Gone are eight players expected to be on the Opening Day roster, including team patriarch Adrian Beltre, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and second baseman Rougned Odor.
“You miss out having them here,” manager Jeff Banister confessed.
The Rangers, though, aren’t worried about how the team will come together. They know what they have in each of the eight absentees, though they are learning what more they might have in Jurickson Profar.
The clubhouse still has plenty of bodies in it, and many of those players are getting extra time under the microscope. Baseball hasn’t stopped for the WBC, and things are happening in Surprise and various stops across the Cactus League that will affect the roster on April 3.
To that end, consider what transpired in the Rangers’ 12-0 loss Tuesday to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Chi Chi Gonzalez struck out the side in the first inning Tuesday. It wasn’t as quick or efficient as his 1-2-3 inning Thursday against Venezuela, but it was still good.
And, like he did against Venezuela, things fell apart thereafter.
Gonzalez allowed two runs in the second and was charged with six in the third, an inning that included him hitting a batter and walking the next hitter to force in a run.
Unlike against Venezuela, though, Gonzalez said he was quick to adjust once Diamondbacks hitters figured out he was going to throw fastballs early in the count. Chris Iannetta launched the first pitch of the second for homer, and Chris Hermann had a broken-bat single on the next pitch.
Both were fastballs, so Gonzalez started throwing his off-speed stuff. He was pleased with the thought process but frustrated by the results. Manager Jeff Banister said that he was actually encouraged by the first two innings, which included 95 mph velocity.
Gonzalez, though, threw up a 2 2/3-inning stinker after A.J. Griffin and Mike Hauschild allowed two hits in four scoreless innings Saturday and Sunday and after Dillon Gee pitched three scoreless innings Monday night.
This is a competition, after all. Gonzalez doesn’t have much more room, if any, for another dicey outing.
2. Andrew Cashner has been really positive the past three days when asked about his right biceps soreness. There’s a reason: The soreness is gone.
That’s what the right-hander said again Tuesday. He has stretched out his throwing to 120 feet and will continue to long toss until he is examined this weekend by Dr. Keith Meister.
Only then will the Rangers know how long it will take Cashner to get ramped up for the season. Even though pitching coach Doug Brocail wants to use five starters at the start of the season, the Rangers have looked at using the early-season off days as a way to use only four starters — Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and one of A.J. Griffin, Mike Hauschild, Dillon Gee, Nick Martinez, Eddie Gamboa and Gonzalez.
That would allow the Rangers to take an extra reliever or bench player into the season. With the lack of flexibility the Rangers have with Hauschild (Rule 5 pick) and Gee (March 29 out clause), expect an extra pitcher if they go with four starters.
3. Alex Bregman didn’t like Odor’s ninth-inning bat flip Monday night for Team Venezuela and his lack of hustle out of the batter’s box that cost him a double when he thought he had hit a homer.
He didn’t homer, and it turned into a potentially embarrassing moment for the Rangers’ second baseman. It could have hurt Venezuela’s chances to advance in the WBC, but it didn’t.
Nevertheless, Bregman, the young Houston Astros star with 49 career games under his belt, took to Twitter and called out Odor, saying he should act like he’s been there before.
I’m not sure Bregman has been there before, playing for his country in a critical game that means more to his countrymen watching back home as any big-league game he could play.
But Bregman has been with the Astros long enough to form an opinion about Odor or to be told what his opinion should be. The Astros don’t like him. Astros fans don’t like him, all stemming from the 2015 bat flip on a triple and the ensuing conversation/benches-clearing, Banister finger-pointing incident.
In defense of Bregman, I wonder if he, as a member of Team USA, didn’t care for the Dominican Republic team’s celebration of Nelson Cruz’s three-run homer Saturday night. Players rushed to home plate like it he had hit a walk-off homer instead of an eighth-inning homer that put his team into a one-run lead.
Who knows? The only thing known is that it appears Bregman regrets going to Twitter, as he deleted the tweet. Maybe his account is next.
4. Minor-league games started Monday, and that means big-leaguers will be making their way to the back fields at the Surprise Recreation Campus to catch up on innings and at-bats.
First up is Hamels, who is scheduled to throw three innings Wednesday while the Rangers play inside Surprise Stadium. The statistics won’t count, so his Cactus League ERA will remain at 108.00, but he will get more out of it than just logging pitches.
Hamels continues the search for the feel of his pitches, which he clearly didn’t have Saturday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But bad spring outings are nothing new for Hamels. In fact, they are the norm.
Relievers Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Wesley Wright and R.J. Alvarez will also pitch in minor-league games. Manager Jeff Banister said that Elvis Andrus, who missed the first chunk of Cactus League games, and Shin-Soo Choo, who missed big chunks of last season, could make their way to the back fields at some point this spring to pile up some extra at-bats.
5. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick may very well be the finest facility in the Cactus League, and it definitely draws the largest crowds thanks to it being the spring home of the National League team that plays about 20 miles away.
Most of its seats were in the shade by the fifth inning. Beer is readily available at multiple stations on the concourse. The press box is nice and roomy.
The two issues really are minor ones that don’t affect fans one bit but do affect the fine writers stationed in Surprise.
The visiting clubhouse is in center field, an inconvenience that causes a long walk through sweaty fans and up and down two sets of stairs. I made it but was dragging. Maybe I shouldn’t have worked out at 5 a.m.
The second issue with the facility it that it’s in Scottsdale. The drive without traffic on the 101 takes around 45 minutes, 20 of which is spent on Bell Road in Peoria. The drive with traffic on the way back takes a lifetime.
The Chicago Cubs’ facility in Mesa is said to be pretty shiny, but I’ve yet to make my way to it. The same problem will arise, though. Traffic.
That ends my complaints for the day. Until tomorrow, when I race inbound to Phoenix in rush hour traffic to make a 7 p.m. flight.