The Texas Rangers, two-time defending champions of the American League West, are playing .200 ball after their first 10 Cactus League games this spring.Wins and losses absolutely do not matter in spring training, but how teams play in losses does matter. Just ask manager Jeff Banister.He was none too pleased with the Rangers’ effort Monday in a 9-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners, who out-hit the Rangers 10-3.
To wit:“That might be one of the more uninspiring games we’ve played in spring training, yes,” Banister said. “We give up 21 base runners in eight innings on nine walks [including] two hit batters, 10 hits and two errors. Yeah, I would say that’s a sloppy baseball game. We’ve got to be better than that.”He should have gone to the B game.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. The B game against the Chicago White Sox featured appearance by Martin Perez (very good), Cole Hamels (shrugs shoulders) and Matt Bush (wowzers). Also appearing was new White Sox lefty Derek Holland, who spent ample time catching up with his former teammates and even the media.Perez, facing almost entirely minor-leaguers, allowed three hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four, including a couple with his improving curveball, and was watched by Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail and Venezuela pitching coach Roberto Espinoza.
Brocail said that he gave Espinoza instructions to make sure Perez continues working on his new mechanics, which have him in a more athletic position than a straight posture he formerly had in his delivery, during the World Baseball Classic. Brocail also reinforced that Perez will be held to a strict pitch limit.On Monday, even against the minor-league players, the good was evident.
Perez broke at least four bats, induced multiple groundouts and worked quickly. He has the looks of a confident pitcher — and the words to go along with it — as he heads to the WBC.Bush followed Hamels, and those White Sox kids didn’t have a chance. Bush’s fastball sat at 97 mph, Brocail said, and it was effortless. His curveball froze one poor hitter and got another chasing in the dirt.Yeah, it’s March 6.
2. Hamels allowed a two-run homer to a batter who is 6-foot-5 but hit only five home runs last season. Big deal. As in, who cares?The left-hander threw 30 pitches/20 strikes in his first game action of the spring, and he’s expecting to pitch on a back field somewhere in Arizona this weekend.
Probably Saturday, though the Wednesday off day could bump him to Sunday.All of the talk of semantics generated a few shoulder shrugs as he continues to get his work in as he prepares to be the Rangers’ Opening Day starter or Game 2 starter. He knows the routine as a veteran embarking on his 12th big-league season, and is confident that when camp breaks March 29 that he will be ready for the Cleveland Indians.
Brocail, though, talked about how Hamels has given him a list of things to look for during his outings, and if he sees them, to inform Hamels at once. Those are the things that didn’t work in September and October, when Hamels admittedly got away from what makes him successful.Even though he went 15-5 with a 3.32
ERA, how his season ended continues to motivate him this spring. And even though his Monday outing was nothing special, he learns something every time he throws a baseball.He’ll be ready by April 3. Or maybe April 4. 3. A.J. Griffin was monkeying with the grip on his cutter and not pitching enough inside Monday. Both led to him surrendering six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Mariners.
The outing left Griffin with a 10.57 ERA after three appearances this spring. The good news for him is he has plenty of time to get straightened out and has some good 2016 impressions to fall back upon.He also has five others vying for the spot he wants as the seat-warmer for Tyson Ross. That’s not good news, as Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez have been sharp through two outings.
But there’s a possibility that the Rangers might need a fourth and fifth starter to open the season. It all depends on the health of Andrew Cashner, whose biceps soreness continues to be an unresolved issue.
He thinks it’s a blip and can start ratcheting up his activity and be ready for the first week of the season. If it persists, though, the Rangers conceivably could go into the season with Hamels, Yu Darvish, Perez and a combination of Griffin, Gonzalez, Martinez, Michael Hauschild, Eddie Gamboa or Tyler Wagner.Banister confirmed that Tanner Scheppers will not be in the mix, unlike 2014.Griffin had a strong spring last season to earn the job as Darvish’s seat-warmer, and then saw his role morph into 23 starts.
If the just the results matter in this spring’s competition — which they absolutely do not — Griffin is currently lagging behind the field.Which begs this question: Wouldn’t Colby Lewis be better than the field?
4. For those who missed it early this morning, Adrian Beltre is going to play in the World Baseball Classic after giving his left calf every chance to aggravate itself again. It didn’t, or hasn’t yet, so he’s heading to Miami on Tuesday night.He isn’t sure how he will be used on the Dominican Republic team, but “if they want me to play, I’ll play,” he said.
Judging by the reaction on Twitter, his countrymen expect him to play. Of course, he’s going to play. He wouldn’t go just to sit on his butt.To his credit, it appears as though he has done everything the right way and is continuing to do so. He hasn’t left yet because he said that he could continue to receive treatment and at-bats with the Rangers than trotting around Miami.Beltre played again Monday, going 0 for 2 to run his spring average to .000 (0 for 6).
Banister said that Beltre could play again Tuesday, depending on how his calf feels. Here’s betting he does play, and he plays well for the Dominican Republic.Should he play? That’s up for debate. But I’m convinced he wouldn’t be playing if he didn’t truly believe he was risking a setback.
5. My time back in Texas wasn’t all just rest and relaxation. Come to think of it, none of it was restful.
And I covered a game, a Rangers game no less. Son Henry played Saturday in his first career T-ball game for the Mansfield Rangers, and it was beautiful. It was terrible, as only one out was recorded and no throws made it to first base without bouncing, but it was beautiful.
It had everything you’d expect, including no outs. Well, there was one, but it went unrecorded. Everybody reached. Nine of 10 balls were fielded by the pitcher, though most players tried to make a play.
Only once did a player run to third first instead of to first, but he was the same boy who also needed to take a mid-inning bathroom break. Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing.
There was some crying, though caused mostly by stage fright. Once the timid ones got a bat in their hand, though, it was on.
No one was injured, and they all seemed enthused about coming back. The Wilsons can’t say Henry had the same experience with soccer, which delights me endlessly.
Jeff Wilson: 817-390-7760, @JeffWilson_FWST