Oliver aims to make Rangers more than one-dimensional
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated
TEAM: Texas Rangers
SITE: Charlotte County Stadium, Port Charlotte, Fla.
WEATHER: Upper 60s, windy, cumulus clouds threatening to become stratus
PLAYER I SAW WHOM I REALLY LIKED: Darren Oliver. We all know about A-Rod and Raffy and Pudge and K.C. and Big Cat, but this team's pitching remains its huge question mark. Oliver holds the ignominious position of being the pitcher with two wins or fewer who started the most games (21) last season, as well as having the highest ERA (7.42) of anyone who pitched more than 100 innings. Oliver has been extensively tinkering with his mechanics under the tutelage of new pitching coach Larry Hardy, with whom he says he feels more comfortable than he did with former coach Dick Bosman. Oliver started and made just one mistake Monday against Pittsburgh, surrendering a home run ball to Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Oliver pitched two innings, allowing just the one hit and striking out three. "I was just trying to throw strikes and get in to watch those guys hit," he said. With this squad's stacked lineup behind him, if Oliver allows only one run every two innings, he'll win a lot more than two games -- and the Rangers will win a lot more than 71.
AROUND THE HORN
After winning the first game 4-1, the Rangers scored 13 runs in the first four innings of the "daycap." Andres Galarraga, Ken Caminiti and, yes, Alex Rodriguez each hit three-run homers, the first of the spring for each. Rodriguez's bomb came while he was being derided loudly by a spectator. "He was just being a good fan," said Rodriguez, smiling. "I feel like a rookie again. I have to re-prove myself." A-Rod had struck out in his previous at-bat.
Sports Illustrated reporter Jamal Greene will check in periodically
with reports from his tour of spring camps.