Today marks the final -- and merciful -- game of Spring Training game action for 2014. Now five days away from Opening Day, we'll all hold our collective breath and pray that nothing else happens to further cause us any baseball-related stress heading into the season.
What's more is that, no matter what injuries and ailments the Rangers have suffered to this point, the show must go on. When Spring Training ends, the real season begins, and with it, a renewed sense of hope for (almost) all 30 teams in Major League Baseball.
We've spent months scouring through projections, predictions, and even occasionally, supposed curses left behind by a certain previous member of the Rangers' regime. Despite all of that, every ball club will have a clean slate -- with the exception of the Arizona Diamondbacks and LA Dodgers, who started their season over the past weekend in Australia -- and a new opportunity to make history.
I suppose it would be easy, then, to focus on the rash of injuries that has plagued what has arguably been the worst Spring Training in the history of the franchise.
I could focus on the fact that Yu Darvish won't make his Opening Day start, and how we'll be holding our breath today as we await the results of his exam with Dr. Drew Dossett.
I could focus on how Jurickson Profar will essentially lose at least half of his season due to a torn muscle in his shoulder, and we're still not sure who takes his place come Monday.
I could focus on the fact that neither Matt Harrison or Colby Lewis will be ready to go to start the season, as each continues to build their way back into action after 2013 was a lost season for each pitcher.
Derek Holland's dog, Wrigley, is still a sore subject for many, as Holland will be unable to pitch until June at the earliest, but likely not until July.
I could even focus on the image below, which details the projected WAR for players with injuiry issues on each MLB team heading into the season.
That's a bleak image to look at for sure. But I don't want to focus on that. We've done enough of that over the past month to not be able to at least look forward to the season.
Instead, I'd rather focus on the fact that the Rangers' early schedule in April includes a winnable slate, as the Rangers will have the Phillies, Astros, Mariners, and White Sox -- all at home. Sure, that's mixed in with trips to Tampa and Boston, but on the whole, if you need a slate of games that can keep the team afloat until Matt Harrison and/or Colby Lewis are ready to go, this is it.
For all the concern over Jurickson Profar missing time, I still feel better today about having a combination of Prince Fielder and whoever plays 2nd base than I did about a combination of Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland. Perhaps Mitch shows us something this season, but in a game where nothing is guaranteed, the Rangers got something at least close to guaranteed production in Fielder, of course barring injury.
There are certainly concerns about the pitching rotation and depth, but it's got to be at least a little comforting to the organization that both Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross have stepped up in a big way during Spring Training. Yeah, it's Spring Training, but we saw everything we could have hoped to see from the two, who will almost assuredly be a part of the rotation, at least in the beginning.
Neftali Feliz looks like a shell of his old self, but fortunately, the Rangers signed Joakim Soria a year ago in hopes of having some depth in the late-inning relief corps, and it appears Soria is ready to deliver on that promise.
Geovany Soto will be out just as long as Profar, and while there is concern over his backup, J.P. Arencibia, the play of Robinson Chirinos has kept him in line to possibly split time on a 50/50 basis with Arencibia to begin the season. His Spring Training line? .444/.500/.667, good for a 1.167 OPS.
Over the winter, the Rangers traded a fan-favorite in Craig Gentry, and got a prospect in return. That prospect, Michael Choice, has done nothing but increase his possible playing time to start the season, as he's had a performance to remember in the games that don't really count. I wouldn't bet against him playing a huge role on this team as some point in 2014, and you shouldn't either. Not after a Spring Training that saw him launch 4 home runs and post a 1.070 OPS.
The Rangers hope Leonys Martin takes another step forwad in 2014. Elvis Andrus will attempt to put together a full season instead of struggling for half of it. Adrian Beltre will at least start the year without any serious leg injuries, which immediately makes him a good bet to have a better defensive season than last.
Then, more than anything, is the fact that all of the bad has happened this early in the year. Perhaps, by the time we get to summer, the Rangers will see an influx of help, rejuvenation, and a new sense of refreshment on what always ends up being a long season. If all of this means that the Rangers finish strong instead of fading in September, count me in.
Today, we see the end of Spring Training, and the end is the beginning. Enjoy the ride.