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Filed under: Texas Rangers Spring Training Storylines

The two-time defending AL champions will begin the long process of trying to get back to October and taking the final step as a franchise when they kick off spring training this week in Surprise, Arizona.

While the Texas Rangers heart-breaking loss in the 2011 World Series doesn't seem that long ago, the franchise turns the page this week as they kick off spring training in Surprise, Arizona.

Over at, Cliff Corcoran takes a look at the biggest storylines for the two-time defending AL champions. And while Josh Hamilton's latest bout with sobriety has drawn the headlines lately, most of the on-the-field intrigue will be on the pitcher's mound:

The Big Battle: Odd-man out in starting rotation

The addition of Darvish followed the Rangers' announcement that they were going to move closer Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, a move reinforced by the $14.75 million they spent to bring in longtime Twins closer Joe Nathan to replace Feliz in his old role. As a result, the Texas rotation is overfull with Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison, all of whom pitched well out of the rotation last year, pushing the total number of legitimate candidates to six. Early scuttlebutt pegs Harrison as the odd-man out, but dropping a 26-year-old lefty who posted a 131 ERA+ in 185 2/3 innings last year from the rotation is far from a no-brainer. It's a nice problem to have for the Rangers, but one that will need a solution nonetheless.

For more coverage of the Rangers quest to make it three AL pennants in a row, head over to Lone Star Ball.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.