<
>

Jon Daniels believes Rangers will contend for AL West in 2015

PHOENIX -- I think we all know what happened to the Texas Rangers in 2014. A 95-loss season, injuries to many players, the manager resigns and the Kansas City Royals, yeah, the Royals were playing in the World Series.

Nothing against the Royals, a club that earned an AL wild-card berth with 89 victories while barely hitting home runs out of the park, but the Rangers need to be better in 2015.

If you don’t believe in some of the injured players’ returns, Prince Fielder (neck surgery), Shin-Soo Choo (elbow and ankle surgery) among others, then you need to listen to GM Jon Daniels.

He didn’t speak to reporters Tuesday in a bravado associated with a boxing promoter, yet he did note 2015 will not resemble 2014.

“It’s a very competitive division,” Daniels said during the GM Meetings. “I think we’ll be a lot better this year.”

Was 2014 a fluke?

“Yeah,” he said. “It was an aberration more than a fluke. When you look back in 10 years, you will not see 2014 as the start of the norm for us.”

Daniels can’t afford it to be the norm.

He said Fielder, the team’s best power hitter, is already working out five days a week in Orlando. Choo, working out in Arlington, is close to 100 percent. Shortstop Elvis Andrus said he’s already lost weight and should enter spring training in better shape.

The reports on ace right-hander Yu Darvish (elbow inflammation) have been good, Derek Holland, the No. 2 man in the rotation, proved to the Rangers he can become a dependable starter.

There are still some issues with the club.

Finding a backup catcher, a left fielder with some pop, two more starters and a third base coach being the main ones.

Daniels believes in this Rangers team he put together last year. He’s cautious at times with his comments because he understands things can turn quickly like they did last year.

Remember Holland suffered a knee injury in the winter? Fielder lasted just two months, Choo played hurt all year, Andrus had a subpar season, Darvish didn’t finish the season and the majority of the young kids who played should have stayed in Triple-A.

It was too much for Daniels or others in the organization to deal with.

Now the team has moved on and with the recovery of several players and some upgrades, the Rangers should be competitive again.

“I think we have a good core,” Daniels said. “We got some good young players coming and I think we’re going to add to it and we expect to hit spring training as a team contending for the division. That’s the best way I can put it.”