Prince tops Rangers' bounce-back wish list

Prince tops Rangers' bounce-back wish list

ARLINGTON -- With Spring Training now days away, this is the first of a series of stories examining the 2015 Rangers, beginning with their bounce-back candidates. The series will also look at newcomers to the club, prospects who could contribute, lineup and bullpen possibilities, and details for fans planning their own visits to Surprise, Ariz.

Rebound is going to be an overworked word for the Rangers when pitchers and catchers report to camp, but their ability to do just that is going to play a key role if they want to get back on track after a 95-loss season in 2014.

They need to rebound as a team, and they have a long list of players who need to rebound from injuries. Some are further along than others. In the countdown to Spring Training, the logical place to start is one final offseason update on the many Rangers players who need to be "on the rebound" this season.

1B Prince Fielder: This is the big one. Fielder, who had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck on May 27, has been given a clean bill of health. Now he needs recapture the power production that has slipped the past three seasons. The Rangers have him under contract for six more years.

P Yu Darvish: The right-hander missed the final seven weeks of the season with mild inflammation in his right elbow. But Darvish is throwing again and was able to go through a normal winter conditioning program. There will be no limitations at the beginning of camp and the Rangers are hoping for a full season from him.

P Tanner Scheppers: He had his season wrecked by elbow problems after trying to become a starter and pitched in just eight games. Scheppers has been throwing this winter and is full strength for Spring Training. Manager Jeff Banister said he expects Scheppers to be their eighth-inning reliever this season.

P Matt Harrison: Back problems have limited Harrison to six starts over two seasons and he underwent lumbar spinal disk fusion surgery on June 3. Right now he is throwing off flat ground and won't pitch off a mound until March. The best hope is for him to be back in June, but there is no blueprint for rebounding from this surgery and Harrison may shut it down for good if more problems arise.

OF Shin-Soo Choo: He had to deal with left ankle and left elbow injuries almost the entire season. Choo ended up having surgery on both and his season ended on Aug. 23. Choo has been working out this winter and should be at full strength in Spring Training. He will likely move from left to right field, but Banister has not said where Choo will fit in the lineup.

IF Jurickson Profar: Chronic shoulder problems forced Profar to miss the entire 2014 season. He is currently on a limited throwing program and will not be at full strength to begin camp. The Rangers are hoping he will progress to the point where he will be ready to break camp with Triple-A Round Rock.

P Martin Perez: The most devastating injury on the Rangers occurred when Perez got off to a great start before coming down with elbow problems that resulted in Tommy John reconstruction surgery on May 19. The Rangers don't expect him to be an option until July and it will probably be 2016 before he is at his pre-op level again.

DH Mitch Moreland: He had season-ending surgery on his left ankle and did not play after June 7, but Moreland is at full strength going into Spring Training. He could get time at left field and first base but is the leading candidate to be the designated hitter against right-handed pitching.

OF Michael Choice: A tough rookie season ended with a September hamstring injury. Choice is recovered from that and is one of a dozen players competing for a spot in the outfield. The Rangers still believe he can be an everyday player with power from the right side of the plate.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.