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Wednesday Newsletter time: The MVPs of Texas Rangers spring training? They’ll open in the minors

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Asked for his choice for MVP of Texas Rangers spring training, manager Chris Woodward replied honestly.

“Probably the guy we didn’t put on the roster,” he said Tuesday before the Cactus League finale.

He was referring to Joe McCarthy, the non-roster outfielder/first baseman who did a lot with the chances he was given. A lot as in a 2.014 OPS in 14 at-bats.

But then Woodward mentioned Josh Smith, who was in the Opening Day lineup Tuesday at Triple A Round Rock, and agreed that Bubba Thompson deserved from consideration.

And Davis Wendzel. A.J. Alexy and his 0.00 ERA, too.

What do they have in common? None of them is on the Rangers’ Opening Day roster.

That says something about the roster upgrades the Rangers made in the offseason and speaks to the depth they have in the minor leagues.

All championship teams have quality replacements in the minors for when injuries strike. And they will strike.

None of that is to say players on the Opening Day roster didn’t have nice camps. Andy Ibanez made a case that he is better defensive and won’t be a liability at third base. Brock Burke pulled the biggest surprise of the spring by making the roster as a left-hander in the bullpen.

First baseman Nathaniel Lowe finished tied for the team lead in hits.

McCarthy and Alexy have the biggest gripes for not being on the Opening Day roster, and McCarthy appears to be attempting to leverage some interest from other clubs into a spot on the Rangers’ 40-man roster.

That would put him an injury or a non-productive big-leaguer away from the roster. A team that is still trying to accumulate young talent should find a way to keep McCarthy.

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Roster cleanup
While the Rangers made their final two decision for the season-opening roster, they have until Thursday morning before it must be submitted to MLB offices.

That gives them time to figure out how they are going to create three spots on the 40-man roster for infielder Charlie Culberson and right-handers Matt Bush and Greg Holland.

The Rangers will potentially have to find a fourth McCarthy.

An obvious way to do it would be to add Jose Leclerc to the 60-day injured list, but Woodward expressed a hesitancy as recently as Sunday in doing that. Leclerc is expected back in early June before he would reach 60 days, and the Rangers might want him even if only a week before the 60th day.

The Rangers have candidates to designate for assignment who might clear waivers (Sherten Apostel, Yonny Hernandez, Demarcus Evans), but finding four might be a tall order.

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Brother act
Lowe wasn’t just in a good mood Tuesday because he was leaving Arizona. His brother, Josh, received some very good news Monday.

Josh Lowe became the Tampa Bay Rays’ starting right fielder after they traded Austin Meadows to Detroit. Lowe was the Rays’ Triple A MVP and received a big-league callup in September, and singled and walked in his only two plate appearances.

“He’s going to play his matchups for sure and hopefully earn his way into the lineup every day,” Nathaniel Lowe said. “But it’s a tough ask over there, the way that they not limit players but only let you do your thing”.

Lowe speaks from experience, having been reduced to a platoon role in Tampa Bay before being acquired by the Rangers in a six-player trade in December 2020.

He became the Rangers’ everyday first baseman and remains in that role this season. Lowe hit .334 (11 for 32) this spring.

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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