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Outlook: Scheppers will start season in the rotation

In 2011, the Rangers went to the World Series for the second straight year, and the Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games on their way to a fifth consecutive National League East title.

Opening Day at Globe Life Park in Arlington today, then, will be an Interleague matchup bringing together two organizations seeking a return to the level of success to which they had become accustomed. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET.

The Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Orioles in the Wild Card Game in 2012, missing the postseason last year despite winning 91 games. The Phillies' decline has been steeper: a .500 record followed by the first losing season since 2002.

The goal may be the same, but these clubs are trying to get there using a very different GPS.

Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz were big parts of the Rangers' success back then. So were Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. And Mike Napoli and David Murphy. And left-hander C.J. Wilson. None are with the team. Young and Kinsler were traded, and the rest departed as free agents.

"We had that core group, the core position players that had a lot of success together," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "I think we knew we were going to have to make some decisions on that group. Financially, it wasn't realistic to keep everybody together, but also, it was never really our goal either.

"I think when you bring back the same players, it doesn't always mean you're bringing back the same team. So we had some tough decisions to make on guys who have been huge for the franchise."

The Phillies, by contrast, have kept much of the nucleus together that helped create so much success: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

"We need the guys we're paying a lot of money to do what they're supposed to do," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said repeatedly.

Amaro returned to that theme when some of those players struggled at times during Spring Training.

"We have to get our veteran guys going on all cylinders," he said. "We'll sink or swim with those guys."

At this point, the interests of the teams converge again. Both are looking for more offensive production than they got in 2013. The Rangers finished seventh in the American League in runs scored (730). The Phillies were 13th in the National League, scoring 610 runs -- their lowest full-season total since 1998.

The Rangers addressed that by acquiring Prince Fielder in a blockbuster trade with the Tigers, and Michael Choice came over from the Athletics for Craig Gentry. Shin-Soo Choo was signed to a seven-year, $130 million deal, which came after Texas added Alex Rios last summer.

Daniels described Choice as "kind of a young guy on the verge" and added, "I think our hope is that not only do we have the core guys in their prime, but a young player like [Jurickson] Profar, a young player like Leonys Martin, a young player like Choice. And even still younger players like Elvis [Andrus] and even [Mitch] Moreland, the development of that group is going to be big for us."

After Daniels spoke, Profar (torn right shoulder muscle) and catcher Geovany Soto (right knee surgery) were each lost for 10-12 weeks.

In addition to hoping that their veterans can snap back to form, the Phillies are looking for internal development from players like third baseman Cody Asche and left fielder Domonic Brown. Center fielder Ben Revere was on a tear (.347 in his last 65 games after a slow start) when he fouled a pitch off his right foot on July 13, and he missed the rest of the season. He's being counted on to be a spark from the leadoff spot.

Unlike the Rangers, after giving up prospects and Draft choices to try to win as many championships as possible when the nucleus was in its prime, Amaro was not in a position to draw from the farm system. That's why the 35-year-old Ruiz was re-signed to a three-year contract and why 36-year-old free agent right fielder Marlon Byrd got $16 million for two years.

An Interleague pitching matchup that would have featured two of baseball's dominant pitchers, Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish and the Phillies' Lee, was scuttled when Darvish went on the disabled list with a stiff neck.

Instead of Darvish, the Rangers will go with 27-year-old Tanner Scheppers, whose previous 115 Major League appearances have all been in relief. He won a spot in the rotation late in Spring Training on the basis of a strong Cactus League, then received a battlefield promotion when Darvish was sidelined. Scheppers will be the first pitcher to make his first Major League start on Opening Day since Fernando Valenzuela with the Dodgers in 1981.

"I'm just extremely excited for the opportunity," Scheppers said. "Let's get this season started and get things rolling in the right direction."

For the Phillies, it's Lee, the 35-year-old left-hander who ranked second in the NL in strikeouts (222) and posted a 2.87 ERA.

The Rangers and Phillies are both trying to get back to the top. But they're going in different directions in an attempt to reach that destination. Comments