The Rangers could be sold this week — maybe to Tom Hicks

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The Rangers’ economic doom and gloom is almost exclusively attributable to Tom Hicks’ practice of loading the team’s parent company — Hicks Sports Group — with boatloads (and soccer team loads) of debt. Unable to make their cash calls, the group has had to be bailed out by Major League Baseball once already, and Hicks has the team on the market. The cash crunch comes at a time when the team is really only a piece or two away from being able to stomp on the Angels for supremacy in the AL West. Instead of doing that they’re doing things like messing around with the idea of bringing back Milton Bradley. Blah.

The thing about it though is that the Rangers — separate and apart from their debt-laden parent — make a lot of money, as Adam Morris at Lone Star Ball notes today.  So much so that according to Adam (and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Hicks is trying to work out a way that he, along with some partners, could buy the team from his own company and own the thing in his own name.  Given what his management of Hicks Sports Group has wrought there ought to be a law against that, but it could happen.

Lone Star Ball thinks that if he does it, Hicks will find economic religion and run the team like Jeff Loria runs the Marlins: low payroll, nice revenue, and the glad acceptance of Major League welfare from other clubs.  I could totally see that: gamble big with everyone else’s money, but when it comes to his own, keep things nice and lean.  It’s exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from a guy who once signed A-Rod and Chan Ho Park to $315 million worth of contracts, and then mere months later sat on the deck of his luxury yacht while screaming about how baseball needs a salary cap.

But as depressing as such a possibility may be, Hicks may not get the chance to run the Rangers into the ground for a second time. As Phil Rogers at the Chicago Tribune noted in his Whispers column yesterday, MLB appears to be forcing him to sell the team to one of three groups that submitted bids in the past couple of weeks. Right now the front-runner appears to be a group headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg.  His group includes Nolan Ryan in the package, and he may as well be the Almighty Himself when it comes to Texas baseball, so you know everyone with the exception of Tom Hicks himself and maybe Robin Ventura will push for it.

Whatever the case, this thing could be over quick. A source tells me that Hicks Sports Group is gearing up to make an announcement of a sale this week.  If that happens it would be great timing, because maybe, just maybe, the prospect of a new owner would be enough to give GM Jon Daniels the green light to go make some noise at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis next week. 

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.