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The Surprise, Surprise: Last Bench Spot Up For Grabs & More

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By: Jared Sandler

The Leadoff:

The Just Hangin' series is back. We've already done Jurickson Profar, Tuesday we did Ryan Rua and Jeremy Jeffress joined us today.

Each Sunday leading up to Opening Day we'll have Rangers Hot Stove on 105.3 The Fan from 5-6p. Last Sunday I was joined by Rangers' pitching coach, Doug Brocail. He was really candid about his pitching staff, including Yu Darvish and his desire to implement a splitfinger.

Covering the Bases:

*Jeff Banister acknowledged Tuesday what we probably already knew: he wants his last position player bench spot to be someone with versatility. If he follows through with that desire, which there's no reason to believe he wouldn't, then that likely means James Loney's only way on the Opening Day roster is if Mike Napoli gets hurt. Loney can only play first base and I'm not sure his defensive prowess is enough to overcome that lack of versatility.

*So, who fits Banny's description? Hanser Alberto, Will Middlebrooks, and Drew Robinson are all capable of playing multiple infield positions. Robinson is an interesting case. He was placed on the 40-man this off-season for protection and has done everything other than pitch and catch the last couple of years. The question for Robinson is at the plate. Over his last two minor league seasons (258 games) split between Double-A and Triple-A, Robinson has shown power (41 HR), but has also had a strikeout issue (291). He's also young, turning 27 on April 20, so his status also depends on whether or not the Rangers feel like he and they'd be better long term with him getting another dose of everyday at bats in Triple-A for a period of time. While eight of the nine regular starting roles among position players aren't really open for competition, there is competition for the way Banny builds his bench.

*Nick Martinez looked really sharp Tuesday in his two perfect innings versus the Diamondback. Prior to game action getting underway, pitching coach, Doug Brocail, identified Martinez as the most impressive of his pitchers through mid-February workouts and bullpens. Martinez isn't the favorite to land the final starting rotation spot, but he's been the underdog and won a job before, like Spring Training 2014. The key for Martinez is pitching inside. It's something he did such a good job of in 2015, but a poor job of in 2016. He doesn't have dominant stuff, so pitching inside is imperative to his success. I'm not sure Martinez wins the final rotation spot, but I don't expect him to go away until the end, either. But even if he doesn't win the job, he'll likely still log starts at the MLB level this year.

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