Results tagged ‘ Gary Pettis ’

Spring Training Begins (For The Blogger)

Ballplayers get at least three months off between end of season and start of spring training. I took three and a half weeks off between blog posts. Am I rested? I don’t know. Am I in shape for the 2013 season? Absolutely not!

I vegged out over the past three and a half weeks. I thought about posting some thoughts but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I spent more time playing with my Christmas presents than I did looking into the minutia of Texas Rangers baseball.

Most common statement I’ve heard from non-Rangers brethren since the off-season began and, more specifically, since Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels: “Bet it’s going to be hard to watch the Rangers this year. They’re going backwards.”

I agree it seems the Rangers have gone backwards going into 2013. Gone are Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Ryan Dempster. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz won’t be any help until the second half of the season at the earliest. Coming on board? Joakim Soria, who’s also disabled until after the All-Star break. Lance Berkman, who was limited by injury to less than 100 at bats in 2012. New bullpen pieces in Jason Frasor and Josh Lindblom. A new catcher in AJ Pierzynski. Not exactly a group that’s going to make you forget Hamilton, Young, Napoli, Adams and Uehara, right?

And yet, and yet. I am possibly looking forward to 2013 as much as I looked forward to 2010, when I began this corner of the webiverse chronicling a team that, for the first time in a decade, was possibly going to contend for a title. That team exceeded my expectations and made it to the World Series. And while I harbor no illusions of the 2013 squad being in the Fall Classic, I won’t totally discount the possibility either.

I am looking forward to seeing what the infusion of youth does for this team. Whether the names Leonys Martin, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar will become as well-known to baseball fans as Josh Hamilton and Michael Young were for the past few years. I can’t wait to see if Yu Darvish builds on a successful rookie campaign to become a bona fide ace. Whether Derek Holland can put a pedestrian 2012 behind him and progress to be at the very least an above average #3 starter. I want to see if new hitting coach Dave Magadan transforms Texas from a team of sluggers to hitters who work counts and put pressure on the pitcher. Will the Rangers running game improve and will baserunning coach Gary Pettis be able to effectively do his job from the third base coaches box instead of his usual first base box? Will Berkman stay healthy enough to impact the team? Is Nelson Cruz going to rebound from a so-so 2012 both offensively and defensively to be the presence he was in 2010 and 2011? Can the new bullpen pieces quickly coalesce into a unit that consistently delivers a lead to Joe Nathan in the 9th?

Most important of all, how will Ron Washington handle the youth movement? Wash took a lot of flak last year for staying with his veterans, especially Michael Young, while Olt and Profar languished on the bench in September. And if he gets all the young guys to perform at a high level and the Rangers continue to compete for a division title, will he finally get some consideration for Manager of the Year?

OK, so Texas didn’t get Zack Greinke. Or Justin Upton. Or Hamilton. Or Napoli. Or James Shields, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Travis D’Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia, all of whom Jon Daniels kicked the tires on during the off-season. Nor does it appear that Kyle Lohse or Michael Bourn are Arlington bound. Yet I’m excited about the 2013 season.

Pierzynski and Berkman aren’t sexy signings, but the two of them have something the rest of the team doesn’t have- a World Series champion ring. I bet that counts for something, including what impact their work ethic might have on Olt, Profar and Martin.

For sure, this is a team with flaws. Just 20 days from Spring Training and there’s no clue who will be the utility infielder or fifth outfielder. It’s anyone’s guess who will be in the bullpen besides Nathan and Frasor. The fifth starter for the rotation has yet to be determined and none of the names in contention are likely to strike fear in the average major league line-up.

What gets me excited is this. If Wash can keep this team in contention through the All-Star break, the second half will see Feliz and Soria returning to the pen and Colby Lewis to the starting rotation. That would make for an intriguing stretch run.

Too bad it’s still 20 days from pitchers and catchers reporting and 66 days til Opening Day at Houston.

12 Days to Opening Day: Pessimism Reigns

 When can a positive become a negative? When you can see how easily it could all fall apart.

Such is the case of the Rangers relief corps as we head to the Spring Training finish line. For all the questions about the starting rotation, the relief corps has been seen as potentially one of the strongest in the American League. So strong that many could see no shortage of depth even if 2010 closer Neftali Feliz joined the starting rotation in 2011.

Please, Rangers coaching staff, don’t let that happen. I’m beginning to think Feliz as closer is essential to the Rangers successfully defending the AL West.

Look at the two people most prominently mentioned as candidates to replace Feliz as closer. Mark Lowe has gotten torched in Spring Training: 7 Innings, 14 Hits, 11 Earned Runs. Alexi Ogando, who’s been stretched out as a starter candidate, was doing OK until his last appearance when he couldn’t make it out of the 8th against the Dodgers.

Also consider the Rangers two LOOGY’s: Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver, are 41 and 40 years of age respectively. And lastly, there’s the 7th inning guy, Darren O’Day.


Darren_O'Day.jpgO’Day is the one I am most concerned with at this point. The righthanded sidearmer has had a wonderful two year run with the Rangers, a 1.99 ERA over 136 games, a 0.918 WHIP and a 3.41 strikeout to walk ratio. Rangers fans have taken to singing his name when he comes into games, changing the familiar soccer tune “Ole Ole” to “O’Day O’Day”. As of September 3rd, O’Day’s 2010 featured a sparkling 1.51 ERA, only 36 hits given up in almost 54 innings and only one home run given up the whole season.

Since September 3rd, though, life has not been good for Darren O’Day. He closed out the regular season giving up four home runs in his last nine games over just 8 1/3 innings. In the post-season, O’Day pitched 11 more games, but only lasting 4 2/3 innings in that time, giving up two more bombs and compiling a 7.71 ERA. 

Now, in Spring Training, O’Day has pitched in six games. In 7 innings of work, he’s given up 16 hits, 8 runs and 5 home runs. Since September 3rd of last year, all told he has given up 11 home runs over his last 20 innings. Making matters worse, O’Day says he and pitching coach Mike Maddux have been going over video and can’t find any flaws in his delivery.

This is beginning to remind me of a pitcher the Angels had in their glory days of ’02 and ’03. Ben Weber had a different type of delivery (nothing like O’Day’s) and had ERA’s of 2.54 on 2002 and 2.69 in 2003 has one of the Angels’ set-up guys. His post-season ERA in 2002, though, was a robust 10.80. In 2004, the wheels came off. Weber went 0-2 with a 8.06 ERA in 18 games with the Angels, followed by 10 games with an 8.03 ERA for the Reds in 2005 and his major league career was over.

Some pitchers, once batters figure them out, never recover. Will this be Darren O’Day’s fate? I sure hope not. But that thought, combined with the other potential threats mentioned earlier among the relief corps, has me hoping the Rangers keep Feliz in the bullpen.

In other news: A week ago, the competition couldn’t have been stronger for the 3rd, 4th and 5th slots in the starting rotation. Then nobody pitched as though they wanted it badly enough. Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman, Tommy Hunter, Eric Hurley and Matt Harrison all had middling to poor outings over the past week. Holland recovered to pitch five solid innings against the Royals on Sunday.

In a radio interview, Mike Maddux indicated the Rangers are pretty close to deciding on Harrison and Hunter for two of the three available starting slots, leaving one slot open for Kirkman, Holland or Feliz (Hurley was optioned to AAA Round Rock the other day). If Feliz goes to the bullpen (and he pitched 5 solid innings Saturday), I see Holland as the last rotation slot. If Feliz stays a starter, he’ll probably get the last spot with Holland either going to long relief or back to Round Rock for now.

Too many starters is a good problem to have. If one falters, the hope is Brandon Webb will be ready by then to take his place. Most teams have one or two starters go on the DL every season as well. While all Rangers fans would love to see a true ace in the rotation, having as many as four starters on your AAA staff that already have the talent to compete on the major league level helps pave the way to inner peace!

Last item of pessimism: Julio Borbon has forgotten how to play defense. A year ago, first base coach Gary Pettis, a former center fielder himself, took Borbon under his wing and taught him the art of playing center field. His defense in 2010 was infinitely superior to what he showed in 2009.

This spring, however, Borbon has looked terrible in the field, having committed five errors- some throwing, some fielding. Even an average center fielder won’t commit five errors in an entire season, let alone 15 exhibition games. Borbon blamed the bright sun of Arizona for some of the miscues (I could buy that in the one TV game in which he had an error), but then he had two errors in a night game against the Padres. Borbon is hitting well and running the bases well this spring, but his defense is making a lot of people uneasy. The Rangers have even toyed with playing David Murphy some in center. They really do not want Josh Hamilton playing out there fulltime in 2011.

For a lot of players, the next seven days represent crunch time. Can Chris Davis hit his way onto a team with no real open position for him? Can O’Day and Lowe turn it around? Will Feliz start or finish? Will Michael Young or Davis get traded? Will there be some surprise releases or demotions? Stay tuned for our next episode, same bat time, same ball channel!



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