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Updated: April 15, 2010, 2:44 AM ET

Pitching, not power, could carry the Rangers

Kurkjian By Tim Kurkjian
ESPN The Magazine
[+] EnlargeC.J. Wilson
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonC.J. Wilson didn't give up a run in his first outing of the year.
People have their eyes set on Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, given his hot start, but the real key to the Rangers' rise in profile is their rotation.

Texas has as good a chance as any team to win the AL West. It made a huge jump last year because its pitching improved so much from 2008.

The addition of C.J. Wilson, the converted reliever, and Colby Lewis certainly will help the starting rotation. Lewis struck out 10 on Wednesday in a 6-2 win over the Indians to improve to 2-0. Plus, the Rangers have three starters in the minor leagues who have major league experience.

This means they are about eight deep in starting pitching, which is rare for any team but certainly rare for a Rangers team. You have to give the Texas management team a lot of credit for compiling a rotation that will rival the likes of the Angels and Mariners.

As Buster Olney noted in this space last week, with Cruz and Josh Hamilton, the Rangers are literally putting on a fireworks show.

Cruz has been one of the hottest players in the AL so far, but that should come as no big surprise given that he hit 33 homers last year. He was great in 2009, but it looks as if he's poised to have an even better 2010.

For the past couple of years, Buck Showalter has told me that someday Cruz will hit the longest home run in baseball history. That's how strong he is. Rockies manager Jim Tracy told me that the hardest-hit ball he has ever seen in 35 years was hit by Cruz this spring. The fact is that this kid impresses everybody.

If Texas is going to win that division, it needs to score a few more runs than it did last year. With Cruz's power at the plate -- and opponents held in check by the Rangers' starting rotation -- they just might.

Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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