BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Rangers officially set their roster at 3:00 PM Sunday afternoon, though the details were basically known a day earlier once their final exhibition game in San Antonio was completed. They lost that game to the Astros 13-6. WOW! What a surprise this opening day roster is.
Four of the players weren’t in camp when spring training began, including three that weren’t in camp a week ago. Infielder Donnie Murphy, right-handed reliever Seth Rosin, and catcher-third baseman Chris Gimenez have been claimed on waivers since Wednesday. Joe Saunders was signed to a minor league contract after spring training began.
Five more were given little chance of making the team when spring training began – outfielder Jim Adduci, right handed reliever Shawn Tolleson (who played at Allen High School and Baylor University), left-handed reliever Pedro Figueroa, infielder Josh Wilson, and catcher Robinson Chirinos. Also Nick Martinez, an infielder at Fordham University switched to pitcher after getting drafted by the Rangers, was assigned to AA Frisco; but will be activated next Saturday to be the starting pitcher in game five.
The Rangers also placed Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Jurickson Profar on the 15-day disabled list, as well as Geovany Soto on the 60-day DL. The team had earlier placed Derek Holland and Engel Beltre on the 60-day DL. Infielder Adam Rosales was designated for assignment.
The end result is: Pitchers (11) Neal Cotts, Figueroa, Jason Frasor, Alexi Ogando, Martin Perez, Seth Rosin, Robbie Ross, Saunders, Tanner Scheppers, Joakim Soria and Tolleson. Catchers (3) J. P. Arencibia, Chirinos and Gimenez. Infielders (5) Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Murphy and Wilson. Outfielders (6) Adduci, Michael Choice, Sin-Shoo Choo, Leonys Martin, Mitch Moreland, and Alex Rios.
The bottom line is that the opening day roster is far different than anyone imagined last February.
“Fluid” was the adjective manager Ron Washington used in discussing the roster with reporters Saturday. Gimenez essentially has to be on the opening day roster as MLB frowns upon waiving a player before the season begins that was claimed so late in spring training. He gives the Rangers three catchers, a rarity in this day and time when 12 man pitching staffs are the norm. General manager Jon Daniels said on ESPN radio (KESN 103.3 FM) Sunday morning that he didn’t believe they would have three catchers on the roster for very long. With Soto’s injury, the team wanted to add some depth at catcher, so grabbed Gimenez when Oakland placed him on waivers. It would seem that his immediate Ranger career will be measured in days instead of weeks, but Texas hopes he’ll clear waivers and stay in the system.
Texas also signed veteran catcher Chris Snyder from Spring Woods High School in Houston for additional catching depth. He’ll start the year at AAA Round Rock.
Rosin (pronounced “Rozine”) was selected by the Dodgers from the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft. Los Angeles waived him when he didn’t make their team, and the Rangers claimed him. Rosin must stay on the Rangers’ active roster for the season in order for the Rangers to keep him. He can not be optioned, and if he clears waivers, he must be offered back to the Phillies.
The biggest surprise was undoubtedly the starting rotation. Scheppers will start in Monday’s opener against Philadelphia, followed by Perez on Tuesday night and Ross on Wednesday. Scheppers joins Fernando Valenzuela as the only two pitchers since World War II to start on opening day in their first Major League start. Saunders will start next Friday’s series opener at Tampa Bay.
When he announced the rotation, Daniels challenged the media members present to guess the fifth starter, offering $1.00 if they could get the correct name. None could. Nick Martinez was the name. He had a fine spring, and will be activated for Saturday’s game. By waiting until Saturday to add Martinez to the roster, the Rangers have the luxury of carrying an extra position player for the first four games.
Martinez however may be on tap for just one start, and possibly will be shipped out after Saturday’s game. Colby Lewis has an opt out clause on April 10. If he’s not on the Rangers’ active roster by that date, he can opt out of his contract. April 10 is an off day, and Lewis is expected to be activated that day to start against the Astros at Globe Life Ballpark the following night.
The humongous amount of injuries this spring have masked a lot of the good things that have happened to the Rangers this spring. One is Scheppers and Ross stepping up to claim rotation spots with injuries to Darvish and Harrison and Alexi Ogando’s ineffectiveness. Their performances to earn rotation spots is a testament to the depth this organization has developed in their farm system. Unfortunately, with Darvish and Harrison expected to return shortly after Lewis, the likelihood is that Scheppers or Ross will return to the bullpen by May. Unless of course, there are more injuries.
Darvish’s start date on the disabled list was retroactive to March 21. He thus could be activated as early as April 6, though he’s not expected to be ready by then. He threw a 32 pitch bullpen session Sunday and reported no physical issues. His injury is obviously a key to the season. If he misses a material amount of time, the Rangers could be scrambling to finish .500 instead of scrambling to make the playoffs.
One surprise is Kevin Kouzmanoff failure to make the team. He hit .370 this spring with three home runs and 12 RBIs. Kouzmanoff is a corner infielder with Major League experience. Manager Ron Washington told MLB.com’s T. R. Sullivan, “I don’t have a reason why Kouzmanoff didn’t make the team.” There is a strong likelihood that Kouzmanoff, who was assigned to AAA Round Rock, will join the team sooner rather than later.
The season starts Monday. Donnie Murphy or Josh Wilson will start at second base. Michael Choice, who led the team in RBIs this spring, will undoubtedly start somewhere with the Phillies starting left-hander Cliff Lee. Choice could be the designated hitter or could be in left field. The weather man forecasts an overcast day, but no rain, with a high of 81. This is the start of the 21st season in the ballpark. The actual first game was played on April 1, 1994. It should be a glorious celebration.
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