ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was happy hour in the Texas Rangers clubhouse after manager Ron Washington barged in and announced that lefthanded veteran ace Cliff Lee is on his way.
Washington said the players reacted with a collective fist pump followed by collective giddiness.
"We were like little kids," shortstop Elvis Andrus said.
With the deal that brings Lee and relief pitcher Mark Lowe to Texas for rookie first baseman Justin Smoak and three minor-leaguers barely announced, lefthanded pitcher C.J. Wilson couldn't wait to break the news on his Twitter feed and he repeated his tweet moments later: "It felt like it was Christmas," he said.
Indeed it did for a club that has for so long now been mired in a muddled ownership sale and a dragging bankruptcy that so many believed would handcuff the front office from pulling off a blockbuster deal to improve the American League West leader's chances of capturing its first division title in 11 long years.
"We've had a lot of stuff kind of hanging over our heads and this is really a positive story for us," Wilson said. "With the combination of his experience from the last couple of years of being in the playoffs and being a Cy Young Award winner and all that stuff is going to rub off on all the pitchers in the same way that Vlad [Guerrero] has rubbed off on all the hitters. It's going to be really good."
Hopes had been cautiously raised in the clubhouse recently that the Lee deal would eventually go through. And then players woke up this morning to the sobering news that the mighty, free-spending New York Yankees were about to gobble up Lee for themselves.
"Wow, that's really all I said was, 'Wow, really? Come on now,'" starting pitcher Tommy Hunter said. "But, we got him. They got the job done."
Sitting at his corner locker stall, third baseman Michael Young, the longest-tenured Rangers and the undisputed team captain, was texting and receiving texts. His cell phone was blowing up. Even the typically reserved, ever-stoic Young couldn't hold back a smile as he let news of the Rangers' biggest acquistion since Alex Rodriguez sink in.
"This is a huge shot in the arm," Young said. "We had a meeting in here the second that we knew we had Cliff and we made it a point that we're not going to change a thing. Our main goal is to come out and continue to play as hard as we can. Having said that, we know what we just acquired, and we're excited about the possibilities now."
The Rangers built a 5 1/2-game lead over the Angels entering Friday's games with a starting rotation of young, inexperienced arms led by first-time starter C.J. Wilson and retread Colby Lewis, who had left the major-leagues to revive himself in Japan.
The two pitchers expected to be at the top of the rotation, the injured Rich Harden and the struggling Scott Feldman, haven't lived up to expectations.
Lee's insertion as a bona fide ace immediately bolsters a staff that has managed to produce the fourth-best ERA in the AL at 3.91.
"He's one of the best. Anytime you get a guy like that, that's awesome," Feldman said. "When you got a guy like that you want to watch him as closely as you can. There's a reason why he's so successful. It's just really exciting. Everybody is really pretty happy that we're in the position and able to get this deal done."
*C.J. Wilson is excited to welcome Cliff Lee to the Rangers clubhouse, but he does have one concern: "I just hope he doesn't want to trade numbers because I'm really attached to mine." Both players wear No. 36.
*Ron Washington said Chris Davis, recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City for tonight's game will be the club's everyday first baseman. He said Davis gives the club an upgrade defensively at first base and he's optimistic that Davis can transfer his hot bat to the big leagues.
"Nothing against Smoak, but there is a difference between the two defensive-wise," Washington said. "Offensive-wise, we're not looking for Chris to come up in here and go to bopping 18 or 19 home runs. We're looking for Chris to come up in here and fit in and be a part of what we're trying to do."
Washington said Davis will likely hit between 7th and 9th in the order.
*Washington said the club will likely move pitcher Matt Harrison, who was scheduled to start Saturday, to the bullpen as a second lefty to ease some innings on veteran reliever Darren Oliver.
*Injured pitcher Rich Harden is expected to get a rehab start with the Triple-AAA Oklahoma City on Sunday at Round Rock. Washington said Harden would get at least two rehab starts.