The first Cactus League game on the Texas Rangers' spring schedule is in the books, and it's important to provide the annual public-service message.
Spring games just don't matter much. For the most part (see items 1 and 4 below).
They will matter at some point to players vying for roster spots, but not now. Pitchers usually get a mulligan, which is good for Connor Sadzeck. Most hitters have been in camp only a week and have barely seen live pitching.
They will get a little time to find a rhythm, too.
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Sadzeck didn't record an out and all three batters he faced scored in the third inning. He walked Kris Bryant after an extended plate appearance and allowed a two-run homer to Anthony Rizzo in another long at-bat.
Willson Contreras followed with a solo shot.
Sadzeck wasn't lacking in velocity, with his fastball ranging from 97-99 mph. Command, though, was an issue. That's not unusual for a pitcher's first time out.
By the way, the Rangers lost 6-1 to the Chicago Cubs.
Here's the Surprise Five from Saturday.
1. Matt Bush hasn't been waiting his entire life for the moment he will experience Sunday, but he's been waiting at least four months.
He will be the Rangers' starting pitcher in their first spring home game, against the Colorado Rockies, after training all off-season to join the rotation. Again, it's only a spring game, and, no, the stats don't count.
But it will count to Bush, who admits that he might be a little more amped up than he probably should be.
"I'm really excited," Bush said. "It always matters to me, whether it's a minor-league game, a major-league game, on a back field. I always have to compete and do well, or I'm not happy.
"There'll be some nerves, some excitement, and definitely some angst. I'm definitely happy with my last live [batting practice]. If I can just bring that over to the game, I'll be very happy with it."
Bush remains confident that he won't be going back to the bullpen. It's not even an afterthought, though it's hard to imagine that he won't be making some relief appearances if the Rangers stick to their guns on the six-man rotation.
A team that carried eight relievers much of last season will only have seven arms in the bullpen if they have six starters, and the coaching staff is anticipating that starters will log relief innings under the six-man scenario.
2. Rougned Odor is going to be a father. Soon, too.
He and his girfriend, Liusca, are expecting a daughter in April, and Odor can't wait.
His life is about to change, dramatically, and that might not be a bad thing.
Odor's good buddy Elvis Andrus became a first-time father last season and noticed an immediate impact on his mentality after a game. As soon as he got home to Little Elvis, he forgot all about baseball and showed up the next day refreshed.
"It's going to change his mentality for sure," Andrus said. "He's going to see things differently. I know he's going to experience the same thing. When he goes home, he's going to forget about if he makes an error or doesn't do something right."
Odor isn't sure what to expect, but he knows that Andrus worries about baseball a lot less. Jurickson Profar became a father in the off-season and has also seen how his son has put things into perspective.
"Everyone tells me that," Odor said. "I will tell you as soon as she's here. I can't wait to have my daughter."
3. Brett Nicholas was behind the plate for the Rangers' opener as the evaluation of the candidates to back up Robinson Chirinos got under way.
Nicholas has big-league time the past two seasons and is a front-runner for the job. He still can be optioned to the minor leagues and is on the 40-man roster, so even if he doesn't break camp with the club, he is very likely to see time in the majors.
But those two elements, remaining minor-league options and a 40-man spot, will be a factor in determining who ends up on the bench — the whole bench. But it could be especially so at catcher.
The Rangers have four catchers on the 40-man: Chirinos, Nicholas, Juan Centeno and Jose Trevino. Isaih Kiner-Falefa is a fifth, though he is transitioning from infield to catcher (he played shortstop Saturday).
Centeno, who relieved Nicholas after four innings, can't be optioned, and that could really work to his advantage.
Manager Jeff Banister said that the best candidate will be a good defender who can quickly learn the pitching staff and help guide pitchers through a game. Nicholas has an advantage there, though the Rangers will have three new starters in the rotation.
Trevino is the best defensive catcher among the backup candidates, but he has never played above Double A.
Curt Casali has the most big-league experience. Michael Ohlman made his big-league debut last season.
4. Clayton Blackburn started for the Rangers and scattered two hit over two scoreless innings. He also accomplished a lifelong goal, pitching for the Rangers.
Blackburn was born in Amarillo before moving to the Oklahoma City area and graduating from Santa Fe High in Edmond. He was drawn to the Rangers and attended several games growing up.
His dream was to some day pitch for the Rangers.
That day came Saturday, so, yeah, the first spring game of the season mattered to him.
"I was in the outfield playing catch getting ready for the game, and the announcer said, 'Starting for your Texas Rangers, Clayton Blackburn,'" the right-hander said. "I stepped back and was like, 'Man, that's pretty cool.' I grew up my whole life a big Rangers fan. Just to be able to do it is a childhood dream."
But it wasn't the best moment of Blackburn's life. He said that happened in 2011 when he did a pre-draft workout for the Rangers in Arlington and got to meet one of his idols, Nolan Ryan.
"That was probably the coolest moment of my life," Blackburn said. "And Nolan Ryan has a firm handshake, as you'd expect. He announces his presence with that handshake."
5. The Rangers hadn't played much at Sloan Park since it opened a few years ago, and, like the other new ballparks in the Cactus League, it's pretty shiny.
And, like the others, it continues to lag behind Surprise Stadium and the Surprise Recreation Campus in terms of functionality. The Rangers and Royals have the best complex in Arizona.
The Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks would likely strongly disagree, and, in fairness, they have the advantage in seating capacity and the size of their press box. But things in Surprise are simple and compact.
That includes everything from the short distance between the clubhouse and the back fields to the easy in-and-out for fans. Surprise Stadium also doesn't have fans tripping all over themselves, unlike the newer places.
While Sloan Park was built with a large capacity in mind, the outfield grass seating was jammed so tight it looked uncomfortable. It must have been, as many fans stood on the concourse above the grass.
I'll take Surprise Stadium any day.