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Rangers' Young says team is 'good ... we know it'

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Michael Young has been through plenty of disappointments with the Texas Rangers over nine seasons that have made him the team's longest-tenured player.

While Young is a career .302 hitter and a perennial All-Star, even last season after switching from shortstop to third base, the Rangers have had winning records only twice during his time.

Yet one of those was just a year ago. And since then, the Rangers have added right-hander Rich Harden and slugger Vladimir Guerrero to an already solid group of core players, and both Young and outfielder Josh Hamilton are recovered from late-season injuries.

The Rangers head into spring training with big expectations.

"There should be. We're good, we have a good team," Young said. "We know it, the rest of the league knows it. It's not a secret."

The Rangers, who haven't been to the playoffs since 1999 and are in the process of being sold, open spring training when pitchers and catchers have their first workout Friday in Surprise, Ariz. The first full-squad workout is Wednesday.

"I'm so excited about being a Ranger right now," said Young, who turned 33 during the offseason. "We have great times ahead. ... It's a good feeling as a player knowing that we're set up for this year to go out and be a good team."

Texas was 87-75 a year ago, one victory more than Detroit and Minnesota, who tied atop the American League Central and played a one-game tiebreaker for a playoff spot. The Rangers finished second in the AL West to the Los Angeles Angels and second in the wild-card race to Boston.

"What this team did last year, they were right in it," Harden said. "I truly believe that we can win this thing, and I wouldn't be here otherwise."

Harden, 9-9 in 26 starts for the Chicago Cubs last season, signed with the Rangers after they cleared payroll space by sending Kevin Millwood to Baltimore before the last season of his $60 million, five-year contract.

Harden's 9.35 strikeouts per nine innings over the past seven seasons are more than any other pitcher with at least 125 starts, though he has been on the disabled list seven times the last five years. He missed nearly a month last season with a lower back strain.

Scott Feldman won 17 games last season, though he didn't make his first start for Texas until April 25 and lost his last three starts. Left-hander Derek Holland and righty Tommy Hunter, a pair of 23-year-olds, had stretches of success after becoming rotation regulars.

The Rangers have also brought back former top prospect Colby Lewis, their supplemental first-round pick in 1999. The right-hander was 26-17 with a 2.82 ERA in 55 games the past two seasons in Japan.

Neftali Feliz, a 21-year-old with a 100-plus mph fastball, had a 1.74 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 31 innings during 20 relief appearances after being called up in August and will be given a chance to earn a rotation spot. So will left-handed reliever C.J. Wilson, the former closer.

"We know that if for some reason we decide that they're not going to be in the starting rotation, we know what they can do out of the bullpen," manager Ron Washington said. "We've got the best of both worlds. We're going to keep them stretched out (this spring)."

With Marlon Byrd's free agency departure to the Cubs, the Rangers will give Julio Borbon the opportunity to be the regular center fielder and leadoff hitter. He hit .312 with 19 stolen bases in 46 games.

That will push second baseman Ian Kinsler into the middle of another potentially explosive offensive lineup that could have Guerrero, the eight-time All-Star and former MVP who is a .394 career hitter in Rangers Ballpark, hitting cleanup after Hamilton and Young.

Tom Hicks and his financially strapped Hicks Sports Group reached an agreement last month to sell the Rangers to a group led by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, already the team's president. Indications are that the transfer of ownership could be completed by the start of the regular season.

"If we don't win our division, I'll be disappointed," Ryan said. "Because I think we positioned ourselves right there with everybody else in the division."