Guess what happened Tuesday at Surprise Stadium? The temperature climbed above 70 degrees.
That isn’t a first this spring, though it seems like it. My annual trip home coincided with some fine weather. The temperatures were in the 60s, though, Monday for my triumphant return.
Tuesday was the first time I’ve seen 70 in Arizona in about two weeks, so I’m thrilled. The Cookie Lady, a spring training regular, says she can’t remember a colder Arizona spring, and I believe her.
The good news is it’s only going to get warmer this week as the wife and kids make their second annual Wilson Family Spring Training Adventure, which this year will include non-Wilsons (in-laws).
They don’t know what they’re getting themselves into, but their help is greatly appreciated.
Anyhoo, Yu Darvish, who is about to be a father again, pitched against the Colorado Rockies, whose lineup featured old friend Ian Desmond.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Yu Darvish didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the 59 pitches he threw in three-plus innings or the two-run homer he allowed to Irving product Trevor Story in the first inning.
Were it not for the thin air in Arizona, Darvish said, that ball might not have sailed over the left-field wall.
Darvish worked on his fastball early, including one that Story sent out, in an effort to drop his pitch counts. That makes it all three spring outings in which Darvish has worked with that goal in mind.
That’s the best thing to come out of Tuesday, the continued realization by Darvish that the more efficiently he can pitch and the longer he can remain in games, the better the chances are that the Rangers win when he starts.
The fact is that he’s gradually been trimming his pitches per inning each season since coming to the major leagues. It’s still wasn’t enough to satisfy Rangers pitching coaches, or, apparently Darvish, judging on his stated desire to get outs more quickly.
That’s the best thing to come out of Tuesday.
59 Pitches on Tuesday in three-plus innings for Yu Darvish in his third spring start
2. Ian Desmond looked like he’s a quick study at first base Tuesday, when he made a leaping catch and applied a tag to the head to Carlos Gomez for the final out of the second inning.
“Work in progress,” Desmond said.
The Rangers’ left fielder-turned-center fielder last season found himself back at Surprise Stadium as an opposing player for the first time since signing a five-year, $70 million contract in the off-season.
He made one mistake, hitting a grounder in the first inning to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who made a strong throw for the out.
“I was trying to hit it harder,” Desmond said. “It had too much topspin.”
Desmond declined to say if he ever thought he would end up back with the Rangers as a free agent, saying the off-season decision-making is “water under the bridge.” He’s happy in Colorado — how could he not be? — and believes he has found a good fit for he and his wife to raise their three boys — and he has.
He did say once again that he loved his experience with the Rangers, except for the quick playoff exit.
“It was great,” he said. “An unfortunate ending, but it was fun.”
3. Jurickson Profar might not rate as Shin-Soo Choo’s favorite teammate after Profar’s two-run homer Tuesday helped propel the Netherlands to an easy victory over Korea in the World Baseball Classic.
Profar also collected a single and a stolen base as the starting center fielder for the infield-heavy Netherlands team. So, now Profar can play six positions. He isn’t interested in recapturing his Little League glory as a pitcher.
But manager Jeff Banister made it clear that center field will not become a point of focus for Profar, who will, however, get a crack at at-bats as a left fielder. The Rangers, it seems, could stick him in center field for a few innings or maybe a couple games, but not 15 days should an injury hit Carlos Gomez.
So, Delino DeShields can breathe a little easier, though he still isn’t a lock for the Opening Day roster despite his .333 average, .455 on-base percentage, four walks and three steals.
Mr. March, Jared Hoying, is having another good camp. Despite only a .214 average, he has two home runs and a spectacular catch in center field. Drew Robinson is intriguing as a super utility player with more experience in center field, but he has as many major-league at-bats as I do.
6 Positions (first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field) that Jurickson Profar could potentially play this season for the Rangers
4. Three candidates for late-inning relief work showed well, beginning with Tanner Scheppers in his first Cactus League game since 2015.
He threw 11 pitches, 10 of them strikes, and pitched around a single thanks to two strikeouts.
Keone Kela was good again, too. Jeremy Jeffress was undone by two errors and a two-out walk as he allowed the go-ahead run in the ninth. It was unearned, in part because he didn’t back up a throw that got away behind third base, and the Rangers lost 3-2.
Banister gushed over Kela’s outing after he struck out two in a perfect inning, saying the third-year pitcher has been “plus, plus, plus” this spring after an up-and-down 2016 that was interrupted by early-season elbow surgery.
He also appears to have taken over the controls of the clubhouse sound system. Fans of hip hop and rap would like his selections. His volume control can be a little too aggressive, though.
5. The Rangers get a day off Wednesday, their first of spring training, and it’s a byproduct of the World Baseball Classic.
With many players missing from their teams, players who are in camp are being asked to play more and could use the rest. Plus, players had to report a week earlier than normal. So did the beat writers, who aren’t going to complain one darn bit about not having to be in the clubhouse before 8 a.m.
The Rangers will return to the field Thursday against Team Venezuela, which has Martin Perez, Robinson Chirinos and Rougned Odor on its roster. Elvis Andrus would have played for his home country, too, were it not for off-season hernia surgery.
Andrus won’t make his spring debut against Venezuela, though not because the Rangers are fearful that he would have pushed it too much trying to show up his countrymen. He took batting practice Tuesday and could be back Friday or Saturday.
The Surprise Five, though, will return Thursday.
Enjoy the off day.