Texas Rangers Poised to Snag Playoff Berth in 2010

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Texas Rangers Poised to Snag Playoff Berth in 2010 As we count down the days until Opening Day, it is time to look at each of the teams on the Red Sox' 2010 schedule. Our 13th installment examines the Texas Rangers.

2009 record: 87-75, second in AL West

Manager: Ron Washington

Key additions: SP Rich Harden, OF/DH Vladimir Guerrero, RP Chris Ray, RP Darren Oliver, IF Hernan Iribarren, RP Edwar Ramirez

Key losses: SP Kevin Millwood, C Ivan Rodriguez, SS Omar Vizquel, OF Andruw Jones, OF Marlon Byrd, RP Joaquin Benoit

Outlook: If and when the Rangers snap a 10-year stretch without a playoff berth in 2010, credit may go to a number of different areas.

It would likely mean that newly acquired ace Rich Harden remained relatively healthy and stretched his dominant numbers over an entire season, for once. It might mean that Josh Hamilton rediscovers the form which made him a star in 2008. Or, perhaps, guys like first baseman Chris Davis and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia have the breakout years many reserved for them in 2009.

There?s also a good chance the club can spread some of its gratitude to a 42-year-old backup now playing in Chicago.

Omar Vizquel, who signed with the White Sox this offseason, had an influence on the Rangers which goes well beyond his pedestrian numbers. He spent his one season in Texas  in 2009 offering up his wisdom and experience as one of the game?s greatest all-time shortstops to Elvis Andrus, a dynamic defensive presence whose development upon which the franchise depends.

Just 20 until the end of August last year, Andrus?s ability to adjust to the major league level has already paid massive dividends.

In a season which saw Hamilton (everyone else?s face of the franchise) suffer through injuries, the Rangers had their first winning season in five years in large part because Andrus solidified the defense. The year before the shortstop arrived, Texas gave up 83 more runs than any other team in the major leagues. In his rookie season it utilized its defensive wizard, and Vizquel?s tutelage, into one which allowed fewer runs than all but three in the AL.

Overall, the Rangers saw their runs allowed drop by a stunning 227.

Despite the eye-popping progress, manager Ron Washington has kept Andrus on a short leash this spring.

"He hasn?t gotten his game going the way he?d like to," Washington recently said after his shortstop showed a lack of concentration in a spring game.

If Andrus has a sophomore slump, there?s comfort knowing the club now has some other pieces in place. Heck, despite stealing 33 bases and holding his own at the dish his rookie season, Andrus will hit ninth.

Above him is a collection of bats which have a chance to be special. Speedster Julio Borbon leads it off, allowing former leadoff man Ian Kinsler to drop into a run-producing slot. Kinsler, who hit 31 home runs last year, may hit fifth. Nelson Cruz, who hit 33, is slotted in seventh.

Above that pair sits .302 lifetime hitter Michael Young, as well as Hamilton and free agent signee Vladimir Guerrero. Davis and Saltalamacchia round out a lineup projected to put runs on the board.

That only leaves the starting rotation. Only.

Harden has as much ability as any starter in the game but has made more than 19 starts just twice in eight seasons. He is backed by 17-game winner Scott Feldman, up-and-comer Tommy Hunter and highly touted Derek Holland.

It?s a fine collection of arms, for sure. But there are few sure things. What they could use is a veteran presence, which was lost when Kevin Millwood was traded to Baltimore.

Aging yet experienced players have already proved their worth in the Rangers? rebuilding process.

What it means to the Red Sox: The Rangers? success and lack thereof has coincided with their results against the Sox. In four losing seasons before 2009, Texas was 11-27 against Boston. Last year it went 7-2.

Included in that stretch was a pair of games in which the Rangers stole six and seven bases, respectively. With Borbon atop the order and Andrus at the bottom, Texas will test the Sox on the basepaths again.

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