Redskins

New-look Rangers still have 'some good pieces'

201301111847676373210-p2.jpeg

New-look Rangers still have 'some good pieces'

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Adrian Beltre watched this offseason as the Texas Rangers tried to sign the top free-agent pitcher on the market and keep slugger Josh Hamilton.

The Gold Glove third baseman who hit .321 with 36 homers last year realizes some big bats are missing from the Texas lineup now that Hamilton signed with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels, Mike Napoli agreed to a deal with Boston that still hasn't been finalized and Michael Young got traded to Philadelphia.

Yet that doesn't change how Beltre feels about what the Rangers can do this season, a year after being knocked out in a one-and-done wild-card game following consecutive World Series appearances.

``We still have a good enough team to compete and hopefully win the West,'' Beltre said Friday during the team's annual Fan Fest. ``We'll still have some good pieces in that lineup that can do the job. ... There's no doubt they tried. They obviously pursued Zack Greinke. They were wanting to bring (Hamilton) back.''

The Rangers still have Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the middle of a lineup that includes Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. There will also be newcomers Lance Berkman, a switch-hitting DH, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

They also have a pitching staff led by a more comfortable Yu Darvish, the Japanese ace who won 16 games as a major league rookie last season, along with left-handers Matt Harrison (18-11) and Derek Holland (12-7).

Darvish and the Rangers were working at this point last year to complete an extended negotiation for the right-hander to make the move to the majors.

This offseason, Darvish is able to better focus on getting ready for his second big league season.

``Compared to last year, I feel so much more at ease. ... I really feel I'm part of the team now. How I feel right now is a totally different feeling,'' Darvish said through a translator. ``Last year, there was more of a rush in trying to prepare at a much quicker pace. I'm going at my own pace, working out. This offseason, the preparation has been much better.''

In 29 regular-season starts for Texas, Darvish went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191 1-3 innings. He was an All-Star for the Rangers, who won 93 games.

When asked about last season, Darvish described it as ``so-so.''

Texas manager Ron Washington said Darvish ``certainly has the potential to be an ace,'' but stopped short of declaring him the team's No. 1 starter for the upcoming season.

Another potential opening-day starter is Harrison, also an All-Star last season. The Rangers have been talking to the lefty about a contract extension, and Harrison indicated Friday night that the sides could talk more this weekend while he is in town.

As for the offense, Hamilton hit a career-high 43 home runs with 128 RBIs last season while Napoli had 24 homers and 56 RBIs in 108 games. Young was the longest-tenured Texas player, the team's career hits leader in his 12 seasons.

``It's definitely going to be a different atmosphere,'' Harrison said.

``They played a big role for the team,'' Cruz said. ``We've got to move on.''

Washington made it clear that he doesn't want Cruz, who had 24 homers last season, to have the mindset that he has to try to do more to make up for those losses.

``Nobody's going to do what Josh did,'' Cruz said. ``I'm just going to play my role, do what I do. ... If we play like we're capable, we definitely can go far.''

Cruz and Beltre both would like to play in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic.

Beltre played for his home country in 2006 but had to skip the event in 2009 while with the Seattle Mariners ``because I was hurt and the team didn't allow me to,'' he said.

Rangers closer Joe Nathan said he has been approached by Joe Torre about playing for the United States, and was told he could have a couple of weeks to think about it.

``We want to make sure as we hit those later months that I'm as good as I can be for this club,'' Nathan said. ``If the WBC isn't part of that equation, obviously I back out.''

Notes: RHP Colby Lewis is starting to throw on flat ground and said his rehabilitation from elbow surgery last summer is progressing at a good pace. He isn't expected to be back in the rotation until at least June or July. ... General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers like where they are and are ``more than likely'' set with the team they will take to spring training next month. But Daniels also wouldn't rule out another move if it makes sense and improves the team. ... Pierzynski, who won a World Series title with the Chicago White Sox in 2005 and spent eight seasons there, said he's looking forward to his new opportunity. He and his family spent some time Friday buying caps and T-shirts at the Rangers gift shop.

Quick Links

Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

vernondavis.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

Vernon Davis has long been a fan favorite in the D.C. area since his University of Maryland days. The 34-year-old is almost always well-dressed and respectful to the media. 

More recently, he has been outspoken about his interest in acting after his football career. A true renaissance man who just so happens to be a force in the National Football League. 

In April, NBC Sports Washington ran into Davis at the Team USA Awards where he was serving as guest speaker. 

He took his smooth nature to a whole new level Tuesday while vacationing in Ocean City, Md. with his girlfriend Kayla. 

Dressed in all white on the beach, Davis proposed in an epic way. 

The best motivation I ever had. #shesmyrock

A post shared by Vernon Davis (@vernondavis85) on

Check out the whole video produced below. We won't spoil it for you, but there were skydivers involved. Take a look: 

Davis will suit up for his third season with the Redskins when training camp opens July 26 in Richmond. 

Quick Links

Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

strasburg.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2.