Only 19 days until the Texas Rangers open the 2009 regular season at home against the Cleveland Indians. In other words, time for some mid-spring training grades.
So far, so good I'd have to say. No major injuries. Josh Hamilton is pounding the ball. Michael Young is flawlessly fielding grounders at third instead of questions about swapping positions. Earlier this week the Rangers scored 10 runs off Indians' Opening Day starter Cliff Lee. And manager Ron Washington is taking cinder blocks to the stomach and living to tell about it.
As Texas left for Surprise I outlined my five players who needed to have superb springs. So, how are they doing?
5. Frank Francisco - If he's not a dependable closer the Rangers will have to rely on C.J. Wilson. Yeah, I know.
GRADE: C. A save and a 4.50 ERA in four appearances. Good enough to keep the closer's job. For now.
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia - Needs to establish himself as a productive, consistent everyday catcher. If not, hello Taylor Teagarden.
GRADE: D. More strikeouts (9) than hits (8). Murmur.
3. Nelson Cruz - Two years ago a major Spring Training flameout, he's now expected to be the Rangers' biggest right-handed bat.
GRADE: A. 2 homers in 17 at-bats in limited duty because of his participation in the World Baseball Classic.
2. Brandon McCarthy - Limited to five starts last season because of injuries, he first has to prove he can get out of Arizona healthy.
GRADE: A+. 6 innings, a 3.00 ERA and, most importantly, 0 injuries.
1. Elvis Andrus - If he flashes his glove and hits over .240 we'll call it a great success.
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GRADE: A. Only error came in first game and he's holding his own at the plate with 10 hits, four walks and a .270 average.