The unseasonably cold weather has claimed its first victim of spring training.
Everyone with the Texas Rangers is OK, but Star-Telegram writer Stefan Stevenson has been felled by something akin to the flu.
I’m no doctor, but he has developed a fever and reports that he has hardly moved in
the past 24 hours.
He’s predicting a Monday return, though he needs to stay away until he’s symptom-free. I head back to Texas on Wednesday for a weekend that includes my son’s first career T-ball game, and if I’m sick or get my family sick before returning to camp, my wife might file for divorce on the spot.
So, get better, Stefan, but please stay away.
There’s plenty of spring training left to go after the Cactus League lid-lifter Saturday.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Martin Perez has never been short on confidence. Even in his worst starts he is always able to find something positive to take into the next one.
So, it should come as no surprise that he wasn’t remotely concerned about allowing two first-inning runs to the Royals. He rebounded with a scoreless second inning that included a double-play grounder to erase a leadoff walk.
Perez is already ahead of almost all other pitchers, having cranked up early than the rest to get ready for the World Baseball Classic. He will work three innings in his next outing and said that he would have no problem tossing five frames March 11 for Venezuela.
While he wants to throw his curveball more, his moneymaker is his sinker. His changeup is also a quality offering, but the two-seamer leads to all those double-play grounders.
Hitters have also started to expect it and were laying off it more as it dipped down. So, his goal this season is to occasionally throw it up in the zone.
That can be tricky, though, for a pitcher who constantly works down, down, down. Doubles by Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez were on his fastballs, said catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Perez needs to get those pitches a tick higher.
But on Day 1 he was confident enough to throw it. Not that Perez has ever been short on confidence.
2. The competition for playing time in left field is going to be really intriguing, more so than the battle to keep Tyson Ross’ rotation spot warm for the first couple months.
Granted he’s only played in the intrasquad games and the Cactus League opener, games when pitching isn’t exactly at its best, but DeShields has four walks in six plate appearances and has scored two runs.
Both need consistent offense to get them over the hump, and Gallo is the bigger question mark there but has the potential to inflict far more damage.
But the competition is more than a two-man race. Jurickson Profar is in the mix, and so is Josh Hamilton. Profar probably has a roster spot. Hamilton needs to win one, which he can’t do while injured.
If he can get on the field and if he can hit, right fielder Nomar Mazara might become the left fielder and Shin-Soo Choo could vacate the DH spot for right field.
3. That’s not to say that the No. 5 spot doesn’t offer some intrigue, though Griffin is widely considered the front-runner for the spot he also won last year.
Two more candidates will pitch Sunday, with Dillon Gee and Mike Hauschild working two innings apiece. Chi Chi Gonzalez and Eddie Gamboa will start Monday’s split-squad games.
Each realized that he is walking a fine line of having to get his stuff in shape to compete for the regular season while needing to compete in spring training. Manager Jeff Banister said that each is allowed a clunker or two, and more than just spring performance will go into the final decision.
Past experience is one of them, in which case Griffin and Gee might have a leg up. Gonzalez and Nick Martinez can’t match them. While Hauschild has a 40-man spot thanks to the Rule 5 draft, he has never pitched above Triple A.
Hauschild and Gamboa could become candidates to be the long man in the bullpen, though they are each a change-of-pace pitcher who could tie up opponents in the middle of a series.
See? Pretty intriguing.
4. A nice moment was held before first pitch as late Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, killed last month in a car accident in the Dominican Republic, was remembered.
Carlos Gomez and Adrian Beltre, fellow Dominicans, placed a floral arrangement on the pitchers mound, and the City of Surprise presented Kansas City manager Ned Yost with a plaque of Ventura that will be placed on the concourse at Surprise Stadium.
Gomez said that he and Ventura had become friends, not because of their native roots but because of their fiery sides. Gomez said that Ventura had called him multiple times to discuss how to keep his emotions in check.
The last time they talked was before the Royals headed to the postseason in 2015. Gomez had homered off Ventura and called to tell him that he was tipping some of his pitches.
“What happened last month was a shock for everybody, especially the people that knew him,” Gomez said. “When I heard that news, it hurt a lot. It’s not because he was from the Dominican. We talked during the season. He saw that early in my career I had the same passion for the game and the same adrenaline. He listened to me a lot.”
5. Another word on the weather, which has been total horse hockey.
The most popular item in the Rangers’ clubhouse has been the hooded sweatshirt. Even toughest tough guy has been wearing at least a pullover.
Joey Gallo said that balls sting coming off the bat. Banister said that it has been difficult to even work up a sweat. The first-base dugout on the main back field, where Banister holds his morning press briefing, might be the coldest spot in Arizona.
There’s no immediate let up coming. Temperatures will remain stuck below 70 degrees, and rain could enter the forecast Monday and Tuesday. It isn’t until next weekend when temperatures will reach 80.
Ultimately, the chilly temps are just an inconvenience. The Rangers have still been able to get in their work. No muscles have been pulled.
But no one is getting a sun tan, either.