There are 10 days left of spring camp before the Texas Rangers head home March 29. It actually seems like it has flown by, despite the grumblings of some of my elder sports writers who have begun to whine about the World Baseball Classic-stretched spring.
True, most of us have been out here since at least Feb. 13. Each of us have taken breaks to go see our families (or cats). Still, for me, the Rangers’ camp has remained interesting, even intriguing.
Some of the few remaining position battles should really heat up these final 10 days and into the Rangers’ exhibition games against the Royals at Globe Life Park on March 31 and April 1. Some of the main players in those fights, stepped up Sunday in the Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Mariners at Surprise Stadium. Here’s a look at a few of them and a dominating duo out of the bullpen:
1. Ryan Rua — The outfielder continues to impress (as he does every spring). He had two hits Sunday, including a monster home run to center field. Rua said it felt like his hardest-hit ball since a go-ahead, three-run homer to dead center against the White Sox in the eighth inning May 10. Remember that?
Here’s his shot on Sunday:
Rua leads the club among Cactus League qualifiers with a .318 batting average and is tied with Carlos Gomez for the team lead with nine RBIs. He’ll be on the 25-man roster. Only question is whether he’ll be the Opening Day left fielder.
2. Eddie Gamboa — The knuckleball pitcher turned in one of the best outings (I’d say yes, but got some pushback in the press box) by a Rangers starter this spring. He held the Mariners to two unearned runs on five hits and a walk in five innings. He also struck out five. He’s looking like a real rotation option in early April if Andrew Cashner needs an extra week.
“Pretty efficient,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister called the outing.
3. Delino DeShields — He’s tied for the club lead with nine runs scored (also Gomez), is second with 11 hits and is 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts, including two more on Sunday. He seems a lock to be on the roster and so far he’s making a case to be in the starting lineup.
“It feels good, like my old self,” said DeShields, who is hitting .289. “I’m squaring balls up. I know I don’t have any extra-base hits but I’m hitting balls hard.”
4. Matt Bush and Keone Kela — Both pitched two scoreless innings to close out Sunday’s win. It’s the first time this spring they’ve gone more than an inning. Bush was as sharp as ever, striking out two in two perfect innings on 22 pitches (15 strikes). Kela walked one, but still put up two hitless frames. To state the obvious: Their ability to go multiple innings (even occasionally) would be a huge boon for the Rangers’ bullpen.
“To come back and get six outs in two-inning sets, for both of them, they are going to play big for us in those type of situations,” Banister said. “Both of them have great stuff, the fastball plays up, they’ve got great secondary stuff. Tremendous finish with the fastball, but it’s about getting quick outs, getting through the strike zone and not putting any runners on base.”
5. Wesley Wright — The left-hander didn’t pitch Sunday but he’s worth mentioning. In five innings this spring, he’s allowed one earned run on four hits and a walk and has struck out three. With Jake Diekman not an option until at least July, Wright has given the club another left-hander to go along with Alex Claudio, who has been pitching well in the WBC. Andrew Faulkner and Yohander Mendez have both been sent to minor league camp, leaving Dario Alvarez as the only other lefty relief option. Alvarez has been even better than Wright so far in camp. He hasn’t allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings while walking two and striking out five.