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The Texas Rangers are looking for 2008 baseball season to be a fresh start for the struggling franchise. Strikeout King Nolan Ryan is now team president after a stint as the special assistant to the general manager of the Houston Astros. Faces fresh and old can be seen at Spring Training.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia split time between C-1B last season but is expected to focus exclusively on catching this year as new Third Base Coach and former big league catcher Matt Walbeck was brought with the specific intent of tutoring Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird. Laird is the superior defensive catcher while Saltalamacchia is the bigger offensive threat.
Native Texan Ben Broussard takes over at first base coming over in an off season deal from the Seattle Mariners. After being a bench player for former Ranger ROY Mike Hargrove in Seattle; Broussard is expected to have big year offensively.
Ian Kinsler is one of the best second baseman in the American League. He hits for power, drives in runs, and steals bases. He and fellow middle infielder Michael Young led the AL in double plays, while Kinsler led AL second basemen with 17 errors.
Michael Young is the heart and soul of the Rangers. He won the 2005 AL Batting Crown. Hit .315 last season with 201 hits and 94 Runs batted in. Defensively he had 19 errors.
Hank Blalock had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in May and though he was not the same the rest of the season. He still hit .293 with 10 home runs. Expect a big offensive year from Blalock if he is healthy.
Marlon Byrd, who played all three outfield spots last season, starts out in left. Josh Hamilton, who hit .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in 90 games and in 298 at-bats as a rookie last season for the Cincinnati Reds; capped his epic comeback with a second place finish for National League ROY was acquired to play center and Milton Bradley, who hit a combined .306 with 13 home runs last season with the Oakland A's and the San Diego Padres is coming off knee surgery, was a free agent signee to play right field.
Frank Catalanotto is back to anchor the bench, Jason Botts looks to be the DH most days. Nelson Cruz, Chris Shelton, Ramon Vazquez, and Nate Gold round out the bench. Fan favorite Kevin Mench figures into the mix as well if he can make the team out of camp.
If Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Jason Jennings, Brandon McCarthy, and Kason Gabbard can all avoid the injury bug and tired arm the Ranger's starting rotation looks to be the best in recent memory.
C.J. Wilson seems to have the closer job locked down. Though Eddie Guardado would beg to differ. Frank Francisco, Wes Littleton, John Rheinecker, and Joaquin Benoit were regulars out the 'pen last season and figure to be the same again. While there are some new faces in former starters Jamey Wright, Kameron Loe, and Robinson Tejeda along with reliever Franklyn German and Kazuo Fukumori an accomplished closer in Japan.
Former big leaguer Ron Washington will begin his second season as the Ranger's skipper.