Jr.: Brought in because…well, no one seems to have a really good reason. He does some things well, I guess, and he gives me things to write about. Any extended usage of Alomar is a bad sign for a team.

Pitchers

Yellow lightSP Kenny Rogers: He’s 40 this season and one of the few that have made it that far without ever really having a peak. Rogers tends to fall back after 200+ innings.

Red lightSP Ryan Drese: Drese had a massive jump in workload last season, cracking 200 innings and fading in the second half. He’s mature enough to survive it but he’ll feel the effects of it sometime this season.

Red lightSP Chan Ho Park: Let’s say you sign a successful pitcher and you find out that one of the things he likes to do on the day he pitches is put on his iPod, don a bunny suit, and dance around in the outfield. Sure, you might look at him funny and try to keep the press away, but you’d probably let him do it if he was putting up good numbers. Park may eschew the bunny suit and the dancing, but it’s Oscar Acosta’s decision to take him off his stretching program when he came to Texas that is still costing the team.

Yellow lightSP Chris Young: Everyone sees his height and thinks Randy Johnson. That’s like looking at me and thinking Roy Oswalt. We’re about the same height, so why not, using that logic? He’s not young, he’s not overpowering, but he could be a good starter nonetheless.

Red lightSP Pedro Astacio: This is one of those moves where the front office just said … well, remember the line from Risky Business, where Tom Cruise’s friend told him “Sometimes you’ve just gotta say [something that can’t be printed in BP.]” Hey, it might work out.

Red lightSP Ricardo Rodriguez: Rodriguez has had some weird injuries. A fractured elbow from a comebacker, an appendectomy, and a surgery on his hip has severely limited his ability to pitch over the last two seasons. Before that, he had a chronic groin problem in the minors. Everyone says he’s good when he’s healthy, but who can remember the last time that was true?

Red lightSP Juan Dominguez: He completely broke down mid-season with knee and back problems. There’s still some hope here, I’m told.

Yellow lightCL Francisco Cordero: He’s shown up for camp with a sore shoulder. Cordero can handle some loss of velocity if he keeps the movement.

All Rangers pieces should come with the caveat “You might as well just read the Newberg Report.” With all the websites out there, there’s still none like it. I’ll soldier on, knowing that Jamey likes when I write about his team, if only to give him material. From a medhead perspective, the Rangers look pretty bad on paper, but things are getting better.

There’s a lot of teams who would like it if they could take one player out of their injury stats–for the Rangers, that player would be Chan Ho Park. Park’s inability to just show up and pitch a bit exposed just how shallow the system was at the top. While guys like John Danks and Thomas Diamond are the future, the Rangers were forced to rush Chris Young and Juan Dominguez into starting roles.

In a hitting environment like Arlington, there’s a tendency to try and get guys who throw heavy sinkers or changeups. Groundballs, of course, don’t fly into the bleachers. Unfortunately, many of the same external forces that let balls fly high and far also keep balls from sinking. It’s much more important for the Rangers to concentrate on pitch efficiency, something that coach Orel Hershiser is beginning to emphasize.

A young staff that will be tested by home runs might not be the ideal setup, but that’s the reality that Texas will deal with. The infield is set, the outfield could be strong, but the hopes of staying up with the Angels and A’s will come down to how healthy, rather than how good, this pitching staff is. Hershiser and Buck Showalter should leave no stone unturned looking for possible advantages. I’d start with a four-man rotation and go from there. Otherwise a great medical staff, led by Jamie Reed and Dr. Keith Meister, will have a long season.

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