When Bobby Valentine wasn't performing the spring training duties of a major league manager—i.e., evaluating talent, sounding upbeat and squinting—he was scurrying about like a minor league skipper, repairing the netting in the batting cage and raking the mud out of the infield. Now don't be smart and ask in which league the Rangers belong. In Valentine's clubhouse, negative thoughts must be checked at the door.
The Rangers lost 99 games last season and could drop that many again. But they'll be better for it, because this team has a future. Eight members of the Opening Day roster have less than one year of major league experience, including three-fifths of the starting rotation. Valentine, a youngster himself at 35, says to forget birthdays. What he likes is "the enthusiasm that the young players bring with them."
The most touted among the rookies is rightfielder Pete Incaviglia. Incaviglia's presence as the No. 6 hitter will buck up what was, by 70 runs, the weakest offense in the AL. So will a full season from leadoff hitter Oddibe McDowell. Called up in May, McDowell hit .270 and 13 home runs after the All-Star Game, but his .304 on-base percentage for the season leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Whether the Rangers can prevent the other team from scoring is another concern. Veteran staff ace Charlie Hough, 38, will be lost for a couple of weeks because of a broken pinkie incurred while shaking hands. The other starters include a pitcher half Hough's age, 19-year-old Ed Correa, and two other relative kids: Jose Guzman, 22, and Bobby Witt, 21.
Righty Greg Harris, 30, led AL relievers in two categories last season: strikeouts (111 in 113 innings) and threats to switch-pitch. Both Harris and pitching coach Tom House claim that Harris's southpaw stuff is of major league caliber, but Valentine hasn't allowed the experiment to go beyond BP. This spring, Mizuno sent Harris a glove with thumbs on either side, but Harris is resigned, for the time being, to wearing it on his left hand. Switch-pitching, like the Rangers as a whole, is an idea whose time has yet to come.
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
Career BA (.282) 3rd among catchers behind Ted Simmons (.287) and TonyPena (.285).
RBIs in '85 were most by any 1B in the 25-year history of the Rangers/Senators II franchise.
String of walks in 16 consecutive games six short of alltime mark held by Roy Cullenbine.
Had 21 errors in '85; in '84 he had 24 before the All-Star break.
Attended Stanford, where he was John Elway's roommate.
Rangers were 12-3 in games in which he hit a home run.
Youngest AL player to hit for cycle since Jim Fregosi did it in 1964.
Had 1.70 putouts per nine innings, 2nd-lowest rate among AL outfielders. Lowest? Reggie.
Lasted 7.36 innings per start, 4th best among AL pitchers.
Rate of 5.89 hits per nine innings 2nd lowest among AL relievers.