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Four questions remaining in the final days before Opening Day for the Rangers

Photo: Alex Plinck/Dallas Sports Fanatic

Four questions remaining in the final days before Opening Day for the Rangers

Rangers fans, here we are. One week remaining until Opening Day, the day fans, players, broadcasters, writers, and aliens all anticipated since the Washington Nationals held the Commissioner’s Trophy nearly nine months ago. With just a short time of Summer Camp remaining, there are a few spots left undecided and questions surrounding the club.

Will Isiah Kiner-Falefa get a starting role?

If you run down the list of players on the roster, I would honestly say Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s camp has shown the most impact since training resumed at the beginning of the month. Kiner-Falefa’s bat carried over from an impressive Spring Training in March to a highly productive camp. It’s a twist to the Rangers opening day roster many didn’t see coming before March but must acknowledge now.

The question the Rangers face is if Kiner-Falefa starts at third, where does Todd Frazier go? The easy answer is first base, which leaves guys like Ronald Guzman and Greg Bird on the stick’s short end. The Rangers started Frazier at first base during camp; therefore, Elvis and Isiah’s combination on the left side and Odor and Frazier on the right is turning into a reality. My curiosity is, where does Kiner-Falefa fit in the Rangers lineup? I actually would like to see Isiah hit in the second slot, as a kid who makes contact at the plate and presents a thorn at the top after Shin-Soo Choo.

My prediction: Yes, he will start at third base

Who replaces Willie Calhoun in left field if Willie goes on the IL?

Right now, there’s a deep competition for left field in the opening day lineup. Nick Solak edges Scott Heineman because of Solak’s success last season in the big leagues, but Scott isn’t too far behind. “He’s definitely in the mix. Nick, in my opinion, what he did last year at the big league level has earned the respect of the playing time, if Willie is down, but it’s not guaranteed. If [Heineman] is on the team and gets an opportunity and takes advantage of it, it’s open to him,” Chris Woodward said after Thursday’s intrasquad game. Adolis Garcia remains in the mix, but Garcia’s camp mellowed for the past week, which may have pushed him out of the running. Again, this is all assuming Willie won’t be ready to do due to his hip injury, but the club feels certain he won’t play on Opening Day 2020.

My prediction: Nick Solak

The first base debate

The Rangers first base situation took a turn with Isiah’s success at third. When Texas signed Todd Frazier, the thought was Frazier being a primary third baseman. In all of March’s eleven starts, Todd played at third. Frazier has flirted with first base over the last half decade (14 games at first base since 2014). Frazier gets his standard work at third base, but Isiah’s breakout camp forced the Rangers to show some creativity in defensive alignment. All of this throws a wrench in the position battle between Ronald Guzman and Greg Bird.

Right now, Guzman is on the forty-man roster while Bird is not; therefore, it’s easier to lean towards Guzy. However, the club got a better look at Bird for the first few days while Guzman was still in clearance. Guzman ended Friday night’s intrasquad game on a high note with an RBI double but still has some timing struggles. I would say Guzman has the edge over Bird with the defensive capabilities, but keep a close eye on this battle for the next five days.

My prediction: Todd Frazier (with Ronald Guzman as a backup first baseman)

Who’s the Rangers’ lefty bullpen piece?

If there’s one piece the Rangers are lacking is a bullpen left-handed arm. Originally the plan was Brett Martin and Joely Rodriguez, but Martin remains sidelined due to recovering from COVID-19 while Rodriguez is trying to recover from a lat injury sustained in April. There are a few options Texas has to fill that void which the club continues to experiment with. Two young pitchers that got their shot last year, Kolby Allard and Joe Palumbo, showed excellent stuff on Thursday and Friday while the club can shift to Taylor Hearn, whose big league debut got shortened last year due to injury. All three mentioned went through the last few years in the minors and majors as starters, so they have the stamina to work innings. Kolby Allard got the most big league work last year, but Hearn and Palumbo’s electric arsenal seem to better fit the bullpen role.

Prediction: Joe Palumbo

The Rangers will first look at an external opposition starting Tuesday when the Rockies come to town for two exhibition games. It’ll be the first time the club will face outside hitters and pitchers in a game-like situation since the rainout at Surprise on March 12th against the Giants. One final question remains, will Opening Night at Globe Life Field play with an open or closed roof? Either way, the field backdrop will look spectacular.

Credentialed Media Staff Writer covering the Texas Rangers for Dallas Sports Fanatic | 2014 University of North Texas graduate with a Bachelor's in Radio, Television, and Film. My baseball memory bank is dominated by the Texas Rangers with the other 29 franchises sprinkled in. In addition, I enjoy NFL Sunday afternoons and only the first NCAA tournament weekend.

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