A big thanks to the fine people working for the City of Surprise, who for years now have had a television in the Surprise Stadium press box that each March tunes into NCAA men’s basketball conference tournaments and the big one, the NCAA Tournament.
While Team Venezuela was collecting six consecutive second-inning hits against Chi Chi Gonzalez, TCU was rallying against Kansas to end the first half in a quarterfinal game in the Big 12 tournament.
As the World Baseball Classic tuneup with the Texas Rangers wound on, TCU withstood Kansas’ late rally to pull a shocker, 85-82, and advance to the semifinals.
In terms of regular seasons, give me college football. In terms of postseasons, give me college hoops.
The goings-on with the Rangers at this point aren’t pushing the needle. Come April 3, there will be conflict. The Rangers open the season at 6 p.m., and the NCAA championship game tips a couple hours later.
Until then, there is some Rangers news to digest.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five from Thursday.
1. Andrew Cashner won’t be ready at the start of the regular season after having a setback with the soreness in his upper right biceps. Doug Brocail, the pitching coach, said that, so it must be true.
The Rangers have an abundance of starters in camp trying to be the No. 5 starter. Well, now they get a chance to be the No. 4 starter. If early spring stats mean anything, Eddie Gamboa is the favorite.
Gonzalez had his first hiccup of the spring against Venezuela, which hit three grounders to second base in a 1-2-3 first inning before unleashing six straight hits to open the second.
His five runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings won’t be reflected in the spring stats, as the exhibition won’t count for or against players or in the team won-loss record, but it counted.
As manager Jeff Banister said early in camp, every pitcher is allowed a hiccup, maybe even two. He said if not for hiccups, Colby Lewis might not have made the rotation in 2015 and 2016.
So, how about Lewis in 2017?
He says he can be ready by April 7. He has been throwing off and on since parting ways with the Rangers last month and staying in shape by riding his bicycle on the streets of Bakersfield.
The Rangers know that they need to consider him at the very least. Not only would he give them a capable starter to replace Cashner, but he could then slide into the spot being held for Tyson Ross.
Who knows what other spots could develop?
Lewis would also fill a void in the clubhouse, which is missing something from last season. It’s missing a lot of something — Lewis, Derek Holland, Mitch Moreland, Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran — despite recouping the losses with Mike Napoli.
It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? It did during the off-season, too.
2. The fact is that all pitchers fighting to be the fifth starter are flawed, otherwise they’d be in the rotation already.
They have something holding them back, whether it’s a lack of command or the lack of an out pitch or the lack of experience.
It could be a combination of those reasons.
Some just need an opportunity.
Maybe that’s where Mike Hauschild comes into play. He has made an impression on the coaching staff with the way he attacks the strike zone and with how much movement he gets on his pitches.
He’s a Rule 5 pick, so he has to be on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the team that lost him, the Houston Astros. A trade could be worked out, but the Astros have said they were torn on whether to leave him exposed or add him to the 40-man roster.
Seems like they’d want him back or make a lofty trade demand.
He doesn’t have to make the rotation to make the Opening Day roster. There would be a need for a long man if Alex Claudio is the lone left-hander in the bullpen. That’s a strong possibility.
It’s still only March 9, but Hauschild is in an enviable position.
3. While Gamboa isn’t a Rule 5 pick, he is versatile enough to be a roster consideration if he continues to perform.
The Rangers have also loved change-of-pace pitchers. That’s what saved Claudio last year from a DFA when the Rangers needed a 40-man spot. And the club’s decision to keep him on the 40-man was rewarded.
Gamboa throws a knuckleball, fastball and cutter, and Brocail said that Gamboa could start one of the two split-squad games Saturday. Brocail and Gamboa turned in some overtime on the off day Wednesday, and Brocail wants to see the results of their work.
Gamboa started 12 times last season at Triple A Durham and made 15 relief appearances. He was better as a reliever, posting a 1.88 ERA, but his ERA as a starter was just 3.23. He allowed only one homer between the minors and 13 1/3 big-league innings, to former Home Run Derby champ Todd Frazier.
Still, Gamboa, acquired Feb. 14 in a trade with Tampa Bay after the Rays had designated him for assignment, feels like a long shot. Maybe it’s the knuckle. He has time to close the gap in the roster race.
4. So does Dillon Gee, the Cleburne native who tossed two perfect innings against Team Venezuela before their regulars bowed out of the game. Of those competing for the spot, he has the most experience and has also done some long relief work.
The Rangers would need a 40-man spot for him if he were to make the roster, but there’s always ways to create one of those. He is seeing results as he tries to adjust to mechanical tweaks designed to keep him healthy.
Gee underwent surgery in October for thoracic outlet syndrome — a less evasive TOS procedure than the one Tyson Ross had two days later — but was 100 percent at the start of camp.
He’s in the race, just as Gamboa, Gonzalez and three others are. Maybe four. It’s hard to keep track.
5. A shoutout goes out to Pat Cantwell, a good dude and solid defensive catcher who had a tough day in the B game all within the matter of a few batters in the first inning.
The most painful moment, by far, came when a foul tip ricocheted squarely into Cantwell’s family jewels. Yes, they were “protected” by a cup. Doesn’t matter. He spent a good minute, maybe two, doubled over on the dirt before a trainer helped role him onto his back.
Cantwell was laid out another couple minutes before very gingerly resuming duty behind the plate. Two batters later he was rewarded with a foul tip off his shoulder.
A tough day, indeed.