Tarp drama, Soria trade part of Bronx zoo for Rangers

07/23/2014 11:33 PM

11/12/2014 7:06 PM

At least Joakim Soria’s final night with the Texas Rangers was a memorable one, with the Yankee Stadium grounds crew providing much of the entertainment Wednesday.

In fairness to the grounds crew, there was nothing gentle about the rain that arrived in the fifth inning. Heavy rain fell as soon as the skies opened, and it quickly morphed into something biblical within seconds.

It wasn’t too much different than what the Globe Life Park grounds crew experienced May 29, 2013, as a sudden storm and strong wind gusts made getting the tarp on the field an adventure, one complete with the risk of serious injury.

But that’s all the slack that can possibly be granted to the Yankee Stadium crew, which turned protecting the infield into a Three Stooges skit over 13 embarrassing, game-wrecking minutes.

Nearly two hours later, umpires called the game after 4 1/2 innings, giving the New York Yankees a rain-shortened 2-1 victory over the Rangers that didn’t sit very well with general manager Jon Daniels.

He got to see it on TV 1,400 miles away after putting the final touches on a trade that sent the Rangers’ closer to Detroit for right-handed pitching prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson, a pair of native Texans.

That’s some night.

“It was different,” Soria said.

Soria will likely become the Tigers’ setup man ahead of their closer, Joe Nathan. Soria said that he is grateful for the Rangers rescuing him after the second Tommy John operation of his career, and excited to go from the worst team in the majors to one of the best.

Daniels, meanwhile, was thrilled with the return for Soria, and should be. The Rangers received a power arm in Knebel, who pitched for the Texas Longhorns in 2011-13 and shot through the Tigers’ system, and a starter “built for innings” in Thompson.

It’s a feather in the cap that both are from Texas. Knebel was born in Denton, and Thompson went to Rockwall High School. Both players were signed by Tigers scout Tim Grieve, the son of Rangers Hall of Famer and broadcaster Tom Grieve.

“I could tell both guys were excited to come back home and play with the team they grew up rooting for,” said Daniels, who confirmed that the trade was completed shortly before the rains hit.

Knebel, the 39th overall pick in 2013 who made his big-league debut this season, will be optioned to Triple A Round Rock, and Thompson, who passed on a scholarship to TCU after being the 92nd pick in 2012, will be assigned to Double A Frisco.

The Rangers will recall a pitcher Thursday to take Soria’s spot, and Neftali Feliz will get the first crack at being the new closer.

Everyone in the bullpen should be ready for the series finale in the Bronx. The field, though, will need some work after a disastrous sequence for an unprepared grounds crew.

After all, thunder had been rolling and lightning had been flashing. Word had spread that rain was on the way.

The tarp was still covered when play was halted at 8:46 p.m. EDT, and no tractor was available to pull the tarp off the wall. Instead, a group of maybe 10 slowly pushed out the tarp, and then not enough crew members were available to pull the tarp over the field.

By the time the tarp was to the mound, the grounds crew came to a stop. Either the tarp was already too wet and too heavy to pull any further, or the tarp had snagged somewhere in left field.

For 13 minutes, most of them under an unrelenting downpour, the grounds crew left the infield bare, aside from individual tarps put on the mound and home plate. By the time the tarp was down, a process that included ample tripping and even a bat boy joining into the fray, the infield was a quagmire.

The grounds crew, with the aide of at least 100 bags of Diamond Dry, tried to redeem itself by putting the infield back together again. The Rangers even took the field again.

But the damage had been done. The infield was too soft because of the fresh dirt. The teams didn’t feel comfortable playing on it. And, then, it started to rain again.

“There were some tarp issues,” umpire crew chief Dale Scott said.

The Rangers watched the tarp drama unfold on TVs in the clubhouse.

“How do I say this … it was bad,” right fielder Alex Rios said.

Among the things that had Daniels peeved was the inability to cover the field but also the fact that the Rangers instructed ace Yu Darvish to begin warming up again under the assumption that the game would be restarted.

Losing a game after only 4 1/2 innings, with their ace on the mound, added to Daniels’ mood.

“Watching from a time zone away, I wasn’t real pleased by it,” he said. “I don’t think there was any intent for it to play out that way, but that shouldn’t happen.

“We lost a four-inning game because of ground conditions. It doesn’t quite seem right.”

At the very least, as Soria said as he headed out of the Rangers’ clubhouse for the last time, it was different.

It was some night.

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