There was an actual bit of news from spring training for the 1977 Royals. Center fielder Amos Otis, arriving in camp, reported stiffness in his left ankle and sat out the team’s workout session. Otis had injured the same ankle in the first inning of Game One of the 1976 ALCS and missed the rest of the series as a result. With Otis’s importance to the team in center field and on the bases, there was naturally some concern although it was still early in the preseason. “I’ve been running for about two weeks on the beach at home in Virginia, and each time it was swelled up on me,” Otis said.
With that tidbit covered, we move on to checking out the Royals’ AL competition headed into the 1977 season. The Texas Rangers finished tied for fourth in the AL West with the California Angels in 1976. And just like the Angels, the Rangers spent the offseason trying to improve their team. They added free agent infielder Bert Campaneris and starting pitcher Doyle Alexander, traded for relief pitchers Adrian Devine and Darold Knowles, outfielder Claudell Washington, and infielder Sandy Alomar, and purchased yet another relief pitcher, Kansas native Paul Lindblad.
Even with all those moves, the Rangers returned a solid core of players, including catcher Jim Sundberg, first baseman Mike Hargrove, shortstop Toby Harrah, and starting pitchers Gaylord Perry and Bert Blyleven. Texas had the fourth-best pitching staff in the AL, based on ERA+, but a below-average offense in 1976. They had been firmly in the division race, just 2.5 games out of first, before a July swoon ended their contending chances. So there was some optimism around the Rangers, and many expected them to push the Royals and Angels for the 1977 title.
Today’s birthdays: Jim Nettles (1947), Wilking Rodriguez (1990)