The only feedback given by the boss man on the first Surprise Five of Texas Rangers spring training was that the fifth item — that’s the self-serving one — wasn’t self-serving enough.
The item telling the Star-Telegram’s fine readers where to find the Arizona Bureau’s work wasn’t placed high enough, and though our readers are sharp, many might not make it all they through the initial opus.
Kind of insulting by the boss man, both to the reader and the writer. Surely my prose would hold the attention of the readership.
So, one more time, for the boss man, find a catalog of my spring stories and from the past few seasons by liking this Facebook page.
Now that the Rangers’ full-squad workouts are under way, expect daily editions of The Surprise Five.
Here we go with the second Surprise Five of Rangers camp.
1. With the gang all here, it’s time to ask a fair question: How many of the 25 Opening Day roster spots are actually, truly, really in play here?
The fifth starter spot is one, and probably the most important one. There is a bullpen opening with Jake Diekman down. The Rangers say they have need for a left fielder. Only one of the four bench spots is etched in stone (Robinson Chirinos).
That counts out to six. However, Jurickson Profar appears to be a lock for one spot, the super utility role that this season will come with an added emphasis on left field.
So, five. That feels right.
The fifth spot in the rotation will go to a starter who has options or has special circumstances. A.J. Griffin, Nick Martinez, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Tyler Wagner all options. Mike Hauschild is a Rule 5 pick, and thought it’s tough for a player to make a team and stay with the team all season, he has to be seriously considered.
The business of baseball might have already put Dillon Gee a step behind in the competition. Gee is in camp on a minor-league deal and would need a 40-man roster spot to make the team, but he’s also more battled-tested than all of competition.
Diekman’s spot would logically go to a lefty, but not necessarily. The best seven relievers (or eight, if the Rangers open with a four-man rotation and send the fifth starter, with his minor-league options, to Triple A for as many as 10 games before needed) will make the team, right- or left-handed.
Lefty Alex Claudio has a spot, as do righties Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress. That’s 5 of 7, and the other two could go to righties Keone Kela and Tanner Scheppers. That’s very possible.
Then, there’s the bench and the latest chapter in the Josh Hamilton saga. It just feels like he’s going to make the team, even though he’ll need to be added to the 40-man. That leaves two spots, with Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields the front-runners.
Five spots appear to be open, and a lot of headaches for decision-makers appear to be on the horizon.
How the load is shared will be determined by Gomez. If he’s close to the on-base machine he was late last season, he’ll get the bulk of the bulk.
Before he joined the Rangers, he had amassed 21 walks in 323 plate appearances with Houston. He drew 13 walks in 130 plate appearance with the Rangers.
Gomez produced a .386 on-base percentage in 17 games as their leadoff hitter. That will do very nicely. A .356 OBP would do nicely and keep him atop the lineup with Choo batting second.
Gomez also is a base-stealing threat, which means more fastballs for Choo with Gomez at first base. DeShields was that kind of threat late in 2015, and Choo was the best hitter in the American League in September.
But if OBP is MIA for Gomez, Choo will bat first. That’s not a bad thing. His career OBP as a leadoff man, the same .386 Gomez produced for the Rangers.
3. Gomez said on Monday that he turned down a chance to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic because he felt it was more important to be in spring training without interruption with his new team and coaches.
He was with the Rangers for only seven weeks last season, and he and the hitting coaches struck on something he had never experienced — seeing the ball travel deeper and actually come off the bat.
By staying in camp, not only does he continue to learn the Rangers’ way, he sticks with the hitting coaches and gets to keep pounding away at his swing until it is second nature.
Staying in Surprise was a smart decision, especially with another crack at free agency ahead, but it was the latest in a growing line of things that Gomez is doing that rate as contrary to the reputation he has had during his career.
A certain third baseman/fellow countryman might have had a hand getting Gomez’s steered in the right direction.
4. That third baseman is Adrian Beltre, who took batting practice on the field for the first time since showing up to camp with a strained left calf and said he had no problem getting through the day.
He’s now a week into the 2-3 week window the Rangers said it would take for his strained left calf to mend. That window butts up against the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
Beltre said that the pre-strain plan was for him to join the Dominican Republic team in Miami on March 5. The first game is March 9, outside the three-week window.
Beltre hasn’t run yet, nor has he tested his lateral movement at third base. There’s no timetable for that.
But just seeing him hit Tuesday, it seems like he will be ready to play in the first round of the WBC barring a setback or an intervention by Rangers officials.
5. It is my steadfast belief that Yu Darvish will sign an extension or re-sign next off-season with the Rangers, who have given Darvish ample leeway in terms of how he trains, how he deals with the media, how he prepares for starts and how he pitches in games.
He has every comfort he could possibly want, and there is no guarantee that another club would offer that even if they offered more money.
As the Japanese media often say, Darvish hates change. That would apply to his life away from the field, too, and one big change next month could also factor into keeping him in Dallas.
Darvish’s wife is due in mid-March with a boy. Darvish and his wife have a home in Dallas, and the Rangers are under the impression he loves living in that city. Just imagine what a pain it would be to move a wife and two kids under age 3 to another city and another pediatrician and another house.
That’s not insignificant, at least not for the common man. Darvish could just tell the movers what to pack and where to haul it, or he could just buy all new stuff in the new city with the new untold millions coming his way.
Even that sounds like a pain.