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The Sunday Read: 5 items Rangers still have on Opening Day checklist

(AP photo/Jeff Dean)

 

The Rangers landed safely in Texas on Saturday night, leaving spring training in the rearview mirror.

Only five days and two exhibition games separate the Rangers from Opening Day and the beginning of their defense of the first World Series title in franchise history.

Nathan Eovaldi will start Thursday, Opening Day, and 2023 first-round pick Wyatt Langford will be on the team. World Series MVP Corey Seager and third baseman Josh Jung, who nursed injuries all spring, are also expected to play against the Cubs at Globe Life Field.

While the fates of Eovaldi and Langford were determined in Arizona, where Seager and Jung started trending the right way, the Rangers left for home with multiple decisions still pending.

“We have talked to players,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re all going to Texas. We’ll have a big group with us, and we’ll make our decisions there.”

First up is selecting the 26 players who will be on the Opening Day roster. As things stand now, with the Rangers off today, 20 spots are set and Jung and Seager are very likely if they don’t have any setbacks.

Those decisions might look clear, but general manager Chris Young said that the need to preserve depth for the long haul will outweigh spring performance in some instances.

Here’s a look at what the Rangers have left on their Opening Day to-do list.

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Clearing Seager, Jung

Jung says he is confident that he will be in the lineup, at third base, Thursday. Seager is cautiously optimistic that he’ll be a shortstop.

Manager Bruce Bochy says that both are day-to-day until that time. If one of them needs a day off Tuesday or needs to be a designated hitter a few times early in the season, Bochy is going to give them time.

Once they are deemed ready to go for the opener, many of the lingering roster decisions will take care of themselves. For instance, the Rangers won’t need Ezequiel Duran only at shortstop, which frees him up to play first base against left-handers and could negate the need for a righty-hitting first baseman.

Final bullpen spots

This one is a head-scratcher because so many relievers have pitched so well but also because of the need to preserve depth.

Starting pitcher Jose Urena has put himself in position to be in the Rangers’ bullpen or to exercise the out clause in minor-league deal and land somewhere else with a guaranteed rotation spot.

He pitched well this spring and is someone the Rangers want to keep. To do so, though, they would have to stash him in the bullpen. Based on Young’s comments Friday, that seems to be the Rangers’ preference.

That would leave two open spots to start the season. Marc Church was the Rangers’ best reliever this spring and deserves a roster spot. Grant Anderson also pitched well, and the Rangers might prefer a second left-hander to go with Brock Burke. Jacob Latz is the top candidate for that.

All three are on the 40-man roster and can easily be optioned once newcomer Michael Lorenzen is ready to start the season.

If he’s ready by Thursday, which Young said hasn’t been ruled out, and if Urena is added to the bullpen, Church, Anderson and Latz would be vying for one spot.

Where’s Wyatt?

The Rangers aren’t just going to make Langford the full-time DH. To make him an everyday player and to maximize the outfield defense, he’s going to have to get the many of his at-bats there instead of left field.

The potential need to give DH days to Seager and Jung could result in Langford, Evan Carter and Leody Taveras sitting. If so, expect the Rangers to time Carter and Taveras days off when they are facing a left-hander.

Bochy said that the Rangers were working to determine where Langford would hit in the lineup after batting third much of the spring. With Seager and Jung back, Langford could slide to fifth with Jonah Heim behind him and Jung batting seventh.

What a lineup.

Rotation order

The only spot in the rotation that has been set is Eovaldi. At one point, the spring rotation had Andrew Heaney, Jon Gray, Dane Dunning and Cody Bradford following Eovaldi.

Sticking the left-handed Heaney between right-handers Eovaldi and Gray makes baseball sense, as does wedging Bradford between Dunning and Eovaldi.

Young said that Bradford, who appears destined for the bullpen once Lorenzen is cleared, will make at least one start early in the season.

Who’s the closer?

Bochy has been keeping this one close to the vest.

The Rangers have four options in Jose Leclerc, David Robertson, Kirby Yates and Josh Sborz — potentially in that order.

While a closer-by-committee is possible, Bochy prefers having someone set for the ninth inning. Leclerc could get the first crack at it.

Outs in the eighth inning are important, too.

Leclerc and Robertson are fine pitching anywhere late in games as long as the ultimate outcome is a Rangers win.

Jeff Wilson, jeff@rangerstoday.com

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Jeff Wilson

Sports reporter for two decades. Sports fan for life. Covers the Texas Rangers. Graduate of TCU. Colorado native. Author of Purple Passion: TCU Football Legends (https://t.co/2fmXLyympx). Follow me on Twitter at @JeffWilsonTXR

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1 Comment

  1. deGrom Texas Ranger March 24, 2024

    Robertson seems like the best and most reliable closer option. Yates would be decent, as well. LeClerc and Sborz shouldn’t be entitled to the closer spot simply due to prior playoff performance. The future is more important than the past.

    Reply

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