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Oates Happy About Young Rangers

March 2, 2000

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) _ The Texas Rangers are counting heavily on their young players this season and manager Johnny Oates likes what he sees so far.

Gabe Kapler had three hits, Ruben Mateo had two and Mike Lamb on Wednesday at the Rangers’ first intrasquad game.

``Maybe I’m a little bit old school, but I believe you play the game like Kapler did today. You play the game like Lamb did,″ Oates said. ``Mateo played fine for me today. I just want to make sure that they all start good habits now.″

If they do, Oates said he wants to pencil in Kapler at right field, Mateo at center field and Lamb at third base as exhibition season starters.

Oates said the trio, with a combined 169 games of major league experience, likely would be ready to take over for big-name players Juan Gonzalez, Tom Goodwin and Todd Zeile in the Rangers’ lineup.

``I don’t have any doubt in my mind that Mateo and Kapler and Lamb, those guys are ready to do the job,″ Oates said. Rangers exhibition games start Friday.

Kapler, with the most major league experience of the three, came to the Rangers from Detroit in the Gonzalez trade. In 130 games with the Tigers last season, Kapler hit .243 with 18 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Mateo, from the Dominican Republic, played in 32 games with the Rangers last season, hitting .238 with five home runs and 18 RBIs before breaking a bone in his wrist.

Lamb was the Rangers’ 1999 Minor League Player of the Year, playing for Tulsa of the Texas League. He led all Rangers minor leaguers in runs (98), hits (177) extra base hits (77) total bases (301) and doubles (51), while ranking third in RBI (100), fourth in batting average (.324) and fifth in home runs (21).

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