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Texas Rangers: A Contender in the West?
Questions are yet to be answered about this years Texas Rangers, but after the first month of the season and the beginning of the second we have been given a glimpse of what this year's team could become.  Interestingly, it has been a glimpse of the good and the bad.  Unfortunately the bad has been more prevalent so far.

So far, the Rangers have three of their five starting pitchers on the disabled list due to injuries and one pitcher called up to fill in during the injuries is also down.  Originally, the starting rotation was to be made up of Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Kason Gabbard and Jason Jennings.
 
Brandon McCarthy started the season on the 60 day list and Jason Jennings, was just recently placed on the 15 day disabled list with a strained elbow, this after an 0-5 start with a 8.56 ERA.  

In addition to those two, Kason Gabbard went down due to back problems and is out for at least two weeks before we can even expect him to resume pitching on rehab.

Luis Mendoza, brought up from Triple A Oklahoma, is also on the 15 day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

Relief pitcher Eddie Guardado also spent 15 days out with an early season injury.

If that seems like a lot to go through during the first 30 days of the season it is, but that's not all the Rangers have had to face.  In addition to all the injuries to the pitching, the team has seen Hank Blalock go out for at least two weeks with a hamstring problem. In addition, Marlon Byrd has been on the disabled list for awhile now with a sore knee and Ian Kinsler has missed a couple of games with a sore hamstring to start the month of May. 

An yet, in spite of the injuries, the team seems to have turned around a terrible start in April by going on a four game winning streak to end April on a high note and get May off to a good start.  As a matter of fact, the team has won six of the last nine games both at home and on the road winning the last three series against the Twins, Royals and Athletics

So, it's still early in the season and the Rangers have a losing record, but I guess I am a diehard fan and I am choosing to believe that the team is going to keep things going in the right direction and have some significant games in September.  Is that wishful thinking or what?  Still, the team seems to be hitting better with men on base, and is fielding without so many errors and the pitching seems to be better in spite of the fact that the starting rotation is still a question mark.  Is that enough to see us through the heat of the summer and past the all Star game?  Who knows, but I like to think so.

The Rangers, on the plus side, has seen Michael Young get off to a good start and is looking like there is another 200 hits and 100 RBI's in his future this season.  Ian Kinsler is continuing to mature into a quality second baseman and Hank Blalock was off to a good start before his injury.  In addition, new addition Josh Hamilton earned the AL Player of the Month in April while leading the league in RBI's.  Throw in the contribution of another new Rangers player Milton Bradley  who is playing at a high level to start the season and add the performance of Rookie of the Year candidate David Murphy and new call up Brandon Boggs strong initial performance and you see a team that is starting to put things together. 

In recent days the bullpen has started living up to expectations with Joaquin Benoit, Rangers Pitcher of the Year in 2007, getting his act together with two strong outings against the A's.  C.J. Wilson seems to be growing into the closers role extremely well and Jamey Wright is providing strong long relief during the middle innings. 

And, the good news for the starting rotation is beginning to perform as expected or even better. with left hander A.J. Murray, having been brought up from Oklahoma and pitching well in his first outing Saturday, May 3rd.  Converted relief pitcher Scott Feldman continues to impress with strong outings after being brought up from Rangers minor league affiliate Frisco of the Double A Texas League.  So, the team pitching seems to have turned the corner and has had some good outings to begin the month of May and the wins are there as proof with the team going 3 -1 during the first weekend of the month.

I must admit, I really didn't think that the team had the talent this year to have a winning record and maybe they won't see that kind of improvement in their won loss record, but I think that we are seeing that the Rangers do in fact have the talent.  We all knew that it was going to be a growth process and that it was going to take time to get to where everyone wants to see the team as a pennant contender.  The addition of Hamilton, Murphy, Boggs, and pitchers Feldman and Murray and their performances show this team is growing in the right direction.   

This may not be the year the the Rangers play in October playoff games, but it seems that we are moving in the right direction.  Improvement in 2008 is a reasonable expectation and important wins in 2009, maybe even meaningful September games is also reasonable.   Losing record aside, the Rangers have been entertaining and will only get better as the season progresses and that is good news. 



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