Few roster battles expected for Rangers

Darvish placeholder, bullpen spots to be settled in spring

Few roster battles expected for Rangers

ARLINGTON -- A Rangers offseason is almost never without major changes, and that was the case this offseason, when pitching coach Mike Maddux and hitting coach Dave Magadan were replaced by Doug Brocail and Anthony Iapoce.

But after a major overhaul of the coaching staff, which also included the promotions of Brad Holman to bullpen coach and Justin Mashore to assistant hitting coach, the Rangers had a relatively quiet offseason as far as player transactions. The re-signing of pitcher Colby Lewis was probably the biggest move the Rangers made this winter.

"You are always trying to improve the club," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're always looking to improve. But to me, there is no one time of the year to improve the roster. It's an 24/7/365 opportunity to improve. We tried to be fine in what we did this offseason. We weren't looking to make major changes or turn the club over.

"We accomplished what we wanted to do in bringing back Colby and adding depth in key spots. We'll continue to look to do that."

Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | Complete info

So when pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz., this week, the Rangers aren't anticipating many significant position battles in Spring Training. The fifth spot in the rotation is wide open, but only as a placeholder until Yu Darvish returns.

The bullpen is overflowing with big arms, which should make for some intriguing competition, and there will be the usual scramble for jobs off the bench. But the lineup is set, unless second baseman Rougned Odor or center fielder Delino DeShields stumbles. The Rangers have hinted that not everybody's spot is as secure as it seems.

"I like the group of guys coming back that have established themselves," manager Jeff Banister said. "But we've got some young guys coming back that need to put both feet on the ground and continue to move forward."

The Rangers are bringing 56 players to camp, including 30 pitchers. Darvish is one of those pitchers, but he is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is expected to be out until mid-May at the earliest. Lewis, 36, had surgery on his right knee at the end of the season, and the Rangers will be careful with him in Spring Training.

"Colby is in a spot where even if he didn't have knee surgery, he wouldn't do all the conditioning," Daniels said. "He is at an age where we wouldn't push him through all the pounding. He'll be on a different program. He won't be too far behind. He is a veteran guy who won't need too much to get ready."

Prospects to watch | Newcomers | Comeback candidates

Then there are the inevitable questions about left fielder Josh Hamilton, who remains a productive player when healthy. But keeping him healthy remains a difficult proposition for the Rangers. He had multiple right knee surgeries last year and had continued pain for much of the offseason.

"We'll just get Josh out there one day a time and see where it is," Daniels said.

Pitchers and catchers report
Thursday

Full squad reports
Feb. 23

First Spring Training game
Away vs. Royals, March 2, 2:05 p.m. CT 

Opening Day
Home vs. Mariners, April 4, 3:05 p.m. CT

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