Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Adrian Beltre, Jonathan Lucroy, Mike Napoli, Sam Dyson and Matt Bush are all known quantities with defined rolls, capable of leading the Rangers back to the playoffs. The Rangers aren't perfect though, and, as spring training begins, there are issues on the periphery of the roster that will determine whether the team will merely compete for the division title, or coast the pennant like they did in 2016.
Over the weekend, the Rangers played their first two spring training games. While the outcomes of the games, a 7-5 loss Saturday and a 6-4 win on Sunday, both against the Royals are meaningless, there are several developments over the weekend that are worthy of attention.
1. The rebirth of Yu Darvish's splitter. — During his start Sunday, Rangers ace Yu Darvish threw about a half dozen split-fingered fastballs, according to reports in Surprise, Arizona. It was the first time Darvish has featured the pitch since 2014, the year before he underwent reconstructive surgery on his elbow. His split wasn't sharp, but if Darvish can get the feel back for the pitch, it will give him another, potentially devastating, offering with which to put batters away with two strikes.
2. Josh Hamilton's never-ending story. — The idea, at least, was that Josh Hamilton, the mercurial avatar of the Rangers sad history, might be able to contribute one last time, giving Napoli an occasional rest at first base when the Rangers face tough right-handed starters. Saturday, for the second time already this spring, Hamilton returned to Texas from Arizona to seek treatment for his injured knee in Houston. Hamilton, fan favorite that he is, can't be counted on for anything at this point.
4. Delino Deshields shines. — After a lost 2016, Rangers outfielder Delino Deshields needs to start quickly if he is to have any chance of making the Rangers 25-man roster as a bench player. So far, he's done just that. Saturday, he walked twice, something he didn't do in 49 games last season. Sunday, he stole a base in the first inning and successfully executed a safety-squeeze in the second. If Deshields proves that he can run and handle the bat this spring, he'll have a leg up for a spot on the big club, thanks to his ability to play center field.