Sports Minute: Rangers rebuilding while their new stadium hosting playoffs
By STEPHEN HAWKINSAP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Playoff games and the World Series will be played this October in the new Texas Rangers ballpark. The home team is far from being part of the postseason festivities.
In this most unusual of seasons, delayed and abbreviated by the pandemic and now with most of the MLB playoffs at neutral sites, the Rangers got to play only 30 home games, and without fans, in the debut season of the $1.2 billion stadium with a retractable roof that was constructed over 2 1/2 years.
They are now early in the process of another major rebuilding project. This one will be much more cost conscious and has no certain timeline.
On the final day of a 22-38 season, the Rangers had three 22-year-old rookies in the starting lineup — center fielder Leody Taveras, shortstop Anderson Tejeda and catcher Sam Huff. Shin-Soo Choo, in a farewell appearance at the end of a $130 million, seven-year contract, was the only player over 26.
“I think it’s the start of something. It’s a beginning,” second-year manager Chris Woodward said.
With no minor league games, most top prospects were at the alternate training site. When the big league season got derailed by early injuries to two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and closer Jose LeClerc, then an eight-game losing streak in August, nine players made their big league debuts — five had never played above Class A. Texas used 17 rookies overall.
While the Rangers had the American League's worst record, and were 6-24 on the road, they avoided the worst winning percentage in team history by closing the year with a three-game sweep over playoff-bound defending AL champion Houston.
“None of us are happy where we are in the standings. That part’s embarrassing,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “But that is a huge positive for this year, to be able to give these guys that opportunity and then to see them kind of grow and come together as a team a little bit, and be able to determine what they want to be going forward.”
UP THE MIDDLE
Elvis Andrus, at 32 the longest-tenured Ranger after 12 seasons, played only 29 games because of lingering back issues. The shortstop is owed $28.5 million over the next two seasons, but the only player remaining from their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 will have to go to spring training healthy and play well to be assured that spot.
Second baseman Rougned Odor, at 26 and signed for two more seasons, led Texas with 30 RBIs in 38 games, and matched Joey Gallo with a team-best 10 homers. But Odor hit only .167, with seven of his 11 hits in September being homers, and struck out 47 times in 138 at-bats.
“He's going to have very opportunity to win the job, but he's going to have to earn it,” Woodward said of Odor, similar to the message sent to both middle infielders before this unconventional season.
Nick Solak led all MLB rookies with 56 hits while primarily playing in the outfield. But his best position is second base, where he had 16 starts.
THIN AFTER LYNN
The Rangers last offseason bolstered a rotation headed by Lance Lynn and Mike Minor by trading for Kluber and signing free agents Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.35 ERA) and Jordan Lyles (1-6, 7.02) to multiyear deals.
Kluber pitched one scoreless inning before a muscle tear in his right shoulder — the same injury that sidelined LeClerc days later. The Rangers certainly won't exercise the $18.5 million club option for Kluber, but could try to rework a new deal.
Gibson did finish strong with a four-hit shutout at Houston before six scoreless innings in his last game.
Minor was traded to Oakland, but no team met the high deadline price Texas had for Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA in 13 starts), who is signed for 2021 but could again be in trade talks this offseason.
GALLO GOOD — AND BAD
Gallo finally got settled in the field as the primary right fielder after switching between positions the previous three seasons, and became a top defender.
But his .181 batting average was 141st out of 142 qualifying big leaguers (Odor didn't qualify). Gallo had one homer every 5.7 games — maybe because of a bigger home field, especially with the roof closed — after one homer every 3.5 games when going deep 103 times from 2017-19.
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