Good news: The Texas Rangers won’t go winless in Cactus League play.
They avenged their loss in the lid-lifter by beating the Kansas City Royals 6-4.
There was plenty of good — on the mound, at the plate and on the bases. The defense played flawlessly, too.
Seems like a winning formula. Just start the regular season already.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Josh Hamilton said last spring that his career wasn’t supposed to end like this, too injured to even step onto the field for one last shot at his career. And maybe it won’t end with him limping away into a forced retirement, but it’s looking that way more than ever.
The Rangers expect that Hamilton will have arthroscopic surgery Monday in Houston to do what a platelet-rich plasma injection Wednesday could not — take away the pain in his left knee.
Assistant general manager Mike Daly said that it’s too early for the Rangers to give Hamilton his walking papers. The plan is to let Dr. Walt Lowe give Hamilton a look-see and then the Rangers to give Hamilton a chance to get on the field.
There has been no talk from Rangers officials — at least publicly — about Hamilton’s career being over or if they would let him play in the minors at the possible risk of blocking a player who might be a bigger part of the future.
Hamilton can walk away from his minor-league deal any time after spring training ends. The Rangers would almost certainly grant his release if he decides to become a full-time father.
The hunch here is that Hamilton will exhaust all avenues before taking it to the house. He wants one last chance, no matter how long it takes, to get on the field healthy and see what’s left.
The question at that point becomes if the Rangers will wait him out.
2. Yu Darvish delivered the best news heard by the Rangers on Sunday: He was pleased with his fastball command more than his velocity, and he understands that using the heater can help him get quicker outs.
That’s the theory, at least, and it’s one the Rangers have stressed for years. Darvish has heard it long enough to believe it, and he saw some results Sunday after throwing 25 pitches in the first inning.
He faced only three batters in the second, recording two outs, but eight of his 12 pitches were fastballs. He got early swings. He caused manager Jeff Banister to flirt with leaving him in the game for one more batter.
Banister brought up one point about Darvish’s fastball: He has command of it, but it and his other pitches are so good that oftentimes hitters can only foul them off rather than put them in play. That’s how many of Darvish’s deep counts develop.
But the Rangers know that the quicker Darvish gets out of innings, the deeper he goes into games and the better chance they have at winning.
“Of course, it does,” pitching coach Doug Brocail said.
Part of the reason for the high first-inning pitch count was Darvish’s attempt at mastering the split-finger fastball. Brocail said it had too much slider spin and wasn’t as good as it had been in bullpen sessions.
No matter how good Darvish is able to get it, Brocail said that it won’t be as good as his slider or fastball.
3. The Rangers might very well go into the season with eight relievers, which would make carrying a second left-hander easier to do. But when the fifth starter is finally needed and if the Rangers decide they want a second lefty, Andrew Faulkner is a good bet for that duty.
He worked a scoreless inning Sunday and has made a positive impression in each of the past two springs. He wasn’t on the big-league spring roster in 2014, but his work in B games and as a just-in-case pitcher left such an impression that he was transitioned from a starter to a reliever.
Faulkner did such a good job in 2016 that he won a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Lefty Alex Claudio has a bullpen spot, and the Rangers could go heavy with right-handers to fill it out if they prove to be their best relievers. Using Claudio as more of a lefty specialist would allow the Rangers to carry Mike Hauschild as the long man.
In his first spring outing, he tossed two scoreless innings. As a Rule 5 pick who would have to stay on the active roster all season if he made the team, the long-relief role could be a good place to put him.
Then again, if he continues to pitch like he did Sunday, he might be the No. 5 starter.
4. In the way-too-early-to-get-carried-away category, Delino DeShields had a third straight strong showing at the plate and on the base paths. Banister took notice.
DeShields went 1 for 3. He reached on an error in the first, stole second base, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Ryan Rua’s homer. DeShields dropped a bunt single in the second and Jurickson Profar just beat the throw home.
The things that DeShields did in 2015 and has done in the intrasquad game and two Cactus League games are the things that will allow him to win the job as the Rangers’ left fielder.
But Rua could win the job if he keeps hitting homers, and Joey Gallo could win the job with a big spring at the plate.
The battle for left field won’t be a daily feature in The Surprise Five, but it will be a frequent topic. It’s too good not to mention.
5. The Surprise Recreation Campus is also the spring home of the Oregon State Beavers, who concluded their two-week run in Arizona with a victory early Sunday morning before the big-leaguers took over Surprise Stadium.
Oregon State, which won the national title in 2006 and 2007, played eight games over two weekends and finished at 7-1. They will head back to Corvallis as one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 title.
One of OSU’s staff members believes that UCLA and Arizona State will give the Beavers the most trouble. Arizona State handed No. 1 TCU its first loss of the season Friday in Fort Worth before the Frogs won the final two games of the series.
Rangers right-hander Andrew Cashner, an All-American at TCU in 2008, has raved about the facility upgrades at TCU since he was there and has told current TCU players to soak it up because they won’t have anything like it at the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Here’s a thought for Jim Schlossnagle: Add the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic to a future schedule. At the very least, your players will get to bed early in sleepy Surprise.