Rained Out

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"The offense has been good at one thing especially: scoring runs," says Showalter, whose outfield will be decidedly less stable than his infield. On any given day, you're likely to see a new combination of David Dellucci, Kevin Mench, Brian Jordan and Laynce Nix, and possibly Ramon Nivar. (Brad Fullmer, if you were wondering, will serve as the designated hitter--partly because he's skilled with a bat, partly because he's terrible with a glove.) "It's been good; it's hard to knock it. But, as a manager, it's nice to have potential in the lineup if, late in a game, you need to run rather than waiting on some fat-ass guy--shouldn't say 'fat ass'; power hitter--to get a big hit off the relief pitcher.

"Now the speed doesn't always show up in runs. You'll see it first to third and first to home. I call it speed under way. That's what it is; that's what we have. It makes a big difference. We have six or seven guys who aren't burners--they don't have plus speed--but they can definitely run.

"These guys have a chance to grow now. It's already happened. You see guys more at ease now because they're not worried about stepping on anyone's toes. That's good. I want them to be themselves. And we don't want to use our inexperience as an excuse to get our brains beat out. That's the last thing we want to do. But no one is going to take pity on us."

I'm going to need confirmation on this, but the theory here is that Chan Ho Park and Larry Allen are somehow related. Park has ended his relationship with the media; no one has been able to get him to say more than a word or two. In that, he's adopted Allen's philosophy: If they ask you for an interview, grunt or shake your head no, then walk to the other side of the room.

If you're into sociological observations, then you'd love the dance with Chan Ho. Each day, a different reporter saunters over to his locker. They always approach with confidence, determined to get him to talk. Invariably, they return defeated and muttering something that sounds similar to one of Al Pacino's famous lines from The Godfather II: "He's dead to me now."

From Chan Ho's perspective, it's hard to criticize the guy for avoiding the media. Or anyone, for that matter. That he even goes outside is remarkable considering his well-documented troubles. It's impossible to under-emphasize how significant and damaging his slipups have been to the Rangers. Two years ago he signed a five-year, $65 million contract, which, considering his stats, is so outlandish that it borders on the ineffable. Since joining the Rangers he's 10-11 with a 6.06 ERA. He's been on the disabled list three times, including missing most of the second half last season because of back pain. In seven starts during the '03 campaign, he was 1-3 with a monster 7.58 ERA.

Were it any other team, or if he were a bullpen guy, or if he weren't walking around with such an overstuffed wallet, maybe the idea of Chan Ho in a Rangers uniform wouldn't be so excruciating. Problem is the Texas Rangers are forever in need of pitching. (I hear David Clyde is available...just a suggestion.) And so, somehow, if Park can drag his tired ass out onto the mound without breaking a nail, he'll be featured in the starting rotation, likely playing the No. 2 role to Kenny Rogers, "Staff Ace."

That says everything you need to know about Rangers pitching--the 107-year-old Gambler as the likely opening-day starter, followed by a too-rich Korean hypochondriac.

"If Chan Ho is healthy, and Kenny is healthy, they'll probably be in the rotation," Showalter says, leaning back in his chair in the clubhouse conference room. Before he continues, he takes off his apple-red Rangers cap and puts his hands on his matted hair. "I wouldn't assume anything. We want competition around here. And that's a dangerous word--assume. I'm not gonna sit here on March whatever and say here's our rotation and I'm confident it won't change. These guys need the competition. If someone has a problem with competition during spring training, they're gonna have it during the season."

The rest of the rotation will be filled out by any number of players. Leading the list of candidates are former Cleveland Indians pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez (who was 3-9 with a 5.73 ERA last year) and Colby Lewis, whom the organization is high on (5-1, 3.02 with Oklahoma last year). After that, it's a sour mash of the untalented and semi-capable ranging from Joaquin Benoit to R.A. Dickey to Mickey Callaway--at least one of whom, I'm pretty sure, recently lived under Interstate 30. Then, this is hardly news. That the Rangers need pitching is one of the oldest sports axioms, along the lines of "Shaq can't shoot free throws" and "the Eagles will blow it in the playoffs."

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John Gonzalez
Contact: John Gonzalez

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