ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are holding their midwinter banquet on Friday night and FanFest on Saturday at the Ballpark in Arlington. For third baseman Michael Young, who has been working out at the Ballpark this offseason, the two events are a long-awaited signal. "When you get to this point with FanFest and the banquet, that's when it starts to hit," Young said. "It's baseball season. It's about time to get ready."
Rangers' pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 18. Young will be there a week later with the position players. When all arrive, they will be met with something else. High expectations. After going 87-75 in 2009 and making a number of moves in the offseason, the Rangers go into Spring Training believing they should be ready to contend for an American League West division title. Young is among those who is looking forward to 2010. "There should be high expectations," Young said. "We're good. We're a good team. We know it, the rest of the league knows it. "I think everybody is excited. We've added a lot of talent. We lost a great guy [Kevin Millwood] but that's part of the game. We go into the season knowing the division is tough, but we have a great chance of winning it." The Rangers, who have not won the division since 1999, added Vladimir Guerrero to be their designated hitter. They signed pitchers Rich Harden and Colby Lewis to reinforce the rotation and added left-hander Darren Oliver and right-hander Chris Ray to the bullpen. Khalil Greene was signed to be the utility infielder. They are also talking to Ryan Garko and Rocco Baldelli to fill a role as right-handed hitters off the bench. They would prefer Baldelli because he can play both the outfield and first base. "Last year we had a good team," Young said. "The team is pretty much intact and we've made some good additions, so obviously we think we're better. It's going to be a competitive division, a wide-open division, but we expect to be able to compete." The Angels have won the division five times in the last six years. The Mariners were 24 games better in 2009 than they were the year before and have added Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins. The Athletics, who signed Ben Sheets this week, have their own core group of talented young players. The Rangers have high expectations but they also play in a tough division. "That's the way it should be," Young said. "I wouldn't want to play in a weak division. When you're competing against good teams in your division, whoever wins it, when the playoffs roll around, they'll be ready to roll." If the Rangers reach the playoffs, it will be the first for Young. He was acquired as a Minor Leaguer from the Blue Jays in 2000, the year after the Rangers last went to the playoffs. He is currently fifth among all Rangers with 1,351 games played. "A lot of good times and a lot of bad times," Young said. "But I wouldn't trade one day of it ... ever. Everything I have gone through has made me the player that I am today and there is no doubt in my mind that my best baseball is ahead of me. One of my favorite players is Paul Molitor because he played some of his best baseball from mid-to-late career. "I intend to do the same thing." Young was pretty good in 2009. He missed much of September with a hamstring injury, but still hit .322, the second-highest average of his career. His .374 on-base percentage was also the second highest of his career and he set a personal best with a .518 slugging percentage, all done while learning how to play third base. "He's a great all-around player," Harden said. "He's a dangerous bat. What else can you say? He's a really talented individual. I'm happy to be on the same team." Young was being honored at Friday's banquet as the Rangers' Player of the Year. It's the fourth time he has won the award. It may not be the last. He is signed through 2013 and he firmly believes the best is ahead, for both him and the organization. "That's why I'm so excited about being a Ranger," Young said. "This is a great time to be a Ranger. I see great times ahead for the organization. As players, we feel this organization is set up to be good this year and it's set up to be good for the future. "This organization is ready to take off and I'm excited to be a part of it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.