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January 12, 2013

New-look Rangers still have ‘some good pieces’

ARLINGTON, Texas — Adrian Beltre watched this offseason as the Texas Rangers tried to sign the top free-agent pitcher on the market and keep slugger Josh Hamilton.

The Gold Glove third baseman who hit .321 with 36 homers last year realizes some big bats are missing from the Texas lineup now that Hamilton signed with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels, Mike Napoli agreed to a deal with Boston that still hasn’t been finalized and Michael Young got traded to Philadelphia.

Yet that doesn’t change how Beltre feels about what the Rangers can do this season, a year after being knocked out in a one-and-done wild-card game following consecutive World Series appearances.

“We still have a good enough team to compete and hopefully win the West,” Beltre said Friday during the team’s annual Fan Fest. “We’ll still have some good pieces in that lineup that can do the job. ... There’s no doubt they tried. They obviously pursued Zack Greinke. They were wanting to bring (Hamilton) back.”

The Rangers still have Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the middle of a lineup that includes Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. There will also be newcomers Lance Berkman, a switch-hitting DH, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

They also have a pitching staff led by a more comfortable Yu Darvish, the Japanese ace who won 16 games as a major league rookie last season, along with left-handers Matt Harrison (18-11) and Derek Holland (12-7).

Darvish and the Rangers were working at this point last year to complete an extended negotiation for the right-hander to make the move to the majors.

This offseason, Darvish is able to better focus on getting ready for his second big league season.

“Compared to last year, I feel so much more at ease. ... I really feel I’m part of the team now. How I feel right now is a totally different feeling,” Darvish said through a translator. “Last year, there was more of a rush in trying to prepare at a much quicker pace. I’m going at my own pace, working out. This offseason, the preparation has been much better.”

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