'I Believe In What I Did'; Rangers' Guzman is Ready to Take Next Step After Strong Offseason

Chris Halicke

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Rangers have had quite a number of holes to fill in their roster this offseason. Starting pitching and third base topped the list of priorities, but positions like catcher, center field, and first base were on their radar as well.

Of course, those latter three positions had internal players who's jobs were in flux throughout the course of the offseason. If the right opportunity presented itself, GM Jon Daniels wasn't going to hesitate in upgrading the roster. He did so at catcher by reuniting with Robinson Chirinos. 

At first base, the Rangers knew what they had in Ronald Guzman. Even at the young age of 25, Guzman is quite an accomplished defender. There's endless highlight reels on social media of the 'Condor' stretching out for balls at first base. 

At the plate, Guzman has yet to figure things out. Both 2018 and 2019 had some flashes of his capability, but the lack of consistency and quality at-bats hindered Guzman's production. 

"Ronald knows how important the results are. It's a tough one for him," Woodward said during a conference call last week. "He does need to show more consistency in his at-bat quality and controlling the strike zone. Those are things that are really valuable to him. If he does have a consistent swing that he can take up there with every at-bat and trust his body, I think he'll be fine. It's going to be a big one for him at spring training because there is going to be competition there."

Guzman showed up early in Surprise, working out and ready to compete. The full squad isn't required to report until Sunday.

"I'm proud of him," manager Chris Woodward said on Thursday. "He came in and talked to myself and our whole staff and laid out what he did this offseason. We were obviously aware...it was really cool to see the maturity of a kid to come in and explain what he's doing and how he feels. It's what we want from our players. We want them to take ownership of what they've done."

What Guzman did this offseason included a trip home to the Dominican Republic, as well as working out with pretty popular former-Ranger.

"Earlier in the offseason, I went down to the Dominican. I felt like it was important for me to take care of my body and get my head settled," Guzman told the media. "I went down there and lost some weight. I feel more athletic now and worked on my swing. I worked with Nelson Cruz. I feel like he helped me a lot on the mental side and on the physical too. I feel ready to go."

Cruz's pedigree as a hitter is well-documented. He had very successful years with the Rangers, including being a vital part of the 2010 and 2011 American League championship seasons. Cruz eclipsed 400 career home runs this past season with the Minnesota Twins.

Similar to some of the younger players in the organization, Guzman is carrying a heightened level of confidence into camp with him.

"I feel like I'm ready to go. The work that I put on in the offseason is going to take care of itself," Guzman said. "If I stay organized and keep doing the things I was doing, I feel like I'm going to have a successful year. I believe in what I did and I feel like it's going to pay off."

Guzman ended the 2019 season on a good note, slashing .305/.397/.475 with two home runs and seven RBI's in his 19 games in September. It's a small sample size, but if Guzman could become more like that type of a hitter, he could really become a big part of the lineup. Sure, the power numbers aren't what you would normally expect from a first baseman, but the pace of 17 home runs in a season is nothing to sneeze at if you're also batting over .300.

"He's in a good spot," Woodward said. "The true test is going to come when Greg Bird hits two homers. Are you going to stress out and freak out or stay calm? One thing he can do better at is controlling his emotions. He's a passionate kid that really cares...you've got to have an emotional maturity about yourself. I think that's something he's really working on."

"Woody's a amazing guy and amazing manager," Guzman said. "Last year, with everything we went through as a team, the relationships we built – it was huge. I feel like he's coming in more prepared...and we know what we're dealing with, so I feel like it's going to be a more relaxed year for sure."

Relaxed. That's a word not to be overlooked when it's coming from a guy who has multiple guys trying to take his job in camp. If that mindset doesn't ooze confidence, I don't know what does.

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