Morning Nine from Surprise…Nine things left to consider
Nine things to watch with one week to go in the desert
1. Who will play center field? Right now Julio Borbon has out-played Craig Gentry. Right now the Rangers are frustrated that Gentry has had multiple physical issues and has not had a great spring. They know Gentry’s right-handed bat fits better with David Murphy, who hits left-handed, and that would allow Josh Hamilton to move back-and-forth between left and center. But Borbon has had a good spring although he has cooled off a bit lately.
2. Can the Rangers reinforce the bench with a big bat. Conor Jackson could have made this team with a strong spring. The Rangers could use a right-handed bat off the bench who can play first and the outfield. He has not had a good spring.
3. Brad Hawpe. The Rangers wish he could play the outfield. Hawpe has no doubts that he can play the outfield but he hasn’t thrown from the outfield. He had Tommy John surgery in August. Hawpe carries a quiet confidence about him. He believes he can contribute to a Major League team. He believes he can be a front-line player again. It’s just a tough fit for the Rangers right now.
4. Who will be the utility infielder…Alberto Gonzalez or Luis Hernandez. Maybe this is no big deal. But if something were to happen to Elvis Andrus, it would be a big deal. Best guess is Gonzalez but both have their supporters.
5. Will there be a surprise in the bullpen? The surprise would be if Mark Lowe or Koji Uehara don’t make the team. There are two reasons why one of them won’t make the team: 1.) The Rangers want a left-hander and 2.) Yoshinori Tateyama has pitched well this spring.
6. Has Robbie Ross won the left-handed relief job? Not yet. But he certainly is the Flavor of the Month in a competition that was Michael Kirkman’s job to lose.
7. Will the Rangers trade a reliever by the end of spring? Almost every team needs bullpen. If the Rangers trade Lowe or Uehara, it would 1.) open a spot for a left-hander; 2. Free up $4 million in salary; 3. Get Yoshinori Tateyama on the team. The counter argument is the Rangers don’t want to weaken their depth.
8. Will Neftali Feliz be ready? Tuesday will be a big start for him.
9. Will there be another big contract extension handed out this spring? Probably not. A last-minute deal is always possible but look for Josh Hamilton, Colby Lewis and Mike Napoli enter the season in the final year of their contracts before free agency.