Fresh faces bring fresh promise to Rangers; Rose stays patient
During spring training, manager Bobby Valentine said his goal was to make the Texas Rangers the most improved team in baseball. Now that he has accomplished this, Valentine continues to push for more consistency, more improvement, and more victories from his Rangers, the surprise early leaders in the American League West. ``When I took over Texas partway into last season, I felt like a guy who had suddenly gotten off an airliner in some little-known foreign country and couldn't speak the language,'' Bobby says.Skip to next paragraph
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``My players didn't know what to expect from me, and coming over from the National League [where he had been a Mets' coach], I didn't know much about their strengths or weaknesses.
``Naturally I wanted to win big right away, and when we didn't, it was disappointing. But at least I was finding things out about my personnel.''
Valentine says that in his first training camp with the Rangers this spring, he no longer felt burdened by not knowing his material, even though eight members of his opening-day roster had less than one year of major league experience.
Instead of worrying about this lack of seasoning, which included five rookies on the pitching staff, Valentine opted to rely on the fresh talent. Result: Jose Guzman became the first rookie in five years to win on opening day; Ed Correa has been a solid starter; and Greg Harris, working out of the bullpen, already has 12 saves.
Bobby probably took an even bolder gamble when he made rookie outfielder Pete Incaviglia his cleanup hitter.
There are several things you should know about Mr. Incaviglia. First, Pete originally belonged to the Montreal Expos, who traded him to Texas when they were unable to satisfy his money demands. Second, although Incaviglia hit .464 last season, with 48 home runs and 143 runs batted in, he did so with Oklahoma State, where a curveball is often more like a gentle bend in the road than the sharp breaking stuff a batter sees in the majors.
The point is, those who play the lead in ``The Music Man'' for the local Grange chapter in Kearney, Neb., aren't usually the ones to do it on Broadway. And although Pete has had moments when he couldn't find his batting script, overall he has done extremely well, hitting with enough power to stay near the American League's home run leaders.
Other names who have earned a spot on the Rangers' marquee are first basemen Pete O'Brien, outfielder Oddibe McDowell, and third basemen Steve Buechele, although actually everybody on the roster has made some kind of meaningful contribution.
If Valentine isn't careful, his kids, his young veterans, and his well-seasoned veterans are apt to make him American League Manager of the Year. Piniella says Yanks need mound help
With the New York Yankees' pitching staff having trouble finishing what it starts, these have not been the best of times for rookie manager Lou Piniella. In fact, Piniella has reportedly told owner George Steinbrenner that he can't stay close to division leader Boston without adding another starting pitcher.