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Tag:Tommy Hunter
Posted on: March 24, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 5:29 pm
 

Feliz to close, Rangers round out rotation

By Matt Snyder

One of the spring's more talked-about storylines has reportedly come to a conclusion. The 2010 Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz will remain the team's closer, while Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter will fill the final three rotation spots behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. (MLB.com via Twitter )

With Feliz out of the picture, the three choices aren't very surprising. The only other pitcher who could legitimately claim to have better stuff would be Michael Kirkman, but he could benefit from some more time in the minors before getting the call. It's a nice luxury for the Rangers to have so many viable options.

The majority of the discussion when it came to the last couple slots was whether Feliz should remain the closer or become a starting pitcher. Many project him as having the ability of a front-line ace. If that's going to happen, why not now? Those supporting a move to the rotation would tell you it's much more valuable for a team to get 150-200 innings out of its best pitcher than 70-80. On the flip-side, the Rangers don't have any other viable options at closer, but did have plenty of capable starting pitchers -- though not as good as Feliz.

Ultimately, Ron Washington and his staff must have felt it was best to leave the lock-down guy at the end of the line and see what they can get out of the young arms.

Hunter is only 24 and went 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA and 1.24 WHIP last season. Holland is also only 24. He hasn't had success at the major-league level yet, but dominated the minors. Harrison would seem the biggest question mark of the three, but has had a good spring.

UPDATE: Right on cue, Hunter went down with a strained groin . So the Rangers still don't have a set rotation.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Rangers' rotation shuffle shaking out

By Matt Snyder

According to pitching coach Mike Maddux, the Rangers have settled on the pitchers to fill the third and fourth spots in their starting rotation, behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis.

Though it was not official, Maddux told a radio show that Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison were close to being given the nod and that "the other spot is going to come down to the last couple weeks." (ESPN Dallas )

That last spot has a whole six guys still in the mix. Obviously, if management wants Neftali Feliz in the rotation, that's his spot. If not, the Rangers are deciding between Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman, Dave Bush, Brett Tomko and Alexi Ogando.

The smart money there is on Holland, though Kirkman is an up-and-coming prospect and Bush has the wily veteran factor. It just depends on which direction the Rangers want to go. That spot is probably a temp gig anyway, with Brandon Webb making progress and a sure bet to join the fray at some point during the first half of the season.

Hunter, 24, has an 8.31 ERA this spring, but has struck out 10 guys and only walked one. He was 13-4 last season with a 3.73 ERA in 128 innings.

Harrison, 25, has only allowed five hits and one earned run in nine spring innings (1.00 ERA). He had a 4.71 ERA in 37 appearances last season -- only six of which were starts. He was 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA as a starter.

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 11:12 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/12: Mo of the same

Mariano RiveraBy C. Trent Rosecrans

3 UP

1. Mariano Rivera, Yankees -- In his spring debut, Rivera struck out all three batters he faced -- the Twins' Jason Kubel, Matt Brown and Luke Hughes. Rivera got to spring training late because of his family's bout with the flu. The 41-year old is expected to pitch against on either Wednesday or Thursday.

2. Chipper Jones, Braves -- Jones went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer against the Astros and is now hitting .353/.421/.647 this spring. Not too bad for a guy many expected to be sitting at home this spring instead of coming back for another season with the Braves.

3. Danks brothers, White Sox -- Chicago starter John Danks allowed just one hit in five innings against the Dodgers on Sunday, while his younger brother Jordan was 2 for 5 with a grand slam in a "B" game against Cleveland. 

3 DOWN

1. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals -- Garcia was perfect in his first two innings on Sunday, but then gave up four runs in his third, three earned. Garcia's struggled this spring. In his three starts, he's pitched nine innings, allowed 18 hits, 10 earned runs, walked four and struck out four.

2. Joe Nathan, Twins -- Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Nathan hadn't given up a hit or a run in his first four one-inning appearances of the spring. Sunday, he made up for lost time, getting just one out and allowing six runs. He allowed five hits and one walk and a three-run homer by Delmon Young. He did say his elbow felt fine afterward.

3. Tommy Hunter, Rangers -- Fighting for a spot in the Rangers' rotation, Hunter has struggled all spring. It wasn't any better on Sunday, as he allowed seven runs on nine hits and 3 2/3 innings against the Giants. After his outing, Hunter put it plainly: "This spring stinks."

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 8:40 pm
 

Feliz to close; rotation fallout in Texas

By Evan Brunell

FelizOn Wednesday, the Rangers will throw Neftali Feliz into a spring training game expecting three innings out of the hurler. However, Feliz won't be putting in his work at the start of the game as is common for those who aspire to make the starting rotation. Instead, Feliz will be covering the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Why is that?

"I don't think I have to tell you why we're doing that," manager Ron Washington told MLB.com.

And so comes to a close -- well, almost -- on the experiment to make Feliz (pictured) a starter. While nothing is official, all signs are pointing to the AL Rookie of the Year continuing in the role that saw him nail down 40 saves in Texas' run to the AL pennant last season. While Feliz was open to returning to the rotation, he made clear to team president Nolan Ryan and the media that he was simply more comfortable remaining as closer simply due to his familiarity with the role. While Feliz came up through the minors as a starter, his success at the major league level has been out of the bullpen and he has certainly delivered. But Feliz will continue to pitch multiple innings in spring training to work on his slider and changeup in an attempt to diversify beyond simply a wicked fastball.

"We're going to keep him stretched out so he can use all his pitches," Washington said.

Meanwhile, the absence of Feliz means there are now seven candidates for three spots in the rotation, and that's not even counting the injured Scott Feldman and Brandon Webb. Feldman had surgery in the offseason to repair a microfracture in his right knee but is not expected to be ready to pitch at the major league level until well into May, if not longer. Webb, meanwhile, has a rotation spot waiting for him but the Rangers feel the former Cy Young Award winner won't be ready for Opening Day.

"He's progressing," Washington said. "That's a good step forward. We went from long toss to bullpen to throwing live BP. Depending on how that goes, we'll set a plan from there."

Even if Webb isn't ready when time to line up along the foul lines and be introduced to the crowds, he shouldn't be that far behind, which only puts added pressure on the other candidates to step up their game.

Of the remaining candidates, top prospect Tanner Scheppers (ranked No 77. on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects) profiles as a reliever long-term and is currently battling back stiffness, while Feliz's compatriot in the bullpen, Alexi Ogando, is gamely trying to win a rotation spot but is likely to return to his setup role. Dave Bush, the former Brewer, is in camp hoping for a rotation spot along with prospect Michael Kirkman, a lefty who had 14 relief appearances for Texas last season and could reprise that role in 2011.

Related

Tommy Hunter appears to be the one candidate with the best shot at a gig as he posted a 3.73 ERA (4.70 xFIP) in 128 innings over 22 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen. Hunter also posted similar statistics in his 19-start stint with the Rangers in 2009. 

The other favorites are Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Holland is a former top prospect who has not yet locked down a permanent spot in the rotation but could be the club's best pitcher by year's end. The 24-year-old had a 4.08 ERA (4.40 xFIP) in 10 starts and four relief appearances for the Rangers and also appeared on the postseason roster along with Hunter. The lefty will start Wednesday in Feliz's place.

Harrison, meanwhile, has impressed early in camp. However, his peripherals don't come close to what Holland can put up and the club used him almost exclusively in relief last season with six starts and 31 bullpen appearances.

One has to imagine that Hunter and Holland will occupy the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the rotation, respectively, with Bush and Harrison battling for the final spot that will eventually be turned over to Webb. There is also thought to be a long-relief spot available which could go to the loser of the rotation sweepstakes.

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 9:00 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Jon Daniels' best, worst moves

DanielsBy Evan Brunell

The Rangers have handed GM Jon Daniels a four-year extension, rewarding the 33-year-old for steering the club to its first-ever AL pennant in 2010. For all of Daniels' talents, however, he's made quite a few missteps along the way. Here's a look back at Daniels' three best and worst moves as Rangers GM...

3 UP

1. The Teix Heist

The reason the Rangers made the World Series is thanks to the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves. Consummated at the trade deadline of 2007, this deal represented the first time Daniels was trading away a major piece of a team and he needed to hit a home run.

He did. By dealing Teix and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay, Daniels hauled in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. The fact Salty stalled in Texas is concerning, but many viewed the backstop at the time as one of the elite young catchers in the game. Andrus would go on to blossom as Texas' starting shortstop while Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 40 saves last season and is currently shifting to the rotation. Harrison is a young lefty who is battling for a rotation spot himself, while Jones is the one non-entity.

This deal will continue to pay dividends over time, as Andrus and Feliz will be in town for years to come while Harrison is valuable depth. Saltalamacchia's career is not yet over as he is slated to start in Boston, and the jury is out on Daniels' return for Salty in three minor leaguers.

2. Game Over

Daniels made another significant trade the day of the 2007 trade deadline when he dealt "Game Over" Eric Gagne and cash to the Red Sox for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre.

Gagne was impressive in his first season as an ex-Dodger and after missing the bulk of the 2006 season. He wasn't the lockdown closer of old, but looked as if he could be a quality part of the bullpen. Except as Red Sox fans know, he completely imploded and while he walked away with a World Series trade, he will forever be known as Gag-me in Boston. (For some reason, there are over 11,000 views of a video I took recording Gagne's Red Sox debut.) His saving grace in Boston was as a Type-B free agent, and the Red Sox would later trade the player they drafted with the compensatory pick to Cleveland as part of the Victor Martinez deal.

Meanwhile, David Murphy is one of the more valuable fourth outfielders in the game and would be a starter for many other teams. Beltre has his makeup questions but is developing nicely as Texas' center fielder of the future. Gabbard flamed out, but at the time was a possible back-of-the-rotation starter.

3. Draft Bonanza

A major reason why Daniels has stayed viable as GM of the Rangers is his drafting history. Of course, major credit goes to the people working under him that are in charge of the draft, but Daniels deserves credit for putting these people in those roles as well as having a hand in the drafting and development of these players.

His first draft pick, Kasey Kiker, has yet to develop significantly but is just 22 and does hold some promise. However, his following two have had major league time already: power-hitting Chris Davis who has unfortunately failed time and time again to lock down a starting spot in Texas and Danny Herrera, who is a member of the Reds bullpen currently and was used to get Josh Hamilton. Michael Main was used to get Bengie Molina, while Blake Beavan and Justin Smoak were packaged for Cliff Lee

Tommy Hunter was a viable member of the rotation last season and could have a nice career as a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, while Julio Borbon is prepared to start in center field. Tanner Scheppers ranked No. 77 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects and  may have ranked higher if he was clearly going to be a starter. The club also came away with an impressive haul in the 2010 draft.

Honorable Mention: One would expect the deal bringing in Josh Hamilton to be one of Daniels' better deals, but it's hard to justify that as one of his best deals simply by virtue of giving up Edinson Volquez. There's no denying Hamilton's talent -- after all, he won the AL MVP award -- but Volquez has turned out pretty well for himself. There's a similar case to be made for the trade that imported Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz from Milwaukee in exchange for Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero and Juan Cordero, so the honorable mention goes to signing Colby Lewis to a two-year deal prior to the 2010 season. Lewis was an utter failure stateside before heading to Japan and discovering his talent. Daniels didn't hesitate to bring in Lewis, and all he did was become the Rangers' best right-handed starter in the team's run to the AL pennant.

3 DOWN

1. The Young and Heartless

In March of 2007, Daniels signed shortstop Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension, a contract that was strange at the time and now has snowballed. Two seasons later, Daniels bumped Young to third base in a contentious move to free up short for Elvis Andrus. Young's bat has continued to be solid, but he remained a defensive liability at third and in a much-publicized spat, is now headed to DH and first base after demanding a trade. However, thanks to Young's contract, it will be difficult to move him.

Daniels certainly shouldn't have signed Young to this deal, but that's not why this ranks as one of his three worst moves as GM. While there's a lot of "he-said, he-said" going on by both sides, the fact remains that Young is not very keen on speaking to Daniels and feels "misled." Whether or not you believe Daniels or Young (or think the true answer is somewhere in-between), Daniels should have done a far better job managing the crisis as this has become a nightmare, both in terms of Young's trade value and in public relations. Heck, it even made a three-year-old kid very upset.

2. A-Gone

It's hard to fault Jon Daniels for trading away Adrian Gonzalez as he needed pitching and had Mark Teixeira at first. But goodness, couldn't he have done better? In his second significant trade of his GM career -- the first was also pretty bad -- Daniels shipped away someone who would become one of the best first-basemen in the game in short order in Gonzalez to the Padres along with Chris Young, who fashioned a nice run for himself in the rotation for San Diego. Terrmel Sledge was a throw-in to get Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian in return.

Eaton was a disaster, making just 13 starts and moving onto the Phillies where he was even worse, while Otsuka became the Rangers' closer but fell to injury in 2007 at age 35 and has not returned to the majors since. Killian is now in independent baseball.

Hey, every GM has trades they regret. It's part of life. But this is one regrettable trade that makes one really cringe looking back on it.

3. A-Rod to Soriano to Nothing

OK, so Daniels wasn't responsible for the initial trade of Alex Rodriguez, but he certainly was responsible for turning Rodriguez's return in Alfonso Soriano into something. Unfortunately, his first major trade was a flop when he shipped Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga and Terrmel Sledge. Sledge would be shipped in another terrible deal a month later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, while Wilkerson couldn't arrest the decline he began in his final season for the Nats in '06. He did not top 350 at-bats in the two seasons he was a Ranger.

While Galarraga was and still is nothing to write home about, he chewed up almost 500 innings for the Tigers after the Rangers essentially gave him away, predominantly as a starter the last three seasons -- and of course, as the architect of the 28-out perfect game. He is now a Diamondback and expected to serve in the back of the rotation. These types of pitchers are far from sexy and you can't blame Daniels for tossing Galarraga in the deal, but it only serves to make this deal look even worse given he got absolutely nothing of value for Soriano, which in turn meant the team got nothing for A-Rod.

In Daniels' defense, he was handicapped by Soriano entering the final year of his deal, but Daniels should have looked for prospects in any deal, not an outfielder on the decline, a pitcher he would give away a couple years later and a bit piece that would go on to become part of Daniels' worst trade to date.

Dishonorable Mention: Not to pile on Daniels, who has turned into a very fine GM, but just like he has plenty of candidates for honorable mention, he has candidates for this category as well. Signing Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million deal was head-scratching at the time and he stumbled badly on December 23, 2006 when he dealt away John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and David Paisano. Danks and McCarthy were two highly-regarded prospects at the time, but Danks is the one that blossomed, while Masset would go on to bust out himself as an important part of the Reds bullpen.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Messin' with Texas' starting rotation

Posted by Matt Snyder

The Texas Rangers won the American League pennant last season, yet on March 1, they have just two official members of their starting pitching staff. C.J. Wilson -- who one year ago was trying to convince his bosses he could start -- is the opening day starter. Colby Lewis -- who one year ago was returning to stateside from Japan -- is the number two.

Funny thing is, the Rangers could actually end up having a pretty solid rotation. There is a void at the top, sure. Wilson and Lewis seem more like middle-of-the-rotation guys at this point, which is why the team was ready to pay quite a bit to retain the services of Cliff Lee.

Obviously the team would be better off at present with Lee, but there's potential left on this staff.

Let's make an at least mildly realistic argument everything is going to come together, just to see how things could shake out -- meaning we aren't going to say Brandon Webb immediately returns to Cy Young form, but we will assume a lot of "ifs" pan out positively.

Wilson had a rough September, but you could argue he was just tiring. It was his first season in the bigs as a starting pitcher. He exceeded 200 innings after never having thrown more than 73 2/3 in a major league season. The last time he topped 100 innings in a professional season was 2005 (48 in the majors, 58 1/3 in the minors). Before September, he was 14-5 with a 2.88 ERA. Control was an issue all season and his 4.1 BB/9 was exactly the same as his career mark. However, getting his command in order is his top priority this spring. There's no pressure to make the rotation and, already being the opening day starter, he need not worry about anything else.

Lewis was a bit inconsistent, but finished real strong. He closed 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last five starts. He carried that over into the playoffs by going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts. This included dominating the Yankees twice. If he carries this over into 2011, he'll be a very capable second starter.

In the two, the Rangers have a pair of 200-inning guys with postseason experience, though neither is old.

Next, you have Webb. He hasn't thrown a major league pitch in almost two calendar years, but he was the best pitcher in the national league from 2006-2008, winning a Cy Young and finishing second the other two years. He has been building up arm strength without a setback so far this spring. He finally got on the mound and threw some pitches recently. It does appear he'll be an in-season addition to the rotation (via FOX Sports), rather than an opening day member, but that's OK. The Rangers are being realistic with him. By the end of the year, who's to say he can't be back to a quality major-league starter, even if he'll never be an ace again.

Now, a sleeper: Michael Kirkman. The 24-year-old left-hander sparkled in his stint for the Rangers last season, to the tune of a 1.65 ERA in 14 major-league appearances out of the bullpen. He accrued some postseason experience, too, though he was slightly touched up in one of his three outings. As a starter in triple-A last season, Kirkman was 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA -- which, in the Pacific Coast League, is quite the feat. He struck out 130 hitters in 131 innings and won the PCL pitcher of the year award. Pitching coach Mike Maddux sang Kirkman's praises on XM Radio Monday morning and Rangers brass seem to be favoring him for a spot at this point (Star-Telegram ).

Then the Rangers have Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter.

Harrison's fallen off in recent years without consistent starts, but he was once a solid prospect and is still only 25. With this group it's doubtful there will be room for him, but you never know.

Holland, 24, is a former top-35 prospect. He battled injury issues last season, but is healthy now. He was lights-out in triple-A last season, going 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He looked good in the ALCS against the Yankees (0 ER in 5 2/3 innings). Further development this season could see Holland as a breakout starter.

Hunter has an ERA-plus of 115 over the past two seasons, which include 41 starts. He went 13-4 last season. He's only 24.

One of these guys could end up being the fifth-best starter for the Rangers come August, with the other two left out in the cold -- and we haven't even mentioned Neftali Feliz. Few pitchers in the league have a better arm than the 22-year-old fireballer. He was an All-Star and won Rookie of the Year last season as a closer, but the Rangers see him as a starter in the future. Is the future, here, April of 2011? It's possible. He's in the fight to make the rotation as of Tuesday.

What if the Rangers plug him in as a five? And then Wilson, Lewis, Webb, Kirkman and Feliz all pitch to their ceiling in 2011? Even if Feliz remains at closer -- which seems likely here -- either Holland or Hunter can easily be seen as a fine fifth rotation member.

So is the rotation of the Rangers really an issue? Did they really need to try and match the Phillies or Yankees for Cliff Lee?

Time will tell, but it's certainly not a lost cause in Texas. Not by any stretch. The uncertainty with the rotation could actually end up being an embarrassment of riches.

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Posted on: February 17, 2011 7:57 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 8:09 pm
 

Hunter to battle for rotation spot; Borbon is CF

HunterOn Thursday, skipper Ron Washington put starting pitcher Tommy Hunter on notice while erasing any doubts about who the team's center fielder will be.

With Josh Hamilton shifting over to left field, the expectation was that Julio Borbon would win the CF job but that David Murphy would have a chance to steal it away.

Not so, as Washington told the Dallas Morning News that Borbon is the starting center fielder. That leaves Murphy to function in the fourth outfielder role that he has done so for the last four years. With injuries and the DH spot available to Murphy, he's been able to amass at least 454 plate appearances over the last three seasons, so playing time will not be too hard to come by.

However, Washington refused to hand anyone a rotation spot beyond C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. That means three spots are wide open, with Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando being given a shot to win a spot in the rotation after pitching out of the bullpen last season. They'll have to battle Eric Hurley, Brandon Webb, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman, Derek Holland and... Tommy Hunter.

Yep, Tommy Hunter, even though the right-hander posted a 3.73 ERA in 128 innings. However, his poor strikeout rate of 4.8 batters per nine and luck on batting average on balls in play along with a high stranded-runners percentage mean his xFIP was a high 4.70.

However, when asked if Hunter's absence from a guaranteed spot meant he needed to improve, Washington said it was about something else.

"It's more of a don't take anything for granted type of thing," he said. "There is an opportunity for him. There is as much opportunity for him as their is for anyone else. But baseball is a competitive sport and he's got to seize the opportunity."

It's a smart move to make. Hunter may have impressed, but he also pitched sparingly in the postseason and the team appears to be aware that he pitched over his head. While Hunter has to be considered a heavy favorite for the rotation along with Feldman and Holland, forcing him to compete in spring training can only lead to good things.

Washington also added that as long as Brandon Webb is healthy, he'll grab a rotation spot.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: January 28, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Berkman bashes Rangers as 'average' team

BerkmanLance Berkman took to the airwaves Thursday, speaking on 1560 AM in Houston to explain why he chose the Cardinals over the Rangers when inking a contract. The 35-year-old opted for a one-year, $8 million pact with St. Louis to play right field as opposed to DHing and playing some outfield and first base for the Rangers.

So, why the Cardinals over the defending American League champions?

"I felt like if they didn't re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that's probably what's going to end up happening," Berkman said Thursday via ESPN.com. Berkman faced the Rangers in the ALCS as a member of the Yankees after coming over from the Houston Astros, where he had the best years of his career. "It's all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year."

Is Berkman just jealous that the Yankees fell to the Rangers?

 

Texas finished 2010 fifth overall in runs scored with 567 and followed that up with 636 runs allowed (not including unearned runs), good for 10th in all of baseball. That's pretty impressive for a squad known more for hitting than pitching. While Cliff Lee fronted the rotation, the other contributors were C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, also getting starts from Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman and Derek Holland among others.

Wilson had a successful conversion to the rotation after spending four years as a full-time reliever. He finished with a 3.35 ERA in 204 innings pitched and while he did pitch over his head according to his 4.20 xFIP, he also showed he's for real and can be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Wilson was backed up by Colby Lewis, a failed MLB starter who went to Japan, discovered how to pitch and returned to his old stomping grounds of Texas to post a 3.72 ERA in 201 innings -- and he looks for real.

It's behind the two pitchers where Texas may scrap. Scott Feldman did go 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA for Texas in 2009, but followed that up with a 5.48 ERA stinker in 22 starts and seven relief appearances. The jury is out on just what Feldman can provide, while Hunter threw together a 3.73 ERA in 22 starts. It's difficult to imagine Hunter as anything more than a No. 4 starter with a 4.50 ERA. But the saving grace could come from Derek Holland, just 24 and who contributed a 4.08 ERA in 10 starts and four relief appearances.

It's definitely a rotation with a lot of questions, but the Rangers have to feel confident going into the season that their offense, supplemented by new third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli can carry the load until the Rangers see how the rotation shakes out.

That doesn't mean to say Berkman is a Rangers hater. He cited that the opportunity to stay in his home state of Texas, playing in a park conducive to offense and knowing Nolan Ryan and bench coach Jake Moore as what drew him to Texas as an option -- until he looked closer.

Meanwhile, Wilson fired back on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas Friday.

"I think it's funny," Wilson said. "He was contemplating retirement, so I'm not going to take anything too seriously. I'm not going to get offended by anything he says. If that's a representative idea of what people around the league think, that's better for us because they're going to do the same thing and they're going to not take us seriously. If we end up stomping through the playoffs again, everyone will be like, 'Wow, what a bummer.' "

Wilson also addressed comments Berkman made about Adrian Beltre, whom Texas signed to a five-year, $80 million deal that has an option for another $16 million that should be easily exercised.

 

"They were itching to spend some money," Berkman said of acquiring Beltre. "I probably could have gotten the best deal out of them, especially in light of what they gave Adrian Beltre, which I think is pretty much of a reach for him."

Wilson begs to differ -- as he should, as Beltre should steal away some hits and turn them into outs.

 

 "Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and he's a pretty good hitter as well," Wilson said. "I don't know if anyone knows he hit .340 last year, which is definitely better than .220. I'm pretty stoked about having him on my team."

For the record, Beltre hit .321 in what was one of the best seasons of his career, and Berkman hit .248. While Beltre was likely playing over his head, his defense is invaluable and should do well in the home park of the Rangers. Meanwhile, Berkman is struggling to avoid retirement.

"We have a lot of pride on our team," Wilson added. "We're very proud of what we've turned our team into. It's about the players and what we've done on the field. We've gotten better. Now the organization is somewhere and we have direction.

"If someone is going to slam us, that's going to be something. ... You hold little grudges like that. I hope the fans understand and when Lance comes to play at some point in Texas, I hope our fans boo."

The booing will have to wait, as the Cardinals are not slated to visit Texas in 2011.

 

-- Evan Brunell

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com