Bogar opts to break from Rangers' coaching staff

Former interim skipper will pursue other opportunities around the Major Leagues

Bogar opts to break from Rangers' coaching staff

ARLINGTON -- Tim Bogar, who served as interim manager for the final 22 games of the Rangers' season, will not be joining new manager Jeff Banister's coaching staff.

That was the conclusion reached after Bogar had discussions with Banister and general manager Jon Daniels. Bogar was passed over for the managerial post when the Rangers hired Banister last Thursday.

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"Jeff Banister and I have both had discussions with Tim over the last few days as we began the process of putting a Major League coaching staff together, and we have decided that it is best for us to go in another direction," Daniels said. "I have indicated to Tim that he has the option of accepting another position within the organization and at present, he is going to look at other potential opportunities. I want to thank Tim for his contributions to the Rangers this past season, especially as interim manager under some very difficult circumstances."

Banister has also spoken with pitching coach Mike Maddux and hitting coach Dave Magadan. There is a strong chance Maddux will return but Magadan is up in the air. The Yankees, Mets and Athletics have all shown interest in him since the season ended.

That leaves first-base coach Bengie Molina, who also instructs the catching, and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins, who has a close relationship with Maddux. Bobby Jones, who was the assistant hitting coach and served as bench coach under Bogar, will likely stay in the organization in some capacity.

This leaves the Rangers with two openings on the coaching staff as Gary Pettis has left the organization to join the Astros. The Rangers were 14-8 under Bogar, winning 13 of their last 16 games.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Prospect Williams hits big homer in AFL action

Prospect enters game in third inning, belts a two-run jack to pad lead for Surprise

Prospect Williams hits big homer in AFL action

MESA, AZ. -- Nick Williams didn't expect to play Monday, but that didn't stop him from coming through with the game's big hit. Williams, the Rangers No. 4 prospect, made his entrance as an injury replacement in the third inning and later drilled a two-run home run to lead the Surprise Saguaros to a 6-5 win over the Mesa Solar Sox.

Williams, a former second-round draftee in the Texas Rangers' organization, progressed all the way to the Double-A Texas League this season before coming out to the Arizona Fall League for extra work. His homer was his first of the AFL campaign, and he's batting .300 through his first 10 games.

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"It's going good," said Williams of his time spent with the Saguaros. "At first, I remember feeling like … you'll probably play two or three games, come play in the sand. But I've been playing every day. I've been enjoying it on and off the field. I've been with a great group of guys. Our team is awesome. And yeah, it feels a lot better actually, playing every day, playing top talent, because it's a lot of learning."

Williams hit .292 with 13 home runs in 94 games for Class A Myrtle Beach this season, but he struggled after a late-season promotion to Double-A Frisco. The 21-year-old hit just .226 with one home run in 15 games for Frisco, but he persevered despite being one of the youngest players in the league.

Monday was supposed to be a day off for Williams, but he was inserted into the game after starter Rusney Castillo injured his thumb. Williams doubled in his first at-bat and scored to help give Surprise a 4-3 lead after five innings, and he came back in the sixth to blast a two-run shot to left field.

"That was the second time this has happened, and it caught me off-guard," he said of entering the game late. "So I was like, 'Well I'm just going to take a deep breath and be patient and find my pitch.' "

Mesa took the game's first lead with two runs in the first inning, but Surprise battled back to make it a 2-2 game in the second. Mesa scored once more in the second to take the lead, but Surprise starter Keith Couch worked through the fourth inning and earned the victory due to Williams' heroics.

Burch Smith pitched a scoreless inning for Surprise, and Cincinnati signee Raisel Iglesias made his debut stateside with a perfect sixth inning in relief. Iglesias signed out of Cuba during the summer. Carlos Gonzalez got the save but also allowed a run to Mesa in the ninth inning of the win.

Sean Nolin started for Mesa, working two innings and allowing two runs. Mesa reliever Roberto Osuna pitched two innings and took the loss after surrendering two runs in the fourth. The Solar Sox pushed the potential tying run to second base in the ninth, but that runner was picked off to end the game.

Williams said he's working on recognizing and hitting off-speed pitches in the Arizona Fall League, and he said that his home run felt good for one simple reason. Williams has hit the ball well this fall, but he had yet to go deep, and he said Monday that it meant a lot to finally hit one out.

"I was like, 'Geez, I keep hitting the fence and the warning track,' " he said. "I was like, 'I wonder if I'm finally going to get one out this go-round.' But yeah, it feels good to get that first one out of the way."

Surprise improved to 6-6, and Mesa fell to 5-6. Williams, a Texas native and left-handed hitter, said his AFL season is a capper to a pretty productive year.

"Yeah, I'm pretty pleased with it. It went all right," Williams said of his season. "But a lot to improve on as far as simple things. But yeah, as far as the whole year, I think it went pretty good."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Banister never gave up on long road to Texas

New Rangers manager defeated bone cancer that threatened the loss of a leg

Banister never gave up on long road to Texas

ARLINGTON -- Jeff Banister will be standing in the Rangers' dugout as their manager next season. He is lucky to be standing at all, much less on two good legs.

His extraordinary journey to become the new manager of the Rangers included dealing with bone cancer that threatened the loss of his left leg in high school and three crushed vertebrae in his neck that left him paralyzed in college. The two separate ordeals threatened to crush his hopes and dreams at an early age.

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Instead, the reverse happened and the issues only made him even more determined to achieve his quest. Through incredible perseverance, he was able to realize his dream of getting to the Major Leagues for at least one at-bat as well as spend 29 years with the Pirates organization in a variety of roles. Now, he finally gets his chance to manage in the Major Leagues with the Rangers.

"I've never chased a job in my life," Banister said at his introductory press conference on Friday. "I think the best opportunities to come along are the ones you're not looking for. Have I prepared myself for this opportunity? Yeah, from the day that I stopped playing, until now."

Banister, 50, was born in Oklahoma but went to LaMarque (Texas) High School outside of Houston. His father, Bob, was a football coach who died in 1988. His mother, Verda, was a teacher who still keeps a scorebook at all of her son's games. He gives them tremendous credit for helping him get through his early ordeals, and they are who he remembered most when he came to the plate in 1991 for the first and only time as a Major League player.

"I guess my two parents instilled in me that you survive, that you push, that you endure, because the other option is not what I'm looking for," Banister said. "There are a group of people who prop you up and take care of you, try to motivate you on a daily basis when it's tough to be motivated.

"To be able to walk into a Major League game when everybody told you that you couldn't, you shouldn't, you wouldn't -- go pick another occupation, go do something else -- now you get an opportunity to do it. It happens, you're on top of the mountain for one day, one moment in time and you carry those people with you, it's the best thank you that you can give."

Banister was 14 when he injured his ankle in the fall of 1979. The diagnosis was acute arthritis, but on Jan. 15, 1980, his 15th birthday, the ankle became so painful Banister couldn't walk. He needed emergency surgery and the results showed two cysts in the ankle. The diagnosis was osteomyelitis, a bone infection, and bone cancer.

He spent four months in a hospital while being treated with antibiotics and chemotherapy. The treatments failed to stop the spread of the cysts. He required seven operations in all, and at one point he was told that he needed to either lose the leg or his life.

Banister told the doctors that he was going to play Major League baseball. If he couldn't, he didn't want to live.

"As a kid, each one of us, we have dreams, we have fantasies of things we think we are," Banister said. "What we want to be, how we're going to get there, the path by which we are going to get there and sometimes we get derailed, sometimes we adjust. Then there are some things that happen life just throws at you, just have no answer for."

The fifth operation revealed a cyst that was causing the cancer. The cyst was removed, but doctors still didn't believe Banister would play sports again. They were wrong. He needed two more operations but was back on the football field again that fall with a bright career still ahead as a baseball player.

Banister ended up as a catcher playing for Baytown Lee Junior College. In the last game of the fall, 1983 schedule, Lee was playing against Norwood College. Banister wasn't supposed to play that day but a Yankees scout requested he be in the lineup because the club was thinking about drafting him.

There was a play at home plate. A runner was trying to score from third. The throw was up the third-base line and Banister went to his knees to block the ball. He ended up in the path of the runner and there was a collision.

"It wasn't a real violent collision," Rod Soesbe, the Baytown Lee coach told the Augusta Chronicle. "The runner's knee just clipped the top of his hat. He fell back down, and he rolled up to try to get the ball, and he fell back down again, and he never got to his feet."

The collision crushed three vertebrae in his neck, leaving Banister paralyzed. The vertebrae were fused back together, but Banister was paralyzed for 10 days and spent two months in the hospital. Holes were drilled into his head to anchor the neck and help the vertebrae heal.

Despite medical predictions, Banister not only resumed playing baseball within a year but was also back behind the plate as a catcher. It was the only position where he felt comfortable despite the obvious risks.

"I will say why my passion runs so deep for baseball, there were nights laying in a hospital bed knowing I wasn't going to get up and I couldn't leave the room that one thing I could do is I could dream," Banister said. "I could think about it and I could challenge myself that when I got out of the hospital I would continue to play the game of baseball.

"Because it gave me joy in a time when there was no joy. It gave me something to think about, it made me strive in days that I really didn't care to go forward. So that burning desire, that internal fire that burns inside of me to have success to pass on, to push forward was melded a long time ago in a couple of different hospitals."

Banister ended up a junior college All-American and received a scholarship to the University of Houston. In '86, he was taken by the Pirates in the 25th round of First-Year Player Draft. He has been with the Pirates ever since until being hired by the Rangers. His only Major League at-bat came against Dan Petry of the Braves on July 23, 1991.

He hit a ground ball to the left side that shortstop Jeff Blauser fielded in the hole on the outfield grass. A Major League player who was once battling bone cancer, looking at the possibility of leg amputation, and paralyzed from the neck down from a collision at the plate, beat it out for an infield single.

"I carried a whole truckload of people with me down the line," Banister said. "I'm still carrying that. I can't put that down yet."

Much background for this article came from a long story written by Ed Price for the Augusta, (Ga.) Chronicle in '95. Banister managed Augusta that year.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Banister meets with Maddux, Magadan, Bogar

First step for Rangers' new manager to put together coaching staff

Banister meets with Maddux, Magadan, Bogar

ARLINGTON -- On his first day on the job, Rangers manager Jeff Banister met with pitching coach Mike Maddux and spoke with hitting coach Dave Magadan and bench coach Tim Bogar.

It was the first step toward putting together his coaching staff.

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"I'm looking for men who want to have a passion for people, that are difference makers," Banister said. "Love to prepare, love to be at the ballpark, they want to see the success of each individual player. They want to learn. They don't know it all. They are willing to make adjustments when needed but are going to carry the motto that the name on the front of the jersey means more than the name on the back of the jersey."

Banister and general manager Jon Daniels will work together to hire the coaching staff. Daniels said Banister won't be forced to hire anybody he is not comfortable with. Daniels will also have veto over any coaching candidates.

The Rangers have a high regard for Maddux and his ability as a pitching coach. He and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins are the only two on the staff from the teams that went to two World Series in 2010-11. Maddux's brother Greg, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer, is a special assistant in the Rangers' organization.

Friday's meeting was the first step toward getting Maddux under contract for next season.

"I like Jeff," Maddux said. "We chatted for an hour, a little get-to-know each other. I'm really impressed with him, a lot of good attributes, a good family guy, good core values, highly motivated. It was nice to get to know him."

Magadan and Bogar are more up in the air. The Rangers have given Magadan permission to speak with both the Mets and the Yankees about their openings. Bogar was the Rangers interim manager for the final 22 games and led the club to a 14-8 record. But he was passed over for the job in favor of Banister.

There are still three other coaches to consider now that Gary Pettis has taken a job with the Astros. Hawkins is close with Maddux and held in high regard by the pitching staff. Daniels has a high regard for first-base coach Bengie Molina, who did a tremendous job with the catchers this past season,lespecially Robinson Chirinos.

Assistant hitting coach Bobby Jones has been in the organization as a Minor League manager or Major League coach since 1988. He will likely be with the Rangers next season in some capacity. Triple-A manager Steve Buechele could be a candidate for the Major League coaching staff.

Daniels said the Rangers will likely not bring in others from the Pirates' organization, having already taken Banister. The Rangers had a similar agreement with the Padres when A.J. Preller was hired as general manager, although veteran scout Don Welke was allowed to join him.

The Mariners snatched up two potential candidates last season after hiring Lloyd McClendon as their manager. They hired Rich Donnelly as their third-base coach and Trent Jewett as their bench coach. Both worked closely with Banister in Pittsburgh. Jewett is from Texas, having gone to high school at R.L. Turner in Carrollton and the University of North Texas.

The Rangers might try to hire Kevin Cash away from the Indians, where he is the bullpen coach, by giving him a position that is considered a promotion. The Rangers did that last year when they hired Molina away from the Cardinals. Carlos Garcia, a former Pirates infielder who managed in their farm system the past four years, also worked closely with Banister in Pittsburgh.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Banister a true baseball man

Rangers new skipper described as 'prepared, compassionate, real'

Banister a true baseball man

ARLINGTON -- Jeff Banister spent 29 years with the Pirates organization, the past four as bench coach, and now he is manager of the Rangers. He has a nice three-year contract plus an option for 2018 and far more responsibility than he had in Pittsburgh.

But at the core, Banister is still a baseball man, whether it is standing in the dugout at Pittsburgh's PNC Park or the back fields of Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. As Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said, Banister was not hired to "reinvent the wheel" but to get the Rangers to play winning baseball again the way they did under Ron Washington and other managers before him.

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As Banister accepted his new job at a news conference on Friday, he thanked his family, including his wife Karen, his daughter Alexandra (19), his son Jacob (12) and his parents. He thanked the Pirates for all they had done and also acknowledged those with the Rangers who had been successful before his arrival.

He also thanked the Rangers "for believing in me and giving me a chance to lead the organization and first and foremost be a partner in the organization as a guy who believes in scouting and the player-development department plus the 25 men who show up every single night and play for the fans in Arlington.

"Ultimately that's what it's all about. Showing up and playing hard; being ready to play and playing to win. Show up and play hard every night for 27 outs, hard outs. We show up to play and we show up to win."

That is why Banister is now the manager in Arlington. The Rangers believe he has a presence to lead and motivate players to play the game the right way. They believe he will be thoroughly prepared every day and he will be invested in the entire organization.

There will be things he learned in Pittsburgh that will be brought with him to Texas. There are things that the Rangers do that will continue under the new manager.

But ultimately it is about playing winning baseball and that doesn't change for Banister regardless of his title. In the end, most of what worked for the Pirates the past two seasons is pretty much the same as what took the Rangers to two World Series in 2010-11 and four straight 90-win seasons before the bottom fell out this past season.

"These men know how to win, they know what it takes to win," Banister said. "I am assuming [this past season] was an unfortunate situation, there were some guys that were hurt. Some things were out of their control. But the beauty of what happened last year, in my eyes there was also a group of young men that had an opportunity to gain some valuable experience going forward.

"My plan is I want to connect with every single player to get to know them and they get to know me so I can start building a relationship with the players. One that they know they can trust and believe in my words and my actions so that when they see me walk through the door in Spring Training, they understand what the expectations are."

Banister is the 18th full-time manager in Rangers history. A native of Oklahoma who played at LaMarque (Texas) High School, Baytown (Texas) Lee Junior College and the University of Houston, he was a player, coach and coordinator for the Pirates at both the Minor and Major League levels. He was even a pitching coach for a short period of time.

Banister has been immersed in all areas of the game and that reflects on the kind of players that he is looking for in Texas.

"I think we need players that are multifaceted and are capable of meeting the demands of the game," he said. "The game presents different situations every single night. You've got to be capable of executing, you've got to have the drive to execute. You need to be selfless. We like players that run hard -- if the game says you need to break up a double play, you need to break up a double play. Take extra base? Take an extra base. If the game says move runners, move runners."

Banister studies the statistics and appreciates all the new trends in a game invented some 150 years ago or more. The Rangers will again be employing all the drastic defensive shifts that have come into vogue over the past few years.

But, like Washington and any other successful manager, he understands the importance of simply playing good fundamental defense. Offensively, he understands there are times when a team needs to play for one run and others when it should go for a big inning. He wants batters who understand situational hitting and pitchers who work fast, throw strikes and compete on the mound.

"Being able to meet the demands of the game when the game presents itself," Banister said in a new verse on a familiar refrain heard in Arlington.

Daniels said a 12-person team of Rangers baseball-operations personnel vetted about 40 candidates over a three-week interview period.

"We continually heard the same things -- baseball man, blue collar, winner, prepared, compassionate, real," Daniels said of Banister. "This is a real guy that cares about people he works with, the players he coaches, his co-workers and obviously his family. That stood out to us."

New managers do bring some changes, especially to coaching staffs. Banister has already had conversations with pitching coach Mike Maddux, hitting coach Dave Magadan and bench coach Tim Bogar, who served as interim manager, about possibly returning. Banister said they are still involved in the "process" of forming a coaching staff.

Certainly Banister will bring his unique style of personality and leadership, which may be acceptable to some and not to others.

But above all, it is still baseball and that is what Banister has always been about.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Sundberg remembers Royals' 1985 championship season

Rangers Hall of Famer spent his only postseason with Kansas City

Sundberg remembers Royals' 1985 championship season

ARLINGTON -- Jim Sundberg used to wear the World Series ring that he earned with the Kansas City Royals in 1985. Now he is not sure where it is.

"I hid it one day because I was going out of the house," Sundberg said. "I think I know where it is, but I never put it back on."

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Sundberg's memory of where his World Series ring may be a little hazy, but he still vividly recalls the events of October 1985. That was when the Royals played in their last Fall Classic, and Sundberg played a significant role in bringing home the only World Series championship in club history.

Now, 29 years later, the Royals are back in the World Series and will host the Giants in Game 1 on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

"There are a lot of similarities," Sundberg said. "Nobody expected us to be there either, but both did it the same way with pitching and defense and key hits. I don't think their rotation was as strong as ours [Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson, Mark Gubicza, Danny Jackson, Bud Black], but their bullpen is better, especially their last three guys."

Sundberg played 16 years in the big leagues and 12 were with the Rangers. He is in the Rangers Hall of Fame. But the ride to the 1985 World Series was the only time he ever played in the postseason.

"I didn't experience the pressure of the postseason like I thought would be there," Sundberg said. "We weren't expected to win our division and we won it in the last week. That was where the pressure was."

Sundberg spent the first 10 years of his career with the Rangers but was traded to the Brewers after the 1983 season. After one year with the Brewers, Sundberg was traded Kansas City because Royals manager Dick Howser wanted a veteran catcher to handle a young pitching staff.

Sundberg did just that and the Royals, after being 7 1/2 games out at the All-Star break, rode their young pitching to a division title.

Sundberg only hit .208 in 14 postseason games. But he led the Royals with six RBIs in the seven-game American League Championship Series victory over the Blue Jays and he led them with six runs scored in the World Series.

"I didn't hit for big average, but I did have some key offensive contributions," Sundberg said. "What I did really counted."

No kidding. Sundberg had the biggest hit of the ALCS and scored the biggest run of the World Series.

The Royals had a 2-1 lead in Game 7 of the ALCS when Sundberg came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning. Facing Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb, Sundberg hit a three-run triple and then scored on a single by Frank White. The Royals won 6-2.

"That was the single biggest moment at the plate in my career," Sundberg said.

Sundberg was also involved in one of the biggest innings in World Series history: the bottom of the ninth in Game 6 against the Cardinals. At the time, the Cards had a 3-2 lead in the Series and a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth in Kansas City. They were three outs away from winning the World Series.

Jorge Orta, facing reliever Todd Worrell, led off with a chopper to first baseman Jack Clark. Orta appeared out at first base as Clark's toss to Worrell beat him to the bag. But first-base umpire Don Denkinger ruled Orta safe in one of the most crucial calls in World Series history. Steve Balboni followed with a single, only after Clark misplayed his foul pop.

That brought up Sundberg with runners at first and second, and nobody out. Howser had Sundberg bunt, but the ball went back to Worrell, who got the force at third.

"I thought it was a good bunt," Sundberg said. "I don't think Orta got a good jump or a good lead. It was on turf, so the ball rolled quicker too."

With pinch-runner Onix Concepcion at second, Sundberg was now on first base as the winning run.

"I remember wondering why was Dick Howser not pinch-running for me," Sundberg said. "When I realized he wasn't going to pinch-run for me -- I had always been a good baserunner, although not very fast at that point of my career -- I just reminded myself to get a good lead and a good jump."

A passed ball by catcher Darrell Porter moved the runners up to second and third. After Hal McRae was intentionally walked, Dane Iorg blooped a single to right field.

"Get a good lead, get a good jump and cut the corner hard at third," Sundberg said. "When the ball came off the bat, I knew it was a hit, I knew it would be down."

Sundberg went for home, even though Cardinals right fielder Andy Van Slyke had a great arm.

"When I came home, I saw Porter had given up too much of the plate," Sundberg said. "He went out to get the ball. I dove headfirst, getting as far away from Porter, staying low and getting the plate with my hand."

With what broadcaster Jim Palmer said on national television was "a great slide," Sundberg scored the winning run that sent the World Series to Game 7. The Royals won, 11-0.

"The last day of the World Series was the only day that I felt any pressure," Sundberg said. "The Sundberg family went to a Kansas City park for a picnic. We were throwing the Frisbee around, but I was really on edge. But once I got to the ballpark, I was fine."

It was a magical time for Sundberg and the Royals. Now it starts again on Tuesday night in Kansas City.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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De Leon is thriving in Arizona Fall League, despite his age

17-year-old is youngest player in AFL's history

De Leon is thriving in Arizona Fall League, despite his age

MESA, Ariz. -- It's not a typo, but it certainly seems like one at first glance. Michael De Leon isn't just the youngest player in history of the the Arizona Fall League, he's six years younger than his average teammate and a full decade younger than the oldest player on the team. De Leon, who won't turn 18 until January, isn't old enough to drive or vote in his native Dominican Republic, but he's finding sure footing among the best prospects in baseball.

De Leon, a smooth-fielding shortstop, doesn't really fit the pattern of the league. Most players in the Arizona Fall League are upper-level players who are looking to distinguish themselves against similar prospects, and many of them are on the verge of making a Major League roster for the first time.

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Then there's De Leon, who was listed as the No. 27 prospect by MLB.com during the 2013 international signing period. The switch-hitter signed with the Rangers for $550,000, and he impressed his new organization by being one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League last season.

De Leon played in one game for Double-A Frisco when the Rangers had a vacancy there last season, and he batted .244 with 42 runs in 85 games for Class A Hickory in the South Atlantic League. And then, instead of flying home for the winter, De Leon headed for instructional league and the AFL.

It's enough to fatigue even the most conditioned athlete, but De Leon is loving the experience.

"I'm out here having fun and I'm trying to learn every day," said De Leon via interpreter and teammate Deven Marrero. "I'm trying to get some knowledge from the older guys. I'm young and I have a lot to learn in this game. I'm out here learning every day, working hard and picking everybody's brain."

Marrero, born in 1990, was still in high school when he was De Leon's age, but he went on to star at Arizona State University before signing with the Red Sox as a first-round draftee. And he's fairly typical of an AFL player. Two players on the Surprise Saguaros -- Ryan Dennick and Rusney Castillo -- were born in 1987, and just seven players on the roster are even within five years of De Leon's age.

But if the youngster's age is an outlier, his skill level fits right in with his more experienced peers. Delino DeShields, manager of the Saguaros, was second in the National League's Rookie of the Year balloting as a 21-year-old, and he said he's liked what he's seen from De Leon thus far.

"He's a baby, but he's holding his own," said DeShields of his shortstop's skill level. "He's got great actions and the kid's not lacking confidence. That's definitely going to help him going forward. But with him being so young, I'm just surprised at how advanced he is right now. He looks young, of course, because he is a young kid. But you put him between the lines and he holds his own."

De Leon hit .176 in his first five AFL games, but he logged two hits in his first two at-bats on Monday. The 17-year-old is still learning to be comfortable with English and with ancillary parts of the game like conducting interviews, but his confidence shines through with even the most basic questions.

De Leon was asked Monday if it's intimidating to play against older competition, but he replied that he has no fear on the field. He also said that he's young and doesn't get tired when asked about the length of his season, and he said he speaks with his family back home almost every day.

But here he is, far from home, playing against men who have had time to learn their craft. De Leon said that he never expected to be here but that he's enjoying every minute of the experience.

"I'm just out there and just playing," said De Leon. "I never thought I'd get the opportunity, but when I did, I just took advantage of it. I ran with it and I had fun with it and I played very well."

DeShields, a former second baseman and outfielder, played 13 seasons in the big leagues and finished his career with more than 1,500 hits. He works in the Reds' organization during the regular season and has only had De Leon for a few weeks, but he's impressed with what he's seen.

"Just grow," said DeShields of De Leon's future. "He needs to grow from a maturity standpoint and get stronger. All the skill is there. He just needs to get stronger and grow mentally within the game."

At this point, that seems inevitable. De Leon, 6-foot-1 and listed at a wiry 160 pounds, has so much room to grow into his frame and so much time to do it. One day, he may look at his time in the AFL -- and his record for being the league's youngest player -- as a springboard to bigger things.

"I feel awesome about it. It's always good to be that first guy and I just want to work hard," he said. "That's all I want to do: Work hard and prove to these other guys that I can play and I belong here."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Banister named manager of Rangers

Banister named manager of Rangers

ARLINGTON -- By overwhelming a dozen club officials through an extensive interview process, Jeff Banister has won the job as the next Rangers manager.

Banister, who was the Pirates bench coach for the past four years, replaces Tim Bogar, who served as interim manager for the final 22 games of the season. Bogar took over for Ron Washington, who resigned Sept. 5 after eight seasons on the job. The Rangers were 14-8 under Bogar.

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Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the club vetted more than 40 candidates before selecting eight to interview. He said 12 club officials participated in the interview process.

Daniels said Banister "won the job" rather than anybody else losing it.

"He is a winner and a survivor," Daniels said. "He is an impressive guy to meet. You can understand how he can command a room. The passion for winning and getting to know people as a person before the player stood out the most."

Banister has been with the Pirates for the past 29 years, first as a player and then in a variety of capacities including Minor League coach, manager and coordinator, and Major League coordinator and coach.

Video: Justice on Banister to Rangers

"I want to thank the Texas Rangers for giving me this opportunity," Banister said. "I am elated to have the chance to make an impact on the organization, and I look forward to getting started on that task. I also want to express my gratitude to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last 29 years. My experiences in that organization have prepared me well for this new opportunity, and I thank all of the individuals who have poured into my life along the way."

Daniels said he had never met Banister before the managerial search began. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was the Rangers hitting coach in 2010, gave a strong recommendation. But the Rangers' search committee interviewed many people who had come into contact with Banister through the years.

"I'm happy for Jeff," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who worked with Hurdle in Pittsburgh. "He's a quality baseball man and I wish him nothing but the best ... except when Texas plays us."

"He has been an instrumental reason for the success the Pirates organization has had over the course of his tenure with the ballclub," Hurdle said. "Jeff has put forth as much sweat-equity and hard work into the game of baseball as any man I have had the privilege of working with."

Daniels said there were five criteria used to measure candidates, beginning with re-creating the Rangers' winning attitude.

"That's our expectations," Daniels said. "This is not a rebuilding situation. We expect to win."

Next were being able to develop players at the Major League level, personality and leadership, preparation for in-game strategy and being involved completely in the organization beyond just the Major League team. Daniels said Banister stood out in all areas.

"Jeff has done a little bit of everything," Daniels said. "This guy likes to work, get to the park, develop relationships, all those things added up. He had a very impressive presentation.

"It was not a situation where Tim or anybody else lost. It was just a situation with Jeff where we just felt he was the best fit. That's why we were as thorough as we were. We felt our read on him was accurate."

Banister, Bogar and Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash were the three finalists for the position. The Rangers also interviewed pitching coach Mike Maddux, Triple-A manager Steve Buechele, White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and Puerto Rico Winter League executive Alex Cora.

The outside hire leaves the coaching staff in a state of uncertainty and third-base coach Gary Pettis has already accepted a job with the Astros. Hitting coach Dave Magadan has been approached by the Mets and Yankees. The Rangers have reportedly reached out to Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis.

Maddux remains unsigned for next season. Bogar, Maddux and other coaches are expected to meet with Banister in the near future. Buechele is under contract to return as Triple-A manager but could be a candidate for the Major League staff.

Daniels said Banister will not have to keep any coaches he doesn't want. Daniels will also have a say in the coaching staff.

Banister, 50, was born in Oklahoma but played high school and college baseball in Texas and has an extraordinary background. He developed bone cancer in his left leg in high school and doctors initially wanted to amputate. But the leg was saved through multiple operations and he continued his baseball career in college. At Baytown (Texas) College, he suffered a crushed vertebrae as a catcher in a collision at home plate and was paralyzed for 10 days.

He still ended up playing at the University of Houston and was drafted by the Pirates in the 25th round of the 1986 First-Year Player Draft. He had one at-bat in the Major Leagues with a single in 1992.

"When you go through life experiences like that, it provides unbelievable perspective," Daniels said. "It's huge in leadership positions. What he has experienced is pretty remarkable."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers buy out Rios, pass on 2015 option

Veteran outfielder was in line to earn $14 million from Texas next season

Rangers buy out Rios, pass on 2015 option

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have informed outfielder Alex Rios that they will not pick up his $14 million option but will instead pay a $1 million buyout, according to a Major League source confirming a report by CBSSports.com. The club has not commented on Rios' status.

The Rangers are planning to move outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to right field. Their options for left field include Michael Choice, Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Jim Adduci and Daniel Robertson. All had limited playing time for the Rangers this past season.

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The Rangers could also look for outfield depth through a trade or free agency, but they'll go into the winter with starting pitching as their No. 1 priority.

Rios played in 131 games for the Rangers despite being plagued by a sprained right ankle and a badly bruised right thumb for almost the entire second half. He ended up hitting .280 with four home runs, 54 RBIs and a .398 slugging percentage.

Rua hit .295 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 28 games while showing the ability to play multiple positions, including first and third base. Smolinski hit .349 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 24 games despite missing almost two months with a bone bruise in his left foot.

Adduci batted just .168 with one home run and eight RBIs in 44 games as injuries kept him from getting any consistent playing time for an extended period. Robertson, who was rescued from the Padres farm system, ended up hitting .271 with a .333 on-base percentage as a fourth outfielder with speed and grit.

The Rangers had hoped that Choice would be ready for a full-time role in 2015. A former first-round Draft pick acquired from the Athletics a year ago, he struggled with the Rangers, hitting .182 with nine home runs, 36 RBIs and .320 slugging percentage in 86 games.

The list of top free-agent outfielders potentially includes Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis, Nori Aoki and Torii Hunter.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers outright six, including Kouzmanoff and Arencibia

Rangers outright six, including Kouzmanoff and Arencibia

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have outrighted six players to Triple-A Round Rock and lost left-handed reliever Joseph Ortiz to the Cubs on a waivers claim.

Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and catcher J.P. Arencibia are expected to take their free agency. Kouzmanoff hit .362 in 13 games with the Rangers, but missed most of the season after undergoing two back operations.

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Arencibia was the Rangers Opening Day catcher, but eventually lost his job to Robinson Chirinos. He was sent to Triple-A on May 21 and brought back after the All-Star break, but primarily as a first baseman.

The Rangers also outrighted pitchers Pedro Figueroa and Wilmer Font, outfielder Engel Beltre and infielder Guilder Rodriguez to Round Rock. The moves leave the Rangers with 37 players on the 40-man roster.

Ortiz missed most of the season with a fractured left foot. He was 2-2 with a 4.23 ERA in 32 games for the Rangers in 2013 but did not pitch in the Majors this past season.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Top prospect Gallo works on defense at instructional league

Rangers work with youngsters in Arizona

Top prospect Gallo works on defense at instructional league

No one doubts Joey Gallo's power. He set a Rookie-level Arizona League record with 18 homers (in just 43 games) in his 2012 pro debut and led the Minor Leagues with 40 blasts in his first full season in '13. This year, he put on an unforgettable show at the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game and finished second in the Minors with 42 homers while reaching Double-A at age 20.

Gallo's defensive skills, however, are more in question. He has a well above-average arm that delivered upper-90s fastballs in high school, but he's also 6-foot-5 with below-average speed who may not be ideally suited for his present position of third base. So the Rangers exposed him to other positions during his three weeks in instructional league.

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With Adrian Beltre signed through '16 and Prince Fielder locked up through '20, Gallo's initial opportunity in Texas could come in the outfield -- so he got some time there. More surprisingly, he also saw action at shortstop, with the goal to enhance his first-step quickness rather than to groom him as an eventual replacement for Elvis Andrus.

Gallo also used his time in Surprise, Ariz., to work on his offensive game. He slammed 21 homers at each of his two stops in '14, but after batting .323/.463/.735 with a 51/64 BB/K ratio with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, he slipped to .232/.334/.524 with a 36/115 BB/K ratio at Double-A Frisco.

"We bounced him around at a couple of new positions, and he showed some agility at shortstop and looked good in the outfield," Rangers senior director of Minor League operations Mike Daly said. "He did some work with the bat because he didn't have as much success at Frisco.

"He worked on shortening his swing, because he still needs to make more contact. He also worked on using the whole field and facing left-handed breaking balls. It was really a productive instructional league for him."

More from the Rangers' instructional league program:

● Nomar Mazara continued to build on his breakthrough '14 season during his three weeks in Surprise, skipping the final week to join Licey in the Dominican Winter League. He worked on his quickness and his outfield play, and he also honed his left-handed swing.

Mazara's swing was plenty potent during the regular season. Signed for an international-record $4.95 million out of the Dominican Republic three years earlier, he batted .271/.362/.478 with 22 homers between Class A Hickory and Frisco at age 19. He boosted his productivity once he advanced to Double-A in August.

"He's always been a young guy who's shown a knack for controlling the strike zone," Daly said of Mazara, who drew 66 walks versus 121 strikeouts in '14. "He missed some hittable pitches at Hickory the year before, but once he got going, he did some damage and he didn't miss those pitches any more. Same thing in Frisco, he did damage when he got his pitch.

"He's very mature for 19. He has a quiet confidence, a presence. He just gets it."

● Another precocious Ranger is shortstop Michael DeLeon, who reached Class A Advanced as a 17-year-old at the end of the season and will become the youngest player in Arizona Fall League history when that season opens this week.

DeLeon initially was overshadowed in Texas' international spending spree in '13. The Rangers topped all clubs with $8.42 million in bonuses, including $1.8 million for Dominican outfielder Jose Almonte, $1.35 million for Venezuelan shortstop Yeyson Yrizzari and $1.3 million for Dominican right-hander Marcos Diplan. Signed for $550,000 out of the Dominican, DeLeon didn't seem like as much of a big deal by comparison.

While Almonte, Yrizzari and Diplan all spent their first pro seasons in Rookie ball, DeLeon actually made his debut in Double-A as an emergency fill-in in May. After he doubled in three at-bats and handled eight chances flawlessly, Texas used him to plug a hole in Class A after two shortstops went down there. Promoted to Myrtle Beach in August, he drove in 12 runs in 14 games (including the playoffs).

The Rangers initially ticketed Jurickson Profar for the Arizona Fall League after he missed the entire big league season, but his shoulder issues continue to linger. So they called once again on DeLeon, who will play his AFL home games where he spent instructional league. He'll probably start twice a week for the Surprise Saguaros and spend his downtime trying to add strength to his skinny 6-foot-1 frame.

"He's a defense-first guy with a contact bat," Daly said. "He competes. He's 157 pounds soaking wet right now, but he puts the bat on the ball. He has very good game awareness. We look at the Fall League as another opportunity for him with Profar going down."

● Texas' top '14 First-Year Player Draft picks are continuing their introduction to pro ball with a month in the instructional league program, which ends Friday. Right-hander Luis Ortiz (first round) has focused on strength and conditioning while showcasing a 90-93 mph fastball when he has taken the mound. Ti'quan Forbes (second round) has worked on making the transition from shortstop in high school to third base in the pros, and Josh Morgan (third round) has impressed with his defensive prowess at shortstop.

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Injuries, disappointment headline Rangers' trying season

Injuries, disappointment headline Rangers' trying season

The Rangers set Major League records by using 64 players in 2014, including 40 pitchers. There were 23 rookies among those 64 players, as the Rangers used the disabled list a Major League-high 26 times.

By the end of the season, the Rangers had 12 players on the 60-day disabled list, a compendium of Who's Who that included outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, infielders Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Jurickson Profar, and pitchers Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers. The gruesome numbers sum up what might have been the single most disappointing season in Rangers history.

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Before it was over, the Rangers also lost manager Ron Washington, who resigned on Sept. 6 for personal reasons, with Tim Bogar serving as interim for the remainder of the season. General manager Jon Daniels will conduct a thorough search for a new manager, with Bogar as a candidate. The Rangers' late-September surge only reinforced the strength of Bogar's candidacy.

The front office even took a couple of hits when A.J. Preller left to become the Padres general manager and took longtime special assistant Don Welke with him.

Daniels was hard-pressed to come up with anything positive to come out of this season.

"I think we have been able to see a lot of people step up," Daniels said. "From all the injuries, we have given opportunities to a number of guys who have taken advantage of it. With the people who left, A.J. Preller, Don Welke and Ron Washington, it has given opportunity to other guys and makes you realize the depth and quality of people you have.

"But the season has been tough, there are no two ways about it. Trying times. I think in a couple of years we'll look up and see some benefits from it and the opportunity we get next year [with the high Draft pick] on the amateur front."

The Rangers are hoping this season was a one-year aberration and they can turn things around quickly next season.

"You find out about people in the organization from tough times," Daniels said. "It has reinforced the sense of strong bond and talent we've got in the organization. We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got the right people to do it."

Record: 67-95, fifth place in the American League West.

Defining moment: On April 21, the Rangers defeated the Athletics in the first game of a three-game sweep. In the top of the seventh, Choo grounded out to third base and injured his ankle stepping awkwardly on first base. He had to come out of the game and tried playing on the ankle for four months. Choo was never able to play at full strength and finally had surgery in September. The Rangers used 10 position players and five pitchers in that game. Only four of those 15 saw action for the Rangers in late September when they swept the Athletics in another three-game series.

What went right: That's like asking the captain of the Titanic: "How was the first part of the cruise?" But Robinson Chirinos did fine behind the plate and Leonys Martin seemed to flourish as a leadoff hitter after Bogar turned him loose. Many of the young players had enough good moments to provide some hope they could be contributing players to a winning team in the future, although just about all of them still need to get better or at least more experience.

Adrian Beltre had another good year at the plate despite his supporting cast disappearing all around him. Shawn Tolleson had an excellent season as a middle reliever, and the Rangers were able to add some young arms in mid-season trades involving Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria. Probably the best news the Rangers had all season was Neftali Feliz's re-emergence as their once and future closer, and Colby Lewis making a tremendous comeback from hip and elbow surgery.

What went wrong: One week into '14, Derek Holland stumbled over his dog on the staircase, tore cartilage in his left knee and ended up missing five months of the season. It never got any better for the Rangers with an incredible series of injuries that pretty much gutted the whole team. The Rangers managed to stay afloat for the first two months of the season and were 29-28 on June 2, six games out of first place. Then the bottom fell out completely. The Rangers lost 29 of their next 38 games and were 21 games out at the All-Star break.

Biggest surprise: Chirinos wasn't even expected to make the team in Spring Training. The Rangers were planning on Geovany Soto and J.P. Arencibia being their catchers. But Soto's knee injury opened a spot for Chirinos on the Opening Day roster, and within one month he had supplanted Arencibia as the No. 1 catcher.

Hitter of the Year: Beltre was actually in the AL batting title chase for most of the season. His RBI numbers were down, but that's mainly because the entire offense was depleted by injuries. Beltre still ended up with another season that will enhance his Hall of Fame resume.

Pitcher of the Year: It's highly unusual for a club's Pitcher of the Year be someone who had a losing record and an ERA hovering around 5.0, especially since one of his teammates pitched in the All-Star Game. But the numbers don't reflect what Lewis accomplished by coming back from both flexor tendon surgery as well as hip replacement. It took about a half-season to really find himself, but in the second half Lewis was pitching close to like he did in 2010-11.

Rookie of the Year: The Rangers used 23 rookies, so there are plenty to choose from. But second baseman Rougned Odor was clearly the one rookie who stood out as someone who made a strong claim to be in the Opening Day lineup next season. He handled himself well offensively, improved tremendously on defense and impressed the Rangers with his fire and determination.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers claim right-hander Figaro off waivers

30-year-old had a 7.27 ERA in 2014

Rangers claim right-hander Figaro off waivers

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers have claimed right-handed pitcher Alfredo Figaro off waivers from the Brewers. To make room on their 40-man roster, the Rangers designated pitcher Wilmer Font for assignment.

Figaro, 30, has pitched in 52 games at the Major League level with the Tigers in 2009-10 and the Brewers in 2013-14. He has a career record of 5-8 with a 5.04 ERA while averaging 10.2 hits, 2.7 walks and 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

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He had a 7.27 ERA in six games for the Brewers this past season while spending most of the year at Triple-A Nashville. He pitched in 42 games, including two starts and was 5-2 with a 3.71 ERA.

He spent 2011-12 pitching in Japan where he was a combined 8-11 with a 3.42 ERA in 31 starts and four relief appearances. Figaro averaged 95.2 miles per hour on his fastball the past two seasons. The only Rangers pitcher to average higher on his fastball this season was Aaron Poreda at 95.4.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers need key pieces healthy in 2015

Along with managerial search, Texas has busy offseason ahead

Rangers need key pieces healthy in 2015

The Rangers never have a dull offseason, and this winter should be far from the exception. Start with the anticipated managerial search that may or may not result in interim manager Tim Bogar getting the job, and the offseason will only get more interesting from there.

"We have a number of questions first and foremost with some of our injured players and what we can expect from them," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We expect most of them to be at full strength, but not all. Then there are decisions internally and externally about how we can add to our nucleus."

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The Rangers seemed to respond to Bogar, which can only help his candidacy. But Daniels wants to make sure he conducts a thorough search before making any final decisions. There is also the Commissioner's Office mandate that clubs must consider minority candidates for key leadership positions. That right there means the Rangers will unlikely be able to make a quick decision, but expect a new manager in place by the World Series.

"There are a lot of quality candidates out there," Bogar said. "They should have the right to interview who they need to interview and make sure the right person is in this chair. They have to do what's best for the organization."

Before the Rangers start making player decisions, they'll have to come up with an operating payroll budget. The Rangers spent approximately $133 million in 2014, and it's not likely to go up.

Although a new television deal begins in '15, the Rangers have already committed some of that money to players on long-term deals, and the significant decrease in attendance also means less revenue.

In order to create some financial flexibility, the Rangers are not expected to pick up the $14-million option on Alex Rios and instead will let him become a free agent.

The Rangers also will have to make tough decisions on their arbitration-eligible players. First baseman Mitch Moreland and pitcher Alexi Ogando are foremost. Both played big roles in the club's past success, but their constant injury issues will make it difficult for the club to go into arbitration with them. Both made approximately $2.6 million this season.

The Rangers have six players eligible for arbitration, including reliever Neftali Feliz who figures to be back as closer. Catcher/first baseman J.P. Arencibia won't be back, and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff's future is unclear after undergoing two back operations this season. Adam Rosales has increased his value as a utility infielder.

Arbitration-eligible: RHP Feliz; 1B Moreland; RHP Ogando, 3B Kouzmanoff; C Arencibia; IF Rosales.

Free agents: RHP Colby Lewis; OF Rios [Club has $14 million option with $1 million buyout], RHP Scott Baker; LHP Neal Cotts.

Rotation: It starts with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland at the top, and the Rangers hope to bring Lewis back. Darvish is expected to be healthy again next year after missing the final seven weeks because of mild right elbow inflammation. They would just like him to stay healthy for a full season and assimilate himself better within the overall framework of the team concept, which remains a challenge for him.

That leaves two spots with four internal candidates in Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, Lisalverto Bonilla and Miles Mikolas. Matt Harrison remains a complete mystery because of his uncertain back issues but is determined to do what he can to get back. Still, it appears that the Rangers will add at least one free agent starter, but it is doubtful they will compete for the top prizes like James Shields, Jon Lester or Max Scherzer. Martin Perez is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn't expected back until mid-season.

Bullpen: Feliz appears to have reclaimed the closer's role and the Rangers should have plenty of arms to build a bullpen around him. It starts with right-handers Shawn Tolleson, who was a tremendous find, and Tanner Scheppers, who will return to the bullpen. So will left-hander Robbie Ross. Then it is a matter of sifting through the many young arms that paraded through Arlington this year. Ogando appears to be a prime candidate to be non-tendered.

Catcher: Robinson Chirinos has established himself as a Major League catcher. The Rangers will try to find a veteran to share the duties with him. Tomas Telis probably needs more time in Triple-A. Arencibia isn't expected back, although he is arbitration eligible and not yet a free agent.

First base: The Rangers desperately need Prince Fielder back at full strength. This is No. 1 on their off-season wish list. Nothing else comes close. The Rangers have a tough decision on Moreland as their DH -- can he stay healthy, or do they need to find another bat?

Second base: Rougned Odor has the job. The Rangers have almost no idea what will happen with Jurickson Profar and his chronic right shoulder. Rosales or Luis Sardinas could return as the utility infielder.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus begins his eight-year, $120-million contract extension, a deal that would make it difficult to trade him. This is an overwhelmingly favorable contract for Andrus. There is always the possibility of a big swap of contracts as in the Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade, but that is difficult because Andrus is still quite reliable as opposed to what they may have to take on in return, and Profar's situation leaves them with no proven alternative.

Third base: Adrian Beltre returns, and if he gets another 600 at-bats in '15, he will be back in '16. Right now, that is a pleasing prospect. All in all, Beltre is holding up well. He turns 36 in April. Prospect Joey Gallo needs more time in the Minors, even if he lights up Arizona in Spring Training.

Outfield: The Rangers are not planning to pick up Rios' option. Instead, they are planning to move Shin-Soo Choo to right field. They have five candidates for left field in Jim Adduci, Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua, Michael Choice and Daniel Robertson. All had some success this year but are still relatively unproven. Adduci is the only left-handed hitter. Rua's ability to play first and third increases his value significantly.

Designated hitter: If the Rangers don't bring back Moreland, they will likely need one more experienced hitter. Rua could be an option here. The Rangers at some point may have to pin Choo to this spot to help him stay healthy over the next six years of his contract.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers obtain new affiliate in High Desert Mavericks

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have reached a two-year working agreement with the Class A Advanced High Desert Mavericks of the California League.

The team is located in the town of Adelanto, which is in San Bernandino County and the Mojave Desert, east of Los Angeles. The Mavericks play at Heritage Field at Stater Brothers Stadium, which holds 3,800 fans and is considered extremely hitter-friendly. In 2014, High Desert was affiliated with the Mariners, and the Mavericks' pitching staff had a 6.21 ERA, the highest in the California League.

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There have been some pitchers who have survived at High Desert. Mariners left-hander Roenis Elias was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 26 starts in 2012; Yankees righty Michael Pineda was 4-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) in '09; and O's right-hander Chris Tillman was 6-7 with a 5.26 ERA in 20 starts in '07.

The Rangers were affiliated with the Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League for four years. Prior to that, they were with Bakersfield in the California League.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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First managerial moves made as offseason begins

Twins dismiss Gardenhire while Astros hire Hinch

First managerial moves made as offseason begins

One day after the regular season ended, the first managerial moves were made on Monday as the Twins dismissed Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons on the job and the Astros named A.J. Hinch their next manager.

And there figures to be more changes in the upcoming days and weeks. After all, coaches are usually the first casualties following disappointing seasons.

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There are now three teams looking for managers, with the Twins joining the D-backs and Rangers.

The Rangers are hoping to hire a new manager by the World Series, general manager Jon Daniels said Sunday. Among the candidates under consideration are interim manager Tim Bogar, Triple-A manager Steve Buechele and pitching coach Mike Maddux, in addition to a few candidates from other clubs. Daniels has yet to formally request permission to interview anyone outside of the organization.

The D-backs' search for a manager began Friday, when they let go of Kirk Gibson. Arizona has a new general manager in Dave Stewart and a new senior vice president of baseball operations in De Jon Watson. It did not take long for the club to hire Stewart and Watson when those positions opened, so that could mean a new manager is not far away.

The Twins' search for a new manager will include candidates from both inside and outside the organization. The remainder of the coaching staff will be put together by the new manager and general manager Terry Ryan. The contracts of Minnesota's seven coaches are all set to expire at the end of this year.

Gardenhire had one year remaining on a two-year contract he signed before the season. He became the Twins manager in 2002 and led the team to six American League Central division championships in his first nine years. But the Twins have finished last in the division in three of the last four seasons.

"This is a little bit of a difficult day for a lot of us," Ryan said during a news conference at Target Field on Monday. "We've been together with Ron for a long time. ... I think it was mutually agreed upon that we're going to go in this direction."

"I'm gone. I'm out of here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to -- you have to win on the field. These last four years have been tough on us."

The Astros, meanwhile, are looking ahead to the future with Hinch at the helm.

Hinch managed Arizona from May 2009 to July 2010 and had a 89-123 record. After that, he served as the vice president of professional scouting for the Padres for four years. Hinch, 40, played 350 games over his Major League career with the A's, Phillies, Royals and Tigers.

"I am extremely excited to bring in A.J. as our new manager," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "Throughout our process, we searched for a person with previous Major League experience who could effectively lead our young, growing nucleus of talented players. I have no doubt that A.J. is the right person to do that. He brings experience as a Major League player, Major League manager and player development executive. His skill sets and leadership abilities will be enormous assets in our clubhouse and to our entire organization."

"I couldn't be more excited to be the manager of the Houston Astros," said Hinch, a catcher who won a bronze medal with the United States at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. "We have a lot of work to do to bring winning back to the city of Houston and Astros fans everywhere. I can't wait to get started toward that goal today."

Moving forward, there could also be some extensions for current managers. The Marlins extended Mike Redmond's contract through 2017, finalizing the deal on Sunday. Redmond was set to enter the final season of the contract he signed when he took over after the 2012 season.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers wrap up trying season with loss to A's

Martinez turns in a solid start, but Texas' bats are shut out

Rangers wrap up trying season with loss to A's

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers did everything they could to make life miserable for an Athletics club trying to reach the postseason. They just couldn't finish the job on the final day of possibly the most turbulent season in Rangers history.

Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray shut out the Rangers for the second time this season and put the A's into the American League Wild Card Game with a 4-0 victory on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park. Oakland's victory eliminated Seattle from the postseason picture, one that hasn't included Texas for at least a month.

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The Rangers, after winning 13 of their last 16 games, finished with a record of 67-95. It is the fifth-most losses in club history and most since a 99-loss season in 1985. Their 33-48 record at home was the worst in club history.

They were 14-8 under interim manager Tim Bogar, who now prepares for a formal interview and waits to see if he will continue in the job in 2015.

"It was a good run," Bogar said. "We played some good teams down the stretch and we were really competitive. That's all we can ask ... pretty solid. If you ask Oakland, they'll tell you they beat a pretty good team today."

Bogar began the day undecided whether to pitch right-hander Nick Martinez or left-hander Derek Holland, who had been scratched from Saturday's game because of a migraine headache. He ended up using both, but Martinez got the start, taking the loss to finish 5-12 with a 4.55 ERA.

Martinez went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out two. All four hits came when the Athletics scored two runs in the second inning. Brandon Moss led off with a double and scored on a triple by Josh Reddick. After Jed Lowrie popped out, Stephen Vogt singled to center to give the Athletics a 2-0 lead.

"I felt great," Martinez said. "I definitely felt the adrenaline and the crowd ... the whole atmosphere of the game. I felt prepared. I left a pitch up in the sweet spot for Moss, followed by the triple. After that I made some good pitches."

The Rangers had one big threat in the fifth inning when Tomas Telis doubled and Ryan Rua reached on an infield single. With runners at the corners and none out, Gray struck out Luis Sardinas and then got Adam Rosales to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Holland, who had to take some serious medication over a 24-hour period, followed Martinez to the mound and threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings before giving up two runs in the ninth.

"I tried to do everything I could to get out there," Holland said. "I tried to do as much as I could, things just didn't go our way."

Gray allowed six hits and struck out five. He did not walk a batter as the Rangers did not draw one in their final four games.

The Rangers ended the season with a .256 team batting average, the club's lowest since hitting .250 in 1992. The 637 runs scored were the club's lowest since 1988. The 111 home runs were the lowest since 1990.

Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4 on Sunday and finished with a .324 batting average, fourth best in the AL. He also ended up leading the Rangers with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs. It's the first time the Rangers haven't had a player with at least 20 home runs in a full season since 1980 and the 77 RBIs are the fewest by their team leader since 1982.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Rangers' Gallo on MLB Pipeline All-Prospect Team

Sluggers Bryant and Gallo make the cut, as do pairs of Dodgers, Nationals and Red Sox

Rangers' Gallo on MLB Pipeline All-Prospect Team

Last week, MLBPipeline.com handed out year-end awards for top hitting and pitching prospects. As much as Kris Bryant and Tyler Glasnow were deserving recipients, it was clear there were many other fantastic performances in 2014 that deserved some attention.

With that in mind, MLBPipeline.com announced its 2014 All-Prospect Team on Friday. There's a prospect for each position, including three outfielders, a DH, a right-handed and left-handed starting pitcher and one reliever. The only requirements were that a player appeared at some point on a team's Top 20 list on Prospect Watch and spent the majority of the year in the Minor Leagues.

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1B: Matt Olson, Oakland A's
Perhaps lost in the shadow of the power displays of Bryant and Joey Gallo, Olson finished third in all of the Minors with 37 home runs. The A's No. 2 prospect also walked 117 times to lead the Minor Leagues, allowing him to finish with a robust .404 OBP and .947 OPS.

2B: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Betts has more than held his own in the big leagues, playing center field and second base. He began the year as the No. 62 prospect on the Top 100, then moved up to No. 14 on the re-ranked list this summer. The jump was thanks to a huge season at Double and Triple-A. Betts hit .346/.431/.529 with 33 steals in 99 games before getting called up to Boston.

SS: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
The fact that Seager hit in the California League surprised no one. Neither did the fact he kept on raking when he reached Double-A. The Dodgers' top prospect hit a combined .349/.402/.602 to win the Minor League batting title, and his .602 slugging percentage was also good for fourth in the Minors. All coming from the shortstop position, while reaching the upper levels of the system at age 20.

3B: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
He was the Hitting Prospect of the Year, after all. The Cubs' top prospect led the Minors in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS. He was second in OBP, third in RBIs, and he even stole 15 bases while reaching Triple-A in his first full season.

C: Blake Swihart, Red Sox
Ranked as the No. 2 catcher, Swihart began the year in Double-A and finished it with the International League champion Pawtucket Red Sox in Triple-A. Combined, the switch-hitting 2011 first-round pick hit .293/.341/.469. He also threw out 46 percent of would-be basestealers and improved his defense behind the plate.

OF: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Quick quiz: How many professional baseball players went 30-30 in 2014? One: Pederson. At No. 16 on the Top 100 and No. 3 on the Dodgers' list, Pederson was the only player at any level to accomplish the feat. The outfielder did it in just 121 games and 448 at-bats with Triple-A Albuquerque before receiving a September callup. Pederson not only had 33 homers and 30 steals, he also had a 1.017 OPS, good for fourth in the Minors. Sure, he struck out 149 times, but he also drew 100 walks en route to a .435 OBP, third among Minor Leaguers.

OF: Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals
A raw, toolsy shortstop-turned-outfielder, Taylor had a breakout year, largely in Double-A, in 2014. The Nationals' No. 3 prospect had a 20-30 season (23 home runs, 37 steals), went to the Futures Game and earned his first big league callup. His strikeout rate is still quite high, but his walk rate and OBP improved this year, signs he's moving in a very good direction.

OF: Steven Souza Jr., Washington Nationals
Souza may not have the same marquee value compared to others on this list -- he's one of only two players not on the Top 100 -- but it's impossible to look past the year he had before joining the Nationals. Souza started the year No. 14 on the Nationals' Top 20 and moved to fifth after hitting .345/.427/.577 over 100 Minor League games. His 1.004 OPS was sixth-best among all Minor League hitters, and he stole 28 bases to boot.

DH: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
Gallo certainly belongs on this list, but he was blocked at his normal position by Bryant. The Rangers' top prospect finished just one homer behind Bryant, narrowly missing out on his second straight Minor League home run crown. More impressive than his power output -- though his Futures Game display will be remembered for a long time -- are the adjustments he made to earn a promotion to Double-A. His approach at the plate matured, and as a result he drew more walks and made more contact, giving him more chances to tap into his plus power.

RHP: Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates
The MLBPipeline.com Pitching Prospect of the Year, Glasnow shook off an early back issue to absolutely dominate the Florida State League. He finished the year with the lowest opponents' batting average among Minor Leaguers and the third lowest ERA. He struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings, which actually lowered his K/9 rate to 12.0 for his career. He also lowered his BB/9 rate by nearly a walk per nine from last season to this one.

LHP: Daniel Norris, Toronto Blue Jays
There were several quality lefty prospects to consider -- four received votes for Pitching Prospect of the Year, and five are among the top 30 overall prospects -- but Norris' season truly does stand out. The 2011 second-round pick began the year in the Florida State League and ended it in the big leagues, putting up eye-popping numbers along the way. The Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect finished fifth in the Minors with 163 strikeouts, held hitters to a .212 batting average and finished with a 2.53 ERA. His 11.8 K/9 rate was coupled with a 3.1 BB/9 mark.

RP: R.J. Alvarez, San Diego Padres
Alvarez began the year as the Angels' No. 7 prospect, but was dealt to the Padres in the Huston Street deal. He's not on the Padres Top 20 currently, but he's pitched as though he belongs. Between the two organizations, Alvarez posted a 1.25 ERA in 38 relief appearances, striking out 12.7 per nine while walking 2.7. Hitters managed just a .192 batting average against him in the Minors, and he's been just as stingy during his big league debut this September.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Smolinski leads Rangers' winter ball parade

Smolinski leads Rangers' winter ball parade

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski will get about a one-week break when the season ends. Then he will head to winter ball, playing for Obregon in the Mexican League.

Smolinski missed almost two months of this season because of a fractured bone in his left foot, and he was activated only for the final two weeks of the season. Playing winter ball will help make up for lost time and at-bats. He chose Mexico for a reason.

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"The Dominican and Venezuela are more fastballs and velocity," Smolinski said. "That will be good for me to see and hit that kind of [offspeed] pitching."

Outfielder Daniel Robertson played at Obregon last year. He was hoping to return this winter, but that fell through. He is hoping to find another place to play.

"I was hoping to be Jake's tour guide," Robertson said.

Outfielder Jim Adduci is considering the possibility of playing winter ball, but not until the second half. Adduci returned to the Rangers' lineup on Saturday after missing a month because of a concussion, but he doesn't want to rush off to winter ball. He also is not fully recovered from a fractured left pinky finger that sidelined him for three months.

Outfielder Michael Choice was planning on playing winter ball, but that was scratched because of his pulled left hamstring. The Rangers don't want Choice pushing it just to play winter ball and would rather he concentrate on getting healthy.

The Rangers will be well-represented in Venezuela's winter league. Infielders Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor are planning to play there, along with catcher Tomas Telis. Catcher Robinson Chirinos said he hasn't decided yet if he'll play.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kirkman rediscovers success in Rangers' bullpen

Kirkman rediscovers success in Rangers' bullpen

ARLINGTON -- Michael Kirkman is alive and well in the Rangers' bullpen. His re-emergence is the latest bit of evidence that those who throw left-handed may never run out of chances.

Kirkman holds the distinction of having been in the organization longer than any other player. It has been quite a tenure with a promising career at least temporarily derailed by two outbreaks of skin cancer and recurring control troubles on the mound. Eight walks in 12 innings in Spring Training were a big reason why he started the season at Triple-A Round Rock.

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But he earned a September callup because of a 1.51 ERA in his last 30 relief appearances at Triple-A and has continued to pitch well with the Rangers. He retired the only two batters he faced in a 2-1 win on Thursday night and has a 1.80 ERA in 11 appearances with opponents hitting .235 off him.

"I've got some confidence back," Kirkman said. "I changed my arm angle and had some success at Triple-A and kept going. I kept making adjustments, and here we are."

Kirkman said he has gone back to the three-quarters angle he used in 2010, when he was a top prospect and a member of the Rangers' postseason bullpen. The question is why and how he got away from that angle.

"I keep thinking the same thing," Kirkman said. "I haven't come to a conclusion, but I have thought about it a lot."

The Rangers have used Kirkman sparingly with their overloaded September bullpen. He has pitched just five innings total in his 11 appearances.

But left-handed relievers remain a valuable commodity in the game. Kirkman is one of four in the Rangers' expanded bullpen, along with Neal Cotts, Alex Claudio and Robbie Ross Jr. Cotts is a free agent, Claudio is an unproven rookie with options and Ross is probably going to be a reliever again next season after his ill-fated trial as a starter this year.

Kirkman gives them another left-handed option, although it may prove difficult to keep him on the 40-man this winter because so many players have to be added when they come off the 60-day disabled list. But left-handers floating on the outright waiver wire draw the attention of other clubs. Pedro Figueroa, another Rangers left-hander who is facing a long road back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, was claimed twice last winter.

It would seem Kirkman will find a landing place somewhere, if not with the Rangers next spring.

"I don't have a clue," Kirkman said. "I'm going to worry about the next three games, go out and have fun, enjoy the offseason and see what happens."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers do their part to delay A's clinch party

Offense tallies five runs off Samardzija to back Baker, bullpen

Rangers do their part to delay A's clinch party

ARLINGTON -- Scott Baker did another terrific job after being a last-minute replacement for Derek Holland. Reliever Spencer Patton earned his first Major League win, Neftali Feliz earned his 13th save of the season and Roman Mendez probably got the biggest outs of the night in the eighth.

The Rangers used eight pitchers on Saturday night, and needed all of them to forestall the Athletics postseason-spot-clinching celebration with a 5-4 victory. Catcher Robinson Chirinos also played a big part by hitting a two-run home run in the seventh and throwing out pinch-runner Billy Burns trying to steal second as the tying run in the ninth.

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The Rangers have now won 13 of their last 15 and are 14-7 with Tim Bogar as their manager.

"We're just finishing strong," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We're playing good baseball. We have to keep it up. Everybody is playing good, everybody is feeling great."

Baker, who has been dealing with triceps tendinitis, was called upon to pitch when Derek Holland had to be scratched because of a migraine headache. Starting for the first time since Sept. 5, Baker allowed two runs on four hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five. He was out there for four-plus innings and came out having thrown 54 pitches.

"We've put him in some tough situations before and he has always done well," Bogar said. "He is kind of like a chameleon, he pitches well in any situation."

Athletics starter Jeff Samardzija allowed five runs in seven innings, as his club -- in need of either a win or a Mariners loss -- couldn't get its part of the deal done. The Rangers have won five of six against the Athletics in the last two weeks.

"Other teams can't complain about how we're going about it," Bogar said.

The Athletics took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Josh Donaldson's 29th home run. But the Rangers struck back in the bottom of the first. Andrus singled with one out, stole second and scored on Rougned Odor's single. Odor went to second on the throw to the plate and then scored on a single by Adrian Beltre. Jake Smolinski's fourth-inning home run made it 3-1.

Baker's night came to an end in the fifth, when he allowed leadoff singles to Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie that put runners on the corners. Left-hander Alex Claudio took over and got pinch-hitter Nate Freiman to ground into a double play. A run scored but the threat fizzled. Geovany Soto singled but Shawn Tolleson took over and struck out pinch-hitter Nick Punto to end the threat.

That kept the Rangers in front, and Chirinos added to the lead with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. That proved big because of what happened in the top of the eighth.

Left-hander Neal Cotts came in to pitch for the Rangers and allowed one-out singles to Jonny Gomes and Donaldson that put runners on the corners.

The Athletics had left-handed hitter Brandon Moss up next and another lefty in Reddick behind him. Mendez, a right-hander, was warming up in the Rangers' bullpen. Athletics manager Bob Melvin was about to send up Derek Norris, a right-handed hitter, to bat for Moss against Cotts.

But, before Norris was announced, Bogar brought in Mendez. That allowed Melvin to keep Moss in the game. Mendez struck him out. Mendez had held left-handed hitters to a .151 average prior to Saturday so Bogar had reason to let him pitch to Moss.

"He has been good against left-handers all year, so I didn't have any problem with him facing Moss, and I felt comfortable with him against Reddick," Bogar said.

But Reddick and Lowrie delivered run-scoring singles that made it 5-4. With two on and two out, Alberto Callaspo worked the count full and then hit a ball to deep right. But Smolinski caught it up against the wall to end the inning.

"I knew he had it," Mendez said. "That's why I was walking to the dugout after he hit it."

Feliz closed out the win with a scoreless ninth, earning a win for Patton, who tossed a scoreless seventh and was credited with his first big league victory.

"It means a lot," Patton said. "I always dreamed of getting a win in the big leagues. It's exciting. Nobody can take it away from me."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tepesch's strong season has rough landing

Righty allows six A's runs as Rangers' streak ends at five

Tepesch's strong season has rough landing

ARLINGTON -- Rangers right-hander Nick Tepesch, after pitching well for two months, could not close out his season with a win.

Tepesch allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings and the Rangers' five-game winning streak came to an end with a 6-2 loss to the Athletics on Friday night at Globe Life Park. Tepesch entered the game having gone 2-3 but with a 3.29 ERA in his last nine starts.

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"I really didn't have good command tonight," Tepesch said. "I didn't get ahead of hitters. When you don't get strike one, you end up having to climb back in the count and the hitter has the advantage ... a lot of deep counts."

Tepesch finished his season 5-11 with a 4.36 ERA in 22 starts and one relief appearance since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock on May 14. He has now made 39 starts in the big leagues over the past two seasons and is 9-16 with a 4.53 ERA in those outings.

He exits the season as one of the four leading candidates for next year's rotation, along with Derek Holland, Yu Darvish and Nick Martinez. Colby Lewis would join that group if he re-signs as a free agent and Matt Harrison could as well if he makes a full recovery from his back issues.

But the Rangers are still expected to pursue at least one and possibly two starting pitchers in the offseason. Based on what they saw this season, maximum starting-pitching depth is a significant goal for the Rangers this winter, but Tepesch has definitely pitched himself into the middle of it all.

Despite what happened in his final outing, Tepesch still considers this to be a successful season considering how much he improved as the year progressed.

"I felt like I learned a lot and got better as the season went along," Tepesch said,

Athletics starter Scott Kazmir held the Rangers to two runs (one earned) in seven innings, cutting Oakland's magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card spot to one against the Mariners. One Seattle loss or Oakland win in the final two games of the season puts the A's in the Wild Card Game against the Royals or Tigers, whichever club does not win the AL Central.

The Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Leonys Martin led off with a single, stole second and scored on a one-out double by Ryan Rua. That was Rua's 13th RBI in September, the most on the club.

But the Athletics went ahead in the third after Tepesch walked No. 9 hitter Eric Sogard with one out. Coco Crisp followed with a hard grounder to first base that Adam Rosales snagged with a nice play going to his right. He tried for the force at second base and his throw ended up in left field. That put runners on first and second, and Adam Dunn brought them home with a two-run double to right.

"If we turn that double play, it might be a little different," Rangers manager Tim Bogar said.

Josh Reddick made it 3-1 with his 12th home run of the season to lead off the fourth, and then the Athletics scored three more runs in the fifth. Josh Donaldson reached on a one-out single, Brandon Moss walked and Jed Lowrie doubled to right to bring home a run. With runners at second and third, Robbie Ross Jr. took over for Tepesch and gave up a two-run single to Reddick.

"I just thought he was erratic his fastball, [Tepesch] was hitting his spot," Bogar said. "I looked up at the scoreboard in the fifth inning and it was about 50-50 as far as balls and strikes."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rangers win fifth straight on Beltre's walk-off homer

Texas comes through after Lewis twirls gem vs. Wild Card-hopeful A's

Rangers win fifth straight on Beltre's walk-off homer

ARLINGTON -- Maybe the Rangers need to get rid of all these rookies and get more mid-30-something players like Colby Lewis and Adrian Beltre. They certainly got it done on Thursday night.

Lewis was terrific for seven innings in his final start of the season and Beltre made it a winning night with a walk-off home run in the ninth that gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory over the Athletics.

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"The two old horses took us to the promised land tonight," Rangers manager Tim Bogar said. "We've had a lot of adversity this year, and when you watch Beltre and Lewis do their thing every day regardless of what happened around them, they showed up every day and were professional. There's so much value in that. These young kids are learning how to do it right."

Lewis and Beltre are the oldest players left on a team that is dominated by rookies. But that team has now won five straight games and 12 of its last 13.

"Tonight I was able to contribute," Beltre said. "That's my job, contribute to the young guys and try to keep up with them."

Beltre's home run came off Athletics reliever Luke Gregerson and was the 395th of his career and 19th of the season. Neftali Feliz was the winning pitcher with a scoreless top of the ninth. It was the Rangers' seventh walk-off win of the season.

"In that situation, I'm just looking for a pitch up in the zone and put a good swing on it," Beltre said. "I'm looking for something I can drive, hit it out or a gapper that can put myself in scoring position."

Lewis gave up just one run while not being involved in the decision. He allowed six hits and five walks but struck out seven and held the Athletics to 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. His biggest hurdle was getting over the five walks and having the leadoff hitter reach base in six of seven innings.

"The windup was just trash tonight," Lewis said. "That's all I can say. I got guys out with it. The five walks were disappointing ... one of them ended up scoring. The stretch was definitely more comfortable, because I was in it all night."

Lewis finishes the season with a record of 10-14 and an ERA of 5.18 and is tied with Yu Darvish for the most wins on the Rangers.

Having made 29 starts and thrown 170 1/3 innings, Lewis is the only Rangers pitcher who will throw at least 162 qualifying innings, so he will also "lead" the Rangers with a 5.18 ERA. That is the highest in history by the Rangers' team leader. Kevin Millwood had a 5.16 ERA in 2007.

"Colby, what can you say about him?" Bogar said. "He just battled and battled and battled. That's why he's the workhorse. We've talked about it all season how inspirational he is. Tonight was another effort our young pitchers can build on and watch. It was fun to watch Colby go out there and fight through that."

Lewis' problems throwing from his windup only hurt him in the sixth inning. Brandon Moss led off with a walk, went to third on a one-out single by Jed Lowrie and scored on a safety-squeeze bunt by Geovany Soto.

"We just offensively aren't doing our job right now," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "That's a game we have to find a way to win. We had too many opportunities not to score more than one run on a squeeze. We have some guys in the middle of the lineup with some numbers and we've got to drive some runs in, we're not doing it."

The Rangers failed to get the leadoff batter on in any of their first six innings against Athletics starter Jason Hammel. But they were able to scratch out a run in the bottom of the sixth when Leonys Martin reached on a two-out bunt single, stole second and scored on a single by Elvis Andrus.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Leonys in position to keep leadoff role next season

Leonys in position to keep leadoff role next season

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had a message for Leonys Martin in his season-ending exit interview on Thursday: Be ready in 2015 to be the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.

If Tim Bogar is back as manager, that's the role he envisions for Martin. The center-field job is hardly a surprise. The leadoff role is more significant.

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When Shin-Soo Choo was sidelined because of his injuries in September, the Rangers gave Martin a chance to be the everyday leadoff hitter. He has thrived in the role, hitting .319 with a .372 on-base percentage and 13 runs scored in his last 18 games.

"There is still work to do, but his approach is better, at times his swing has been better and his patience has gotten better," Bogar said. "He has used the bunt all year, but now he is using the bunt at the right time. I believe he has a big upside as a leadoff hitter to get our offense rolling next year."

The Rangers also see the potential for a premier defensive center fielder.

"We all know how gifted he is with his speed and his throwing arm," Bogar said. "Now it's time for the next level of focus and play defense the way we expect him to play. Be the general, take charge and run down everything.

"His talent is by far as high or higher than any center fielder that plays in this league. I don't think there's a guy in center field that has the arm that he has. He runs just as fast or faster than all of them."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Robertson wraps up remarkable season

Robertson wraps up remarkable season

ARLINGTON -- The Athletics are scheduled to pitch left-hander Scott Kazmir on Friday, and that could be the last lefty starter the Rangers face this weekend. If so, it could be the final start for outfielder Daniel Robertson, who has been getting most of his playing time against left-handers.

It has still been a remarkable season for a rookie who turns 29 next week. He started the season in the Padres organization and on the "phantom" disabled list and was bought by the Rangers on April 23. Finally given a chance to play in the big leagues with the Rangers, he suffered multiple small fractures in his left cheek when he crashed into Alex Rios chasing a fly ball on May 22 in Detroit.

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Robertson avoided the disabled list and ended up playing in 69 games for the Rangers. He hit .270, including .326 against left-handers.

"I've learned how drastic things can change," Robertson said. "How humbling baseball is and how things can change every day, one day it can humble you, the next day it can get you excited. It makes you appreciate the game more. Even though you are not playing every day, there are still tons of chances to get better, especially with the experience we have on the coaching staff."

The Rangers' plans for Robertson are uncertain on a 40-man roster that will get overwhelmed in the offseason when players come off the 60-man disabled list. But right now he is one of four right-handed-hitting candidates in the outfield next season along with Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski and Michael Choice.

"I don't worry about what the plan is for next year," Robertson said. "I have two objectives: be the best player I can be and be the best teammate I can be. If I take care of that, my shot will be there.

"It's a good story, but it's just beginning. I'm learning everything I can from the veterans on this team and the coaching staff and trying to get better. Hopefully 10-12 years from now, when I retire, I'll be a better player then than I was as a rookie in 2015."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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