Results tagged ‘ Ron Washington ’
Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 4-1
Overall: 12-6 (1st Place AL West) (+1/2)
Jalapeno Caliente (Offense): Jeff Baker .444/.500/.889 1 HR 3 RBI
Leonys Martin .400/.455/.900 1 3B 1 HR
Ian Kinsler .333/.455/.556 1 HR 3 RBI 3 Walks
Raspa Frio (Offense):Elvis Andrus .143/.143/.143
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):Yu Darvish 1-0 0.00 ERA 10 K in 7 IP
Raspa Frio (Pitching): Alexi Ogando 0-1 5 ER in 2.1 IP
What a strange week. First a trip to Chicago where rain washed out Game 2 and threatened to cancel Game 3 as well. Instead, the final game was played in swampy conditions and Alexi Ogando couldn’t do anything right. Even in victory, the Twitterverse was up in arms over Ron Washington‘s decision to leave Jeff Baker in the game in left field, causing consternation when Baker couldn’t make a catch on a routine fly, creating suspense in what had been an easy 4-0 win as Michael Kirkman and Joe Nathan struggled to preserve a 4-2 victory. The team looked lifeless in their loss to the Cubs two days later.
Upon returning home, all was forgiven, as Texas got out the brooms and swept the Mariners and swept themselves back into first place in the AL West. Incredibly, every team in the West participated in a sweep over the weekend, Texas and Los Angeles on the 3-0 end, the A’s, Mariners and Astros on the 0-3 side of the ledger. A little space has now been created amongst the five teams.
While he isn’t on the above list, Derek Lowe deserves to be singled out as a Player of the Week. After rookie Nick Tepesch was hit in the pitching wrist by a line drive in the second inning of Saturday’s 5-0 win, Lowe came in and threw 4 innings of no-hit baseball to earn the win and keep the bullpen from being overused. Michael Kirkman did the same on Sunday, throwing the last three innings of the Rangers’ 11-2 win to pick up the save and ensure a rested bullpen heading into Monday night.
Upcoming: A full week on the road starts tonight with two teams on 3-game winning streaks. The Rangers and Angels match up for the second time this season. Texas took two of three in Arlington. The pitching staff is set up perfectly for this series, with the Rangers throwing their top three in the rotation at the Angelenos. LA starts out the series at a disadvantage, having to burn their bullpen for well over 100 pitches yesterday in their extra innings win over Detroit. Still, it’s the Rangers and the Angels, so anything can happen. After three in Anaheim, Texas flies off to Minneapolis for a 4-game set with the Twins. Hopefully, it won’t be a cold series. Texas went through 5 straight games of sub-50 degree weather from 4/10 to 4/16.
You should NEVER sacrifice bunt in the American League. That is the mantra heard ever since the release of Baseball Between The Numbers in 2006. Looking back on box scores throughout the ages, the folks at Baseball Prospectus showed how teams are less likely to score multiple runs in an inning when they employ the sacrifice bunt. Giving up an out just to advance a baserunner is not the prudent thing to do, they say, unless it’s late in a game and that one run would be a difference-maker in the outcome. Otherwise, no go.
Just the other night during a Rangers-Mariners game, Elvis Andrus laid down a sacrifice bunt and, as usual, the Twitterverse exploded with a substantial number of Rangers fans decrying Ron Washington‘s reliance on the bunt. There were the “Wash is an idiot” tweets, the “NEVER EVER bunt” tweets and the snarky “Let’s bunt the guy to third next and then let’s bunt them home!” tweets. I especially loved one of the sabermetricians who engaged his followers in a debate over whether it was a good thing for Elvis to bunt or not. It was all very entertaining, but not worthy of a post here until someone asked this person to name one manager in baseball who wouldn’t use the sacrifice the way Ron Washington would. The response was: Joe Maddon.
Of course. Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays is the poster manager for the advanced metrics crowd. He’s up on all the latest advances in baseball statistics so he knows what’s going on, what works and what doesn’t. Meanwhile, the Rangers have Wash, the “manage by your gut” manager who seems to disavow just about anything advanced metrics can throw his way. He sacrifices too much, he is a terrible manager of the relief pitchers, he even lets his left-handed bats face lefthanders in the late innings of tight ball games. He not only doesn’t play the percentages in baseball, he probably doesn’t even know what the percentages are. He’s a mess.
When his name was brought up, I remembered something. Maddon employed the sacrifice bunt against the Rangers in a game just three days earlier. That got me to wondering if Maddon eschews the sacrifice bunt as much as some would think. I decided to check it out and I was somewhat surprised by what I found.
Last year, the Rangers had 36 successful sacrifice bunts. That ranked them 3rd in the American League. I expected to find the Maddon-led Rays down the list between 10th and 14th. Instead, it turns out the Rays were 5th in the league in sacrifices with 34, only two less than the Rangers.
I looked deeper at the situations where the sacrifices were used: Early innings vs. late; tie games, in the lead or trailing. I thought maybe the Rays bunted more in interleague play, when having your pitcher bunt is more acceptable because of being poor hitters overall. Nope. Rangers pitchers sacrificed 3 times, Rays pitchers only twice. Both teams utilized the sacrifice bunt when they were as much as three runs behind to when they were four runs ahead. The Rays successfully squeezed home a runner from third three times, the Rangers twice. Both teams used the bunt almost an equal number of times in the first third of the game, the second third of the game and the last part of the game.
In other words, in 2012 there was no real discernible pattern between the number-crunching Maddon and the gut-trusting Washington.
What about 2011? Again, Texas had more sacrifices than Tampa Bay, but again only by two: 39-37. The Rays had two more successful squeeze plays than Texas. They also had two Pitchers sacrifice in Interleague play to the Rangers one. Again, it was pretty even in terms of what innings the sacrifices came. Tampa in 2011 was more likely than the Rangers to sacrifice when they were ahead in the game. Texas did have two games in which they had 3 sacrifices in the game while the Rays didn’t have any. All in all, though, it was still pretty close.
The only year in the last three that there’s a real difference is in 2010 when the Rangers employed the sacrifice bunt 53 times to the Rays 39.
Can one really make a case from these numbers that Joe Maddon and Ron Washington aren’t even in the same ballpark, so to speak, when it comes to the sacrifice? I don’t think so at all. If anything, I would say Maddon divides up the sacrifices more evenly among his batters, while the Rangers have Elvis Andrus sacrificing too much, double the number of the #2 guy in 2010 and triple the number of second best in both 2011 and 2012. Does Wash over-utilize the sacrifice? In 2010 maybe. The last two seasons? Doubtful.
In the end, does this prove anything? Probably not. Or maybe it’s just an indication that Wash haters are going to hate.
- The sacrifice bunt isn’t dead yet (espn.go.com)
Tuesday night, rookie Nick Tepesch takes the mound for the first time as a fifth starter. Tepesch is currently at AAA Round Rock, so a roster move is necessary tomorrow. Borbon was the 25th and last man to make the Rangers team. He is out of options so if, as expected, Borbon is optioned to make room for Tepesch, the only way he’ll stay with the Rangers organization is if he clears waivers. Looking at what the Houston Astros accomplished in the first week of the season, I’m willing to bet they would snap Borbon up in a heartbeat and have him in the starting line-up on Wednesday.
If so, good for Julio. I’m not going to dog on him. I hope he finally gets a good chance to stick with the Astros or whoever might pick him up.
There are many Rangers fans who have no use for Borbon and haven’t for awhile, mostly because he was such a revelation when he first came to Arlington and never measured up to those first-year numbers in subsequent seasons. Julio played in 46 games at the end of the 2009 season, the year before the Rangers run of playoff appearances began. He scored 30 runs in those 46 games, stealing 19 bases in 23 attempts, adding 4 home runs and hitting .312 in 179 plate appearances. Julio bunted for singles, he kept the opposition on edge and Rangers fans were looking forward to a full season of mayhem on the basepaths in 2010.
It wasn’t to be. On Opening Day, Borbon was at the top of the batting order. After 9 games, he was just 3 for 36 at the plate with one steal. Julio was dropped to 9th in the order and Elvis Andrus was elevated to first, where both would stay for the remainder of the season. By season’s end, with the playoffs in sight, Borbon became a forgotten man. While he recovered from the bad start and ended at .276 for the season, his lack of power caused Ron Washington to put Josh Hamilton in center field and David Murphy in left for the playoffs. While he appeared in 8 post-season games, he started only one- Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays. In two other games he was merely a pinch-runner.
In 2011, Borbon was back in the starting line-up in center field and was off to a decent start hitting 9th in the order, hitting .270 in 32 games with six steals when he got injured and placed on the disabled list. He wouldn’t return to the majors until Opening Day this year, a victim of the great play of Craig Gentry and Endy Chavez, his own below par defense and the conviction of his manager that he didn’t have the right approach to the game.
Chavez having a career year was something Borbon could recover from. Being in Wash’s doghouse was not. Despite putting up great numbers at AAA Round Rock in 2012, Borbon got passed over for promotion whenever an extra outfielder was needed, with Leonys Martin getting the shot. Even more telling, when rosters expanded on September 1st, Borbon wasn’t even recalled to help out in the stretch run.
So it was that Borbon came to camp this year pretty much knowing the odds were against him. He played well in Spring Training and got enough of his manager’s respect to make the team as the 25th and final player, at least until the 5th starter was needed.
Julio has appeared in just one game of the first six, entering the game as a pinch runner and scoring a run, then getting one hitless at bat afterwards. It will be interesting to see if Wash gives him one last start in a Rangers uniform tonight.
Texas would still like to get something in return for Borbon instead of putting him on waivers, so there’s also a possibility he’ll be traded before tonight’s game with the Rays even gets underway. Trade or waiver claim, I wish Julio Borbon the best. He deserves a place in the big leagues, but it just isn’t in the cards for it to be with the Texas Rangers.
- Julio Borbon takes Rangers’ final roster spot (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
- Borbon down to last chance in Rangers’ centerfield derby (sacbee.com)
Home Opener. Rangers vs. Angels. What a great way to start the season!
I know I’m only going to be lucky enough to see maybe one of the three games on TV, which will be the already highly anticipated pitching match-up of Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver, but still I’m looking forward to the series as a whole. Even though it’s only games 4-6 in a long haul of a season, the Angelenos will get their first chance to see if the revamped Rangers have talent enough to compete with their heavily favored selves in the AL West. Meanwhile, the Rangers get their first chance to see if their pitching staff can neutralize the vaunted Angels offense to any great degree.
For the teams, it’s strictly business. For Rangers fans, though, this weekend will be personal.
It’s not that Rangers fans have really hard feelings about Josh Hamilton signing with the Angels. Sure it didn’t help he went to a rival in the West. What we didn’t really do is begrudge Josh the money. Most of us know the Texas front office didn’t want to give Josh the number of years the Angels did. Most of us agreed with the front office on this one, too, that anything over four years was a risky move.
No, what many of us Rangers fans took offense with was Josh (and his wife) dogging the front office in the media. Then Josh compounded the problem when he didn’t choose his words carefully and appeared to dis Rangers fans as being spoiled and not being a real baseball town.
In one respect, I understand what Josh was saying. The Dallas area is a football town overall. The Dallas Cowboys rule the sports conversation by a wide margin over the Rangers, Mavericks and Stars. But when he goes on to say that any fan that boos him at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington isn’t a real fan and just doesn’t get it, you’ve just made a major misstep, my friend, no matter what city you just left.
If Josh hadn’t said anything, I think he would have received a healthy dose of applause his first time up as a thank you for what he meant to this franchise over the past five years. Instead, he said things (as CJ Wilson did the year before) guaranteed to spur a negative reaction from the home crowd.
For the Rangers, this weekend is business. For the fans, it’s personal.
I’ll be interested in hearing the reaction this afternoon on the radio feed of the game when Josh steps to the plate for the first time. There’s been a movement afoot to try to get the crowd simply to not react at all when Josh steps to the plate. Silence. No applause, no booing. I don’t know if it’ll be pulled off, but it’d be a hoot if it happened.
Meanwhile, I’m also looking forward to seeing what Wash decides to do with Josh. Will he have his pitchers treat him like any other player or will he defer to his former star and do something like intentionally walking him if the game is on the line? Yesterday, Hamilton came to the plate against the Reds with two outs in the 9th and the tying run at second. The Reds pitched to him and Josh struck out to end the game. Will Wash pitch to him in the same circumstances? Later on in the season, he might take the same approach as the Reds. This weekend? In front of the home crowd? I’m not so sure. It may be business as usual for the Rangers, but if they’re to lose a game in the opening series at home, I’m not sure if Wash wants Hamilton to be the difference maker.
While there are still two more slots in the bullpen to fill, the Rangers made it official that the roster beginning the regular season on March 31st will contain at least two rookies.
Leury Garcia has won the utility infield position which, outside of the long man in the bullpen, is the most thankless job on the Texas Rangers team. Garcia’s job will be to back up mostly Elvis Andrus. Jeff Baker probably will back up Ian Kinsler at second more than Garcia, since Baker is a proven vet with more pop in his bat. And, since Elvis is a 150 game per season player, Garcia’s biggest problem will be to keep himself fresh and ready for that once every other week appearance in the line-up. The odds are pretty good Garcia will see more action as a pinch-runner than he will in the field.
Meanwhile, rookie Nick Tepesch has officially been named the Rangers’ #5 starter. Tepesch, who has pitched no higher than the AA level, turned some heads this spring. Despite an underwhelming effort his last time out against the Rockies, he showed enough to get the nod over Michael Kirkman. It’s also likely Kirkman is viewed as a more valuable bullpen asset than a starter. Tepesch isn’t needed until an April 9 start against the Rays. The move is also only expected to last for the first two months of the season, unless he pitches at an All-Star caliber. Colby Lewis is expected to return by June, which would push Alexi Ogando into the 5 slot.
Having as many as 4 rookies earning spots on the team is a contradiction to the supposition that Ron Washington is biased against rookies. I’ve never believed it to be true. Almost any manager will shy away from rookies when the championship window is open, as it has been for the Rangers the past few years. In 2013, with expectations perhaps a little bit lower, Wash is more open to give inexperienced players like Garcia, Tepesch, Ortiz, Burns and Leonys Martin more of a shot. I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ll respond to the opportunity.
- Rangers clear way for Nick Tepesch to be No. 5 starter (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
- Derek Lowe is the Rangers’ long man (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
There has been a lot more good than bad in looking at the potential of the 2013 Rangers to do some damage in the AL West. Last time out, I mentioned most of those good things. Of course, it turns out the only name I mentioned in passing could just possibly become the #5 starter , that being rookie Nick Tepesch. It’s not a surety, as it was also reported Michael Kirkman, who is on the team anyway, was stretched out to 4 innings in a minor league game. What reason for that if not to move from the pen into the #5 hole?
Enough, though, about the positives. Today is about the negatives. Most fans would agree, as much as we like our teams, we also tend to see our team’s flaws better than just about everyone and there are things this spring that have me a tad concerned (who is this Tad anyway and why is he always concerned?) going into the regular season.
Fortunately, one of those things became more of a moot point after the Rangers played the Reds on Sunday. Alexi Ogando had not been having a real good spring and he’s the #4 starter. While he was an All-Star as a starter two seasons ago, Ogando was in the pen and, following an injury, did not have a good second half. That combined with his poor spring had me thinking, who cares about the #5 starter? If our #4 isn’t doing well, nobody’s going to care about #5! Then Alexi goes out and tosses six goose-egg innings against Cincinnati and all seems right with the world again.
Look, Ogando still concerns me. We’ve heard he still needs to develop a third pitch to become a better starter. In 2012, he somehow managed an All-Star nod despite just a 2-pitch repertoire. Nothing I’ve heard out of training camp tells me Ogando’s third pitch, a change-up, is ready as a consistent weapon. If it is, I’ll breathe a lot easier. If not, the Rangers’ fortunes good go further south.
Of even more concern is the lack of right-handed depth in the bullpen. As glowing as my last post was about the southpaws Robbie Ross, Joe Ortiz, Michael Kirkman and Nate Robertson, the reverse has been true of the righties. The guys the Rangers really need to do well are Josh Lindblom (acquired from the Phillies in the Michael Young trade) and Tanner Scheppers. Lindblom struggled at first with his velocity. Now he’s struggling with his command. Scheppers was slowed by injury in training camp. Of the two, Scheppers seems to be the one turning it around somewhat, with scoreless outings in each of his last four appearances.
A year ago, the bullpen was a Rangers strength. This season, it’s definitely a work in progress. If all goes according to plan, Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz will help solidify the pen after the All-Star break. In the meantime, Texas needs at least four of the aforementioned individuals to step up their games, especially Lindblom and Scheppers.
The last concern seems minor but it’s still an important roster spot. Texas still doesn’t know what they’re doing for a utility infielder who can back up Elvis Andrus at short. Last time out, I mentioned Yangervis Solarte as a possibility, but that ended when Solarte was reassigned to the minors over the weekend. Of the players now in camp, only Leury Garcia and Jurickson Profar are left. The Rangers have already said Profar, their #1 prospect, won’t stay unless he can get 350 at bats for the season. Profar would need to play 4 games a week to get those AB’s. With Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus up the middle, that’s not likely to happen.
That leaves Garcia and I just don’t think Ron Washington is ready to hand the job to a rookie. In other words, less than a week from Opening Night and it’s highly doubtful the player chosen as the Rangers’ utility infielder is even in Rangers camp. Ideally, he would be acquired in a straight-up trade for Julio Borbon, who probably won’t make the club despite an outstanding spring. Surely there’s someone out there who needs a 4th or 5th outfielder who could spare an infielder in return. We’ll know in the next 6 days.
On a totally unrelated subject: Remember just two weeks ago, when everyone was wondering whether Nolan Ryan was unhappy and ready to walk away from the Rangers? Not only has there been little reported on the situation in the past week plus, but I noticed a tweet today saying Ryan will throw out the first pitch at the second of the Rangers’ two exhibition games at the Alamodome in San Antonio this week. Does that sound like something someone whose departure is imminent would do? I said it when the story first cropped up and I’ll say it again. I think this has been a non-story all along. Does Nolan have less power in the Rangers organization? Yep. But I think this whole unhappiness thing has been more about Nolan just wanting to feel useful in Texas than it’s been about the amount of power he wields.
March 25th. Just a few more days before Texas and Houston in front of a nationwide audience Sunday night. It can’t get here soon enough.
Just 11 days from Opening Day and the Rangers line-up is starting to shape up. The first domino to fall occurred Tuesday when Mike Olt was sent back to the minor league camp. Olt was given a chance to win a job as Mitch Moreland‘s back-up at first base and Nelson Cruz‘ back-up in right field but he just didn’t run with it. Olt struggled at the plate throughout the spring and led the club with 12 strikeouts when he was sent down.
I always figured Olt as a long-shot to make the club out the gate. As the second or third best prospect in the Rangers system, it didn’t make sense to me that he would be a back-up. Olt’s struggles, combined with the way Jeff Baker has been locked in at the plate pretty much sealed his fate.
While he hasn’t been sent down yet, the fact #1 prospect Jurickson Profar decided to join the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic after the first round was a pretty good sign he won’t be with the Rangers on Opening Day either. Rangers brass has already said Profar won’t be in Arlington unless he could be assured of 350 or so at bats and that appears unlikely.
With the top three prospects all gone (Martin Perez is out with an injury) from consideration, it’s time to look at who is likely to get the few open positions available. Here are the players who have had outstanding springs and will probably be Rangers on March 31st when they play the Astros in Houston:
As mentioned earlier, Baker has just been outstanding with the bat all spring long. In 49 at bats, Baker is hitting .449 with a home run and 7 RBI. Best of all, Baker knows his role is as a back-up. Players who know and accept their role prepare the way they’re supposed to and shouldn’t cause problems in the clubhouse.
In the first part of the spring, anytime someone mentioned Solarte as a possible candidate for the utility infield position, those more in the know would say it wasn’t going to happen because Solarte doesn’t play shortstop. Lo and behold, in the past two weeks, Ron Washington has given Solarte four or five games at shortstop. Whether this results in a roster position remains to be seen, but Solarte, who played in AAA Round Rock in 2012, has some pop in his bat and could be a consideration.
Most folks figured Martin would be on the big league level this year. The question was would it be as part of a platoon with Craig Gentry or would he win the job outright. The competition has been on and neither player is giving an inch. As of this writing, Martin is hitting .350 with 4 extra base hits, 5 walks and 2 steals. Gentry is at .286 but with a surprising 2 HR’s and has 5 steals without being caught. Other teams have been calling about obtaining Gentry, so Martin could still be the guy fulltime but if Gentry stays, center field could be a fun position to watch on the Rangers this year.
Kirkman is anothe rplayer who figured to make the club as he is out of options. What was unexpected was how impressive he would be this spring. The southpaws in camp have been excellent and none more than Kirkman, who has now pitched 9 scoreless innings this spring, allowing only three hits with 0 walks and 8 strikeouts. With the injury to Martin Perez, Kirkman has even put himself into the mix for the #5 starter position.
I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of his signing but now I look at Lowe the same way as I see Jeff Baker. Lowe has been signed specifically for the thankless job of being the Rangers’ long reliever and spot starter. This is the pitcher who is used the least but expected to give multiple innings whenever he appears in the game. Over the past few years, that role has been filled by Dustin Nippert, Scott Feldman and Roy Oswalt. It’s a tough role but one Lowe is willing to take on and, unlike Feldman and Oswalt last year, is unlikely to grouse about the way he’s being used. Since signing, Lowe has twirled five scoreless innings this spring.
Last year, Robbie Ross opened eyes when he just threw strike after strike and earned his way onto the Rangers despite pitching only in Class A the year before. This year, the same can be said of Joe Ortiz. While he played at the AA and AAA level last year, the diminutive 5-7 Ortiz was said to not have much of a chance of getting to the majors strictly because of his lack of stature. All Ortiz has done is what Ross did last year- throw strikes and make batters swing. The lefty has now thrown 9 scoreless innings, striking out 9 and allowing a meager .167 batting average, putting him well into the bullpen mix.
Another lefty, this major league veteran last pitched in the bigs in 2010. Robertson has a career ERA in the 5′s but has been nothing short of outstanding in trying to come back from injuries. Robertson has 10 innings of 3-hit no-run ball so far.
Another minor leaguer to watch out for is Nick Tepesch, who was a combined 11-6 for Hi-A Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco in 2012. Tepesch has opened some eyes in Rangers camp and is still in the mix for the #5 starter job, though I doubt he’ll get it. He could get consideration for an early call-up in case of injury, though.
11 days to Opening Night Easter Sunday.
The good news: Exhibition play has started.
The bad news: The Rangers, in essence, got swept by the Royals, getting a tie on Friday and dropping games on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t think they even had a lead in any of the three games.
BUT I’M NOT PANICKING!!!
I’m sorry. I should just say I’m not panicking. All caps bolded would tend to lead to the impression I am indeed already panicking about the upcoming season.
Nope, not me. Yeah, Matt Harrison had a putrid one inning of work on Sunday, giving up six hits and four runs. Elvis Andrus doesn’t have a hit yet and committed an error on his first play. Mike Olt started out 0-3 with three strikeouts before finally getting a soft liner to third to end the K streak. He also mixed in an error and an almost error with one nifty play at third defensively. Also among the hitless are Mitch Moreland and Geovany Soto. On the pitching side, Alexi Ogando‘s spring debut was almost as bad as Harrison’s.
BUT THERE’S NO NEED TO PANIC!!!
Really. Harrison, Ogando, Andrus and Moreland have shown enough over the past 2-3 seasons, worrying about them three games into a 38 game exhibition schedule is like worrying about a new CD from Elton John on which the first cut sucks and you decide his career is over. That’s not to say there’s nothing to pay attention to in exhibition games. For players like Julio Borbon and Michael Kirkman, these are extremely important games. Both are out of options, so not making the Rangers out of spring training no longer means going back down to the minors, it means looking for a new employer. For Kirkman, the first appearance couldn’t have gone better, twirling two shutout innings with three strikeouts. For Borbon, the results are more a mixed bag. Defensively, he’s been OK and made an outstanding play in left field in the first game. Offensively is another question. The .250 average is OK, but he’s also fouled off a couple of bunt attempts and Sunday hit into two double plays. For a speed guy on the bubble, these are the things Ron Washington pays close attention to. Julio’s got to step it up.
I also like hearing about the players turning heads in camp. A.J. Pierzynski has been impressed with Robbie Ross so far. Yangervis Solarte, who also had a decent spring training a year ago before playing for AAA Round Rock, has impressed with his bat again. He’s still a long shot to make the team as a utility infielder, as he doesn’t play much shortstop. Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel had high praise for the change-up of Cory Burns. And Wash has liked what he’s seen from corner utility candidate Jeff Baker.
In other words, right now I’m just excited to listen to some actual games, regardless of the final score. As the spring progresses, there will be days I turn the game off around the sixth inning when the scrubs I know have no chance of making the club come in. But for now, I’m a happy camper, even with an 0-2-1 start.
- Healthy Moreland looks to return to form (mlb.mlb.com)
- Texas Rangers Spring Training: Pitching Outlook (rattleandhumsports.com)
- Borbon down to last chance in Rangers’ centerfield derby (sacbee.com)
Here’s what it’s like being a baseball fan. I find myself sitting in the office, checking in on Twitter so I know what’s happening in the first intrasquad game of the year.
The funny thing is, I don’t think of it as sinking so low. While I have never made the spring visit to Surprise, it is definitely in my plans to do so in the next couple of years. Until that time occurs, I hang on the news that Yu Darvish didn’t give up a hit in his inning of work (but he did allow an unearned run); that Nelson Cruz blasted his first bomb of the spring off Jake Brigham; and, on the negative side, A.J. Pierzynski allowed three stolen bases and Elvis Andrus booted his first ground ball of the spring.
None of this means anything in the grand scheme of things, of course. For the faithful diehards, though, it’s like seeing the first robin, the sign that Spring is indeed on its way. It gives us a chance to stop worrying about whatever fool thing that former Rangers player said about true baseball towns and true baseball fans. Instead, it’s time to start zeroing in on how the young kids look, whether the injured have nursed themselves back to health and to start debating who among the bubble players will get those last roster spots up for grabs.
We know #1 prospect Jurickson Profar has decided he wants to make the team badly enough he is willing to forgo his guaranteed spot for the Netherlands in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, that Adrian Beltre will miss the first round of said WBC because of a mild calf problem that wouldn’t keep him out of the regular season line-up and that the iffy-ness of Nelson Cruz‘ status has the Rangers’ rookie Mike Olt shagging more fly balls in right field than were originally planned for him.
The biggest news to me, though, hasn’t even been discussed much in the media. People chuckled when Lance Berkman admitted he’d left his glove at home. Ron Washington said there was no problem, since Berkman’s primary job is as the club’s DH. Wash also said Olt’s main duties this spring were going to be in right field and his natural position of third base. Why is any of this significant? Because it has always been assumed there would be a first base platoon in 2012 consisting of Mitch Moreland against righties and either Olt or Berkman against southpaws. No Olt
and no Berkman working out at first base seems to point to Wash giving Moreland a shot at being the fulltime first baseman.
This is a good thing and a bad thing. This is a critical year for Moreland. Like Chris Davis before him, I’m pretty sure this is Moreland’s last chance to prove himself as an everyday player. Both have been offensively inconsistent in their time with Texas, showing flashes of greatness followed by bouts of great mediocrity. Davis was never able to get into an offensive groove with the Rangers despite lots of chances. For Moreland, injuries have led to offensive inconsistency. If he doesn’t produce this year, whether injured or not, he will probably be headed for other pastures like Davis before him.
This spring also will be critical for Julio Borbon. It wasn’t so long ago Borbon was part of the first Rangers team to make it to the World Series and considered a vital part of the team’s fortunes. This year he enters spring training as the forgotten man, out of options and supplanted on the depth chart by Leonys Martin. His only shot appears as the Rangers’ fifth outfielder. This goes to show the Rangers depth in the minor league system. Borbon didn’t see a day of time in the majors in 2012, yet I think he has the talent to be on any team in the majors. Borbon’s problem is his defense. It hasn’t been good enough to make up for his lack of power. If the D isn’t there this spring, Borbon will be looking for a new organization to play for come April.
Almost 700 word, just to say Spring has sprung, the grass has ris and where I’d like to be is not where I is. Just a few days to the first exhibition game. I have a hankering for a hot dog and some nachos.
My favorite vacation spot usually has a beach associated with it, yet today, I would rather be spending time in the desert of Arizona.
These are the smells I usually love the most: bacon, crab, lobster, coffee and steak on the grill. Today, though, I feel like making a trip to Academy just to smell a new baseball glove and the oil to loosen up the leather.
On a daily basis, my favorite wood is the one from which my front door is made, welcoming me home after a hard day at work. Yet today, it is ash and weighs a mere 34 ounces.
As is my custom, I came home today after spending eight hours at a clean, comfortable office. Yet what I really wanted to do today was rub some red dirt on my hands.
Tonight I’ll throw a blue rubber ball and my dog will fetch it and chew on it for awhile. But tonight I’d rather the ball be horsehide with red stitches on it.
Tonight the president gives his State of the Union message, but I’d rather hear Ron Washington talk tonight than Barack Obama. And instead of being in front of the TV, I’d much rather be sitting a few feet behind the first base dugout, enjoying the cool desert air and smelling the newly mowed grass.
Does all of this make me weird?
If it does, then so be it. I am weird. And I am a fan. And Spring Training is here. And all is right with the world.