SURPRISE, Ariz. — Why wait?

Seriously, about the only things that can happen between Wednesday when spring training officially opens for the Rangers and the start of the regular season on March 29 are injuries and indecision.

Adrian Beltre could suffer his annual calf/hamstring strain. A pitcher could come down with a torn elbow ligament. Something could spook the Rangers off the idea of using a six-man starting rotation. Or maybe they will decide three heads in left field are better than one.

Even with more questions about the roster than they’ve had in some time and 66 players expected in camp — whenever the Rangers announce the signing of reliever Seung Hwan Oh — they have a pretty good idea of what they’d like their roster to be. From here, things can only get confused.

By my count, including Oh, there are 20 jobs already spoken for. There would be only four openings if Martin Perez had not had that unfortunate incident with the bull that left him with a broken bone on the tip of his right elbow. But even if he is ready, the Rangers will likely act out of caution and bring him along slowly, leaving a spot open for the “sixth” starter in the rotation for a while, maybe as little as two or three weeks.

For this, the Rangers will play 34 games, not to mention intrasquads, B-games and minor league outings. And, oh, the pitchers’ fielding practice.

Of course, it’s all necessary. Pitchers need to build up arm strength. Batters need to work on their timing. The pitchers need the fielding practice, even if you remember every single throwing error they made last year and are convinced it’s a hopeless waste of time. It’s not.

But to judge much off spring training, that’s where you get in trouble. Determining roster spots based on spring training performance? It’s a different schedule, different lighting, harder infields and a maximum of maybe 100 plate appearances for even the most intense guys in competition with one another.


So, I’m gonna take the mystery out of everything before they even get started. I’ll take our annual projected opening day rosters and up the ante a bit: I’ll give you a way-too-early roster prediction after running through the five spots up for competition.

Here is what’s at stake:

Left field

The Rangers could either go with a left-right platoon of Drew Robinson and Ryan Rua — which is similar to what they tried to do last year with Rua, Jurickson Profar and Delino DeShields — or Willie Calhoun. Calhoun has a long way to go defensively. Rua is a decent defender who must show he can hit left-handed pitching. Robinson must show he can also play some center field. Calhoun’s bat will make it an interesting discussion, but, theoretically, at least, he’s the one who could benefit most from every day at-bats, which would be more readily available in the minors.

No. 6 starter

If Mike Minor and Matt Bush show potential to transition to the rotation, the Rangers will lean toward a larger rotation. With Perez likely out of the opening day picture, it opens up a path for either Bartolo Colon or Jon Niese. Colon has a longer track record and can be efficient with his pitches. The Rangers aren’t looking for a full year from this spot; it could be perhaps as little as three or four starts. As long as Colon continues to show he can throw strikes and move the ball around, he likely will win any close decisions.

An optionable reliever

This would be the seventh pitcher in the bullpen and it could either be a long man (Austin Bibens-Dirkx) or one of three hard-throwing guys (Jose Leclerc, Nick Gardewine or Ricardo Rodriguez). It doesn’t really matter who wins the job, because these pieces are likely going to be interchangeable over the course of the year. Whoever is fresh will be there until the next time the Rangers need to manipulate the roster. Leclerc has the most upside, but the Rangers might opt for the multi-inning option in Bibens-Dirkx to start the season while starters are on more limited pitch counts.

Backup center fielder

The only real center fielder on the roster is Rule 5 pick Carlos Tocci. But if the Rangers keep Robinson or Calhoun and Rua in some kind of platoon, it would seem impossible for them to keep the Rule 5 pick in the majors. If Robinson is here, he’d likely be the first option. If not, maybe the Rangers go with Calhoun and Tocci, who is a right-handed hitter, and give him some time in left field.

Backup catcher

Brett Nicholas and Juan Centeno are left-handed hitters who could form a loose platoon with starter Robinson Chirinos to keep him fresh since he’s never started more than 90 games in a season. Centeno, acquired from Houston, is out of minor league options, but Nicholas has worked his way up the Rangers organization. The Rangers also have a pretty long history of adding catchers on waiver claims late in spring training.

Twitter: @Evan_P_Grant

Roster prediction

Catchers (2): Robinson Chirinos, Brett Nicholas

Infielders (5): Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar

Outfielders (5): Ryan Rua, Drew Robinson, Delino DeShields, Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo

Starting pitchers (6): Cole Hamels, Matt Moore, Doug Fister, Matt Bush, Mike Minor, Bartolo Colon

Relievers (7): Seung Hwan Oh, Alex Claudio, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela, Tony Barnette, Chris Martin, Jose Leclerc

DL (1): Martin Perez

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