Not that I wasn’t convinced that flying to Big League Weekend was the right call, but the parking woes experienced by players, media and club personnel served as further proof that flying was the way to go.
The powers that be at Big League Weekend determined that parking for players, media and club personnel needed to be moved to the other side of Interstate 37 instead of the convenient Lot A on stadium grounds. Everyone who had a credential was told that they were cleared to park there free of charge.
That key bit of information never got to the parking attendants, who then attempted to make players, media and club personnel pay. Upon their return from the game, they had $30 parking tickets on their windshields.
The tickets were taken care of by the powers that be, but the parking fiasco became the latest reason for the detractors of Big League Weekend to not want to come back.
At least the crowd Saturday was better, drawing over 7,000 more fans than the opener and bringing the total to just under 50,000.
The bottom line on whether Big League Weekend continues will be the bottom line. If it’s making enough money, expect it to continue. If not, it was fun (some of the time) while it lasted.
By the way, there was baseball news Saturday in Arizona and Texas.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. The story of the day in Rangersland was the fourth start of right-hander Yu Darvish, who is trending nicely toward the regular season and a possible start on Opening Day after allowing two runs and striking out six in 4 2/3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds.
The way things are set up now, he would be the starter April 3. But schedules have a way of changing, and it’s entirely possible Cole Hamels makes a second straight Opening Day start. Darvish, curiously enough, has never started the Rangers’ first game.
One way the schedule could change is by the birth of his son. Darvish was scheduled to leave for Texas after his outing against the Reds and stay at home for a few days to be with his family. The Surprise Five wishes them well.
Darvish is expected to throw a bullpen session at some point while back home, and the date of his next start will be determined then. If he says on normal rest, he would pitch again Thursday.
2. Dillon Gee tossed three scoreless innings against the Cleveland Indians before giving up three runs in the fourth on three hits, two walks, a Will Middlebrooks error and a hit by pitch.
The error was big, as Gee got a potential double-play grounder only to see Middlebrooks get handcuffed. If the Rangers turn two, Gee is out of the inning with only one run allowed.
Within the messy inning, perhaps brought on by fatigue as Gee worked a fourth inning for the first time this spring, was something an inexperienced pitcher might not do. The Indians opened with singles on the first two pitches of the inning, so Gee went to breaking pitches to the next few batters.
It was a quick in-game adjustment that nearly got him out of trouble, if not for the error. Know-how is one trick Gee has that others competing for the rotation don’t have, and pitching coach Doug Brocail is a big fan of pitchers who know how to pitch.
Gee, who with 124 career starts by far has the most experience of the remaining rotation candidates, knows how to pitch. He certainly didn’t do anything Saturday to hurt his chances of making the team.
3. When Nomar Mazara scored in the third inning on a single by Middlebrooks, it marked the first real run of the Big League Weekend. The first eight, five on Friday and the first three Saturday, were #fakeruns.
Friday featured three Indians homers that were likely non-homers in a ballpark with a real right field, and the Rangers’ first three runs Saturday came on a Cesar Puello “homer” that also would have been an out anywhere else.
The Rangers should be thrilled with their pitching in San Antonio. A.J. Griffin was dinged for those three homers Friday, but he and the Rangers know better. So do the Indians.
Gee was fine until tiring and not getting that double play behind him.
Tyler Wagner pitched effectively Friday in relief of Griffin.
Good pitching starts to happen this time of spring each year. Pitchers finally are getting a feel for their pitches and are commanding them. While possibly still tinkering on pitch grips, pitchers are more or less just needing to build up arm strength.
That should — should — lead to quicker games. And who doesn’t like a quicker game? Maybe the players association, as the commissioner suggested, but who else?
4. Chi Chi Gonzalez is headed for a second opinion on his elbow, which is fairly standard operating procedure. He’s not going to be doing much else, so he might as well log some airline miles and hotel points.
He’s basically looking at the same scenario as Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards, who last year had a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament but opted against surgery for stem-cell therapy, rest and rehab. He was pitching again by the fall instructional league and will be in the Angels’ rotation this season.
The gamble is that if Gonzalez tries the non-surgical route and it doesn’t take, then he will lose time before he is ready to go next season. Neftali Feliz attempted to avoid surgery, but ultimately needed it three months later.
Feliz pitched only minimally in 2014 and still wasn’t right to start 2015.
Ultimately, surgery is the last straw. No pitcher wants it, and no orthopedist wants to do it unless there are no alternatives. So, pile up those airline miles and hotel points, Chi Chi, and good luck.
5. The Rangers were to depart San Antonio, hopefully burning the bridge that keeps allowing them to go play each year in the Alamodome, and will have a full-squad game Sunday. Eddie Gamboa will start.
The Rangers will begin to get World Baseball Classic players back as soon as Sunday and perhaps have them in the lineup Monday night. Team Venezuela was eliminated Saturday from the WBC, so Rougned Odor, Robinson Chirinos and Martin Perez will be coming back from San Diego.
Pending the outcome of the Team USA-Dominican Republic win-or-go-home showdown, the Rangers could get as many as two back. If Team USA were to lose and fail to advance to the semifinals, Jonathan Lucroy and Sam Dyson would return. Adrian Beltre would come back if Team USA were to win.
Either Jurickson Profar or Alex Claudio will be eliminated Monday night as the Netherlands and Puerto Rico plays the first semifinal at Dodger Stadium.