The offseason is nearing its end. Rangers’ fans got to celebrate another transition to a new baseball season and now will enjoy a new ballpark. Rangers players are beginning their trip to Spring Training in Arizona. After talking with a few players, manager Chris Woodward, and general manager Jon Daniels, at a couple team events this weekend, there were a few notable points that stood out.
1. Nick Solak is embracing his role… as a utility player
The Rangers’ 2019 Rookie of the Year is experimenting with different positions this offseason. The newly-engaged Ranger enters the 2020 season with little doubt in his offensive ability, but a question about where to place him on the diamond. For Solak, he’s ready wherever the club needs him.
“It’s a role that I have embraced.” Solak said on Friday night. “It’s become fun, carrying all the different gloves in the bag, just to have them and have them ready to go whichever I’ll need that particular (day), sometimes multiple in the same day.” It’s a different approach for Nick this offseason. Usually, he’d get his regular work at second base, but this time he’s working at third and in center field.
Like Danny Santana, if Solak can produce as he did for the 33 games he played last season, Chris Woodward will find a spot for him. Now Solak’s defense isn’t entirely his strong suit, so will the Rangers sacrifice defense for the offense? It’s a little soon to say, considering Nick had a total of one game at third base in his minor league career.
2. Corey Kluber is back home and ready to go
Kluber is a Coppell High School Alum who went to Rangers games at Globe Life Park as a kid. Now he gets the opportunity to pitch in a brand new palace in the area he grew up. For the time off due to injury, Corey looked at it as a positive.
“(The time off) gave me some time to regroup physically, address any issues I had with my delivery and things that were out of whack, and I think I’m in a good spot now.”
There are some concerns at any time a player misses a significant amount of time. The last time Kluber stood on a big-league mound in a big league situation was May 1st, 2019 against the Marlins.
While the stats and accolades speak for themselves on what Kluber meant to the Indians, the present becomes the worry for Rangers fans. Spring training becomes vital for Corey Kluber, and if he feels excellent resembling the 2014-2018 Corey Kluber, the Rangers rotation becomes a dominant three-headed monster.
— Alex Plinck (@aplinckTX) January 25, 2020
3. Joey Gallo’s spot will be in right field
Joey Gallo suffered a couple of injuries in the 2019 season. The wrist became the primary issue that sidelined Joey for the final two months. However, on June 1st, Gallo suffered an oblique strain which caused him to miss three weeks. While Joey had little work in center field before 2019, last season center field became Gallo’s heavy-duty workload. I asked Chris Woodward if the oblique injury connected to that workload in center. He told me that it was a big reason for the injury. Woody feels that since Gallo’s swing is so vicious, putting him in center puts too much of a wear and tear on his body. With Willie Calhoun’s spot in left cemented, Joey’s best-equipped position right now is right field.
Woody did go on to predict that a gold glove would come Joey Gallo’s way in the future, and I don’t doubt that. Right field looks to be the best spot utilizing Joey’s rocket arm with his route running without wearing him down throughout the game. On the bright side, there’s no annoying sun to worry about in the first inning of a night game, or possibly ever.
Chris Woodward also told me that there’s an unlikely chance Joey Gallo will see time at center. But he’s confident Joey Gallo will see a gold glove in right field in his future. #Rangers
— Alex Plinck (@aplinckTX) January 25, 2020
4. Rangers GM Jon Daniels not worried about veteran starting pitcher presence in the minors
If things go as planned, the Rangers have five veteran starters in their rotation and all five with decent track records. A significant positive from 2019 is the Rangers also got a look at some of their young pitching talent facing big league hitters. Now the Rangers minor league roster lacks veteran starters, but Jon Daniels is using last year’s outlook as a stepping stone on the “next man up” philosophy. “I’d rather go to Kolby Allard than most of the guys that are available for us.” Jon Daniels said on Saturday. “There’s opportunity if Kyle Gibson needs a little time or if we have a hiccup at some point, I’d rather go to that group than some of the guys that are available.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers go and grab a veteran pitcher with starting experience, but not have any plans to move him to the big league rotation. Between Kolby Allard, Joe Palumbo, and Brock Burke, the three starters combined for nineteen major league starts last season. There’s a preference to let those guys develop, but they are available to move if needed, and that’s a major positive.
The players are excited to begin the new season, and so are the fans. There was a swarm of Rangers’ faithful at Peek at the Park Saturday, and in less than two months, the first exhibition game gets underway at the new Globe Life Field. The end of the long offseason is near.
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