Some Rangers dates to keep in mind as we’re now down to 33 sleeps:

January 21: Dr Pepper Mid-Winter Awards Banquet

January 22-23: FanFest

February 16: Pitchers & catchers report

February 19: Position players report

February 27: Cactus League opener; first of 10 free spring training game webcasts on (Rangers vs. Royals, 2:05 CT)

February 28: First of 10 Cactus League radio broadcasts on ESPN 103.3 FM (Rangers vs. Royals, 2:05 CT)

March 12: First of 11 Cactus League television broadcasts on TXA21 or FSSW (Rangers vs. White Sox, TXA21, 2:05 CT)

April 1: Opening Day, Rangers vs. Boston, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, 3:05 CT

Four hours later, the Angels open in Kansas City, which reminds me of something Jon Heyman (Sports Illustrated) and Joel Sherman (New York Post) each predicted in November – that the Angels would sign Carl Crawford, and Adrian Beltre, and Rafael Soriano this winter.  All three.

Instead, Beltre and Crawford will face off in the Texas-Boston opener 500 miles south, and Soriano will be in the home dugout when the Yankees host the Rangers in a three-game set that ends on April 17, the one ESPN national telecast featuring Texas on the schedule released this week.

Meanwhile, as it stands, as Los Angeles lines up for player introductions in Kauffman Stadium on April 1, the Royals announcer will call either Maicer Izturis’s or Alberto Callaspo’s name as the Angels’ starting third baseman, and Juan Rivera or maybe Scott Podsednik in left field, and hoping to pitch in case L.A. can take a slim lead into the bottom of the ninth will be Fernando Rodney.

(We’ve talked before about how Jason Bay and Nelson Cruz have been traded badly over and over.  Add Soriano to the list: Seattle dealt him for Horacio Ramirez four winters ago, and Atlanta moved him for Jesse Chavez last off-season.  Today, Soriano is a three-year, $35 million set-up man.)  

(One reason I like the Yankees signing Soriano: They now forfeit their first-round draft pick, at number 31, to Tampa Bay.  Texas makes its first pick at number 33.  New York likes to pay well over slot to late first-rounders and supplemental firsts who fall because of signability issues: Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Brackman, C.J. Henry, Slade Heathcott, etc.  Someone in this deep draft who might have fallen to New York at 31 will get past Tampa Bay at 31 and 32 [with nine picks among the first 60, the Rays aren’t going to bust slot] on June 6, ripe for the Rangers’ picking at 33.)

(In fact, New York won’t pick until 50th overall [at best].  Texas will have had two picks [33 and 37] before the Yankees are ever on the clock.)

One more set of dates to throw at you:

March 31, 2007:  Texas designates off-season free agent pickup Marlon Byrd for assignment, two days prior to Opening Day.

April 5, 2007:  Byrd clears waivers, and Texas outrights him to Oklahoma.  Having been outrighted once before (by Washington in July 2006), Byrd has the right to decline the assignment and take immediate free agency.  He doesn’t, choosing instead to report to the RedHawks.

May 26, 2007:  Byrd, hitting .358/.415/.568 over 44 games for Oklahoma, is purchased by Texas.

Byrd hasn’t spent a day in the minor leagues since (with the exception of four days on rehab in 2008 when he was coming back from a knee injury), and has earned more than $8 million in that time, with another $12 million coming in the next two years.

Why bring that up now?  Because the player who held off Byrd for the final bench spot in 2007, and could very easily have killed Byrd’s Rangers career before it ever started, was Matt Kata, who managed a .186/.250/.300 slash while spotting at five different positions before his own designation for assignment in early June of that season.

Why bring that up now?  Because Texas has signed Kata to a contract with AAA Round Rock.

Don’t be surprised if Kata, age 32, doesn’t even get a non-roster invite to spring training.  He played for the Express last year (when the club was an Astros affiliate), as did catcher Kevin Cash, also a Rangers minor league signee.  A third AAA player signed recently, infielder Omar Quintanilla, has never played for Round Rock, but he did play for the University of Texas, as did Taylor Teagarden, who is likely to share duties with Cash behind the Express plate.  Two of Round Rock skipper Bobby Jones’s coaches, Scott Coolbaugh and Spike Owen, were Longhorn stars as well.

Others who played for Round Rock in 2010 include Ramon Vazquez, Drew Meyer, Jason Bourgeois, German Duran, Chris Shelton, and Casey Daigle.  None is back for a second go with the Rangers.  Yet.

But if any of them are still looking for work, I understand the Angels have a few roster spots they still haven’t addressed.

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