Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 2/18/12
The Texas Rangers will open spring training with 58 players vying for the 25 spots. While all 58 are looking to make some sort of impression, big springs are more important for some than others. Here's a look five players who need to have big springs to prove they belong in Arlington. OF Julio Borbon Remember when Borbon looked like he could be a fixture in the Texas outfield? That was 2009, when he hit .312 in 46 games and stole 19 bases, showing flashes of a player the Rangers were hoping was their centerfielder of the future. He wasn't bad in 2010, spending the entire year in Texas. But 2011 was a bad one all around for him, struggling in Texas (.305 on-base percentage) before getting sent down to Round Rock. His season came to an end following ankle surgery. Borbon spent the winter playing in the Dominican, but didn't even hit .200. The centerfield job is open but Borbon has to show he's deserving, as Craig Gentry earned his stripes last year with Texas and Leonys Martin also hits from the left side like Borbon. LHP Michael Kirkman Things couldn't be setting up better for Kirkman this spring. The Rangers need a left-handed reliever and there's no one on the roster from last year's team who fits that bill. Texas began grooming Kirkman to be a reliever last year. He pitched in 15 games in relief for the Rangers last year but posted an ERA of 6.59. If the Rangers feel they need a lefty in relief, Kirkman will have to beat out of pair of non-roster invitees in Joe Beimel and Mitch Stetter. A big spring could do the trick for him. RHP Mark Lowe Last year Lowe was bad in spring training as he couldn't throw anything but his fastball for strikes. That continued into the regular season and resulted in him getting sent to Round Rock. He was erratic when he came back to Arlington and was awful in two World Series appearances. Lowe, who had back surgery in 2010, is healthy. If he doesn't have a solid spring, he could lose grip on what should be a bullpen spot for him. He can't afford to create any doubt in the coaching staff because there are too many other pitchers who would love his spot. UTIL Brad HawpeConor Jackson Let's go ahead and group these two guys together because they are likely competing for one spot if there's even one available. There's no doubt either player can play at the major-league level, but they both have to show they can stay healthy. Hawpe's utility value is already in doubt as he'll be limited to playing first base early as he's recovering from Tommy John surgery from last August. Jackson has the edge in health, having played in more than 100 games between Oakland and Boston last year. But that followed two years in which he played a total of 90 games. RHP Koji Uehara This is written assuming Uehara is in camp Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report. If he hasn't been traded by then, Uehara needs to have a big spring in an effort to show he's the pitchers the Rangers sent Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to Baltimore for last July. That pitcher never made it to Arlington. Uehara said last fall that he was struggling to adjust to his new environment. There's also a chance he had a sore elbow, although the Rangers said he hasn't received an injection in the arm under their watch. What we do know is that Uehara had an ERA of 4.00 in the regular season after the Rangers picked him up. Those were Cy Young numbers compared to a postseason in which he allowed five earned runs in 1 13 innings and was left off the World Series roster. That's not what Texas is expecting out of a pitcher due 4 million in 2012.
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