MLB Team Report - Texas Rangers - INSIDE PITCH


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Considering the team's lofty expectations when 2014 began, the Texas Rangers enter the offseason coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

Everything went wrong, starting with injuries to key pieces.

The resignation of manager Ron Washington with 22 games left in the season capped a horrible year.

"Certainly, at the lowest point of the summer, when the writing was on the wall and we were out of it, it was disappointing, and I think, at times, we were embarrassed," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Obviously, we have high expectations as we go into this offseason. We expect to win every year. We've created that expectation, created that atmosphere, the culture."

The first order of business was hiring a new manager, and the Rangers settled on Jeff Banister.

Banister, who was the Pittsburgh Pirates' bench coach the past four seasons, successfully battled bone cancer during his high school days in Houston. He was also temporarily paralyzed from the waist down for a few weeks. He was playing catcher and suffered a broken neck when he was involved in a home plate collision.

Banister went on to play one game in the major league leagues, going 1-for-1 for 1991 Pirates.

The team Banister takes over figures to be vastly improved in 2015, if not a contender, with players such as first baseman Prince Fielder, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and left-handed pitcher Derek Holland returning to full health. Holland came back from knee surgery late in the season and was very effective.

Daniels said his focus as far as on-field personnel will be on adding a starting pitcher to join staff ace Yu Darvish, Holland, one of either right-handed pitchers Nick Tepesch or Nick Martinez and a fifth starter, likely Colby Lewis.

The bullpen wasn't spared injuries, either. Right-hander Tanner Scheppers, who began the season in the rotation, moved to a relief role and eventually was lost to an arm injury. However, right-handers Phil Klein and Roman Mendez both demonstrated ability while forced into action this year.

Even if everybody missing from the lineup returns, the Rangers are expected to be a bat, maybe two, short with the expected departure of right fielder Alex Rios. Team management is also enthusiastic about the development of 20-year-old second baseman Rougned Odor.

"I think all that said as we've come through here the last month, for me, there were a lot of building blocks," Daniels said. "A lot of positive things to look back on, high expectations."

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MLB Team Report - Texas Rangers - NOTES, QUOTES


RECORD: 67-95, fifth place in American League West

TEAM MVP: As bad as it got for the Rangers, it is hard to imagine where they would have been without 3B Adrian Beltre, the team's most consistent player and a mentor to the young players in the clubhouse. His return alone gives the team's chances for 2015 credibility. Beltre, without any viable protection almost the entire year, hit 19 home runs, drove in 77 RBIs and batted .324, fourth in the American League. The third baseman is due to make $18 million next season with a vesting option of $16 million in 2016 that the team can void if Beltre fails to either have 1,200 at-bats in 2014-15 combined or 600 at-bats in 2015. He had 612 at-bats in 2014.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: OF Shin-Soo Choo never lived up to expectations in the first year of a seven-year, $130 million free agent contract. Before missing all of September, Choo played through a bum ankle for much of the season, and it showed. He hit .242 with 131 strikeouts in 123 games. Choo's career averages are 19 home runs and 78 RBIs, appreciably better than the 13 and 40 he registered in 2014. His last appearance in the clubhouse was in a walking boot. He underwent left elbow surgery in late August and left ankle surgery in mid-September. Choo will be back, but perhaps not in the leadoff role. Interim manager Tim Bogar said he visualizes Choo in the No. 5 slot if he is the full-time manager in 2015.

TOP PROSPECT: Club officials are salivating over the prospects of 20-year-old 3B Joey Gallo, who hit 40-plus home runs in the minors for the second season in a row. In all probability, he will make his first appearance at the end of next year or early 2016. There is some speculation that it might not be at third base. Gallo played some first for Double-A Frisco this year, though the team likely won't waste his arm there. In instructional league, he was been fiddling around in the outfield, but GM Jon Daniels said not to look too much into that. "It's about adding versatility and also about keeping him engaged and have a little fun out there," Daniels said. "I think it was a little bit of effort on our part to throw different things at him. We've got a Hall of Famer at third base, and if at some point we deem Joey is ready, we want to have some options."