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Rangers expect to be contender again - in 2015; Injury-plagued season has Texas tumbling

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ARLINGTON, Texas - The Texas Rangers had become accustomed to coming out of the All-Star break looking for moves to bolster a playoff chase.

There are much different expectations and plans this season with an injury-plagued roster and the worst record in the majors.

"We are just looking to see better baseball, see guys grow," general manager Jon Daniels said when asked what he wants to see now.

After winning at least 90 games each of the past four seasons — a stretch when they went to the World Series twice, made the playoffs a third time and lost a one-game wildcard tiebreaker last year — the Rangers are now on pace for 90 losses or more. If they go 34-33 the rest of the way, they will finish with 90 losses.

The Rangers (38-57) carry an eight-game losing streak into Friday night's game at Toronto. They have lost 22 of their last 25 since being 35-35 in mid-June, falling 21 games behind AL West-leading Oakland.

"It's been tough," said Ron Washington, the Rangers' winningest manager in his eighth season. "There's times out there we just weren't good enough. There's times out there we did it to ourselves. ... I'm certainly not through, and I don't think they're through."

Texas still has a majors-high 15 players on the disabled list and has made 21 DL moves this season for a total of 1,119 games missed by those players. The Rangers have used 50 players, the most-ever in the majors before the All-Star break, a number that includes 29 pitchers and 15 rookies.

Daniels made a move Wednesday, trading veteran reliever Jason Frasor to Kansas City for Triple-A All-Star pitcher Spencer Patton. That is a clear sign that the Rangers are looking to the future and getting back into a contending role in 2015.

There are still several other veteran players who could be targeted by contending teams — outfielder Alex Rios, closer Joakim Soria and reliever Neal Cotts among them. While Daniels is open to making "good baseball trades," he intends to keep together the team's core, including AL batting leader Adrian Beltre(.337), shortstop Elvis Andrus and All-Star pitcher Yu Darvish. Injured slugger Prince Fielder (neck surgery) and left fielder Shin-Soo Choo (sprained left ankle) are both under contract through 2020.

"Basically the same thing we've said, we should be better next year with guys coming back from injury. That being said, as we've seen this year, there are just no guarantees," Daniels said. "We're not looking to tear the team down by any stretch. We look forward to building these guys up."

With the off-season additions of Fielder and Choo and their expected starting rotation, the Rangers rightfully had expectations to be a playoff contender again. But the injuries started hitting long before the first pitch of the regular season.

Darvish was scratched from the opening day start because of neck stiffness. Left-hander Derek Holland needed left knee surgery after being tripped by his dog on stairs in his home in January. Lefty Matt Harrison had a setback from back issues that sidelined him most of last year, started the season on the DL and returned to make four starts before needing potentially career-threatening spinal fusion surgery.

Two expected everyday starters — second baseman Jurickson Profar and catcher Geovany Soto — suffered injuries late in spring training.

Soto is expected to make his season debut Friday night when he will be activated from the disabled list after knee surgery. Holland is expected to make his first rehab start next week for Triple-A Round Rock and could finally return to the Rangers rotation in a few weeks.

"We know we can play a lot better baseball. It's all on us," Andrus said. "We're the ones that have to go out and change the way we're playing right now."

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