PEORIA, Ariz. A tell-tale sign that the Texas Rangers have entered the homestretch toward the regular season came Monday afternoon, when nine players were trimmed from the spring roster and sent to the minors.
None rates a massive surprise, though left-hander Wesley Wright falling out of the bullpen competition might be a little surprising. If the Rangers go with two lefties, they will be Alex Claudio and Dario Alvarez.
That’s a big if.
A whole bunch of players, 46, are on the big-league roster. Four are in Los Angeles for the final days of the World Baseball Classic, and one is in Texas for the birth of his son.
The Rangers hope he’s around next year, too.
Matt Bush is going to be around as long as he wants. He’s also going to be on HBO on Tuesday.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. “Real Sports with Bryant Gumble” debuts a new episode at 9 Tuesday night featuring Bush, who in just over four years went from nearly killing a man with a teammate’s truck to prison to the major leagues.
The five-year anniversary of the drunken-driving hit-and-run that nearly killed motorcyclist Anthony Tufano is Wednesday.
The story is well-reported. Andrea Kremer’s questions don’t dance around the point (I had typed “don’t beat around the Bush” before realizing what I’d done). The facts are presented.
Bush said that he isn’t terribly interested in seeing the segment but will be interested to see and hear some of the comments. I told him it could be 50-50, half for him and half against.
The Rangers could also catch some flak. They signed a troubled man who can throw 100 mph. Would they have given Bush a second (or fourth, as HBO suggests) chance had he been a talented ticket salesman who nearly killed a man while driving drunk?
What if Bush were an accountant or a reporter or a ditch digger? He’d probably get hired by someone, so he shouldn’t be penalized because he can throw 100 mph. He had to make a complete overhaul in his life to get the chance. He also went to prison and, as he says in the story, not only worked and threw for Rangers scouts in a parking lot at Golden Corrale, he also ate Golden Corral.
That’s punishment, too.
It’s hard to not feel for Tufano, who has a daily battle with pain after Bush ran him over. The list of injuries is extensive. He rarely leaves his house. His family is bitter.
(Tufano is the poster boy for why motorcyclists should wear a helmet. If he hadn’t, he would have died and Bush wouldn’t be in the majors. He’d still be locked away.)
But just as viewers will feel for Tufano, they shouldn’t hate Bush. Maybe the old Bush, the raging alcoholic. Bush the Rangers pitcher has his demons to conquer each day, and he’s doing it.
It’s not his fault he is making the most of his second chance.
2. Yu Darvish is expected back in Arizona late Wednesday, will work out with the Rangers on Thursday and will pitch for them Friday after he and his wife welcomed a baby boy into the world Sunday.
That first diaper can be a tricky one. But this is his fourth son, so he knows the geyser that can go off. Then, there’s the meconium. Why is that even a thing?
Jon Daniels was on the radio Monday morning talking about Darvish and the Rangers’ chances at extending him. The Rangers still want to see if he can hold up during the season, though they believe he is healthy now.
Darvish has had the occasional neck strain pop up. There was shoulder fatigue last year, though that could be viewed as a side effect of the Tommy John surgery.
But he made 29 starts in 2012 as a rookie and 32 in 2013 before the elbow started going bad after 22 starts in 2014.
That’s been fixed. The neck strains are no big deal.
Daniels believes that Darvish is happy with the Rangers and that his family is happy in Texas. Maybe Daniels is hoping for a hometown discount. Maybe Darvish would give him on before hitting free agency.
The longer the Rangers wait, though, the less likely it becomes that they will reach an extension.
Odor jumped back into the lineup Monday night against San Diego, Perez threw a bullpen session, and Chirinos will catch Cole Hamels on Tuesday night. The trick, manager Jeff Banister said, is to transition them from playing high-intensity games to dialing back for the regular season but still having intent.
Odor went first to third in the first inning, diving into the bag and getting his uniform dirtied up. Perez will throw another bullpen session Wednesday before pitching Friday, possibly in a minor-league game.
Adrian Beltre is expected back Tuesday after the Dominican Republic was ousted by Team USA on Sunday night. He went 1 for 15 in four games in the tournament and 0 for 6 in four games with the Rangers after dealing with a calf strain.
Maybe he’s getting all of his outs out of the way this spring. Knowing Beltre, his WBC performance is eating away at him.
4. Question: Which Rangers pitcher became the first to pitch into a sixth inning this spring?
A. Yu Darvish
B. Cole Hamels
C. A.J. Griffin
The answer is D, after Martinez tossed 5 1/3 innings against San Diego. He entered the sixth with a 2-0 lead left after retiring only one of the three batters he faced in the sixth.
He allowed only one run on four hits. The run scored with Jose Leclerc pitching as the runner at third raced home after Brett Hayes threw to second to catch a would-be base stealer.
Whether one run or none, Martinez delivered his best outing of the spring. Whether it’s enough to get him back into the thick of the rotation competition is TBD. It should earn him another start.
5. The Peoria Sports Complex has a lot of things going for it, including a proliferation of craft beers available on the outfield concourse and a section in the outfield grass reserved for fans who brought their dogs.
The complex has also added a pretty sweet play area for kids that the boy and girl would love to try out.
The Surprise Five fully endorses craft beers, though not at ballpark prices and in moderation, and fully endorses as many dogs in the ballpark as possible. Pretty much all kids love dogs, though not craft beers.
The problem with the Peoria Sports Complex, at least as far as people housed in Surprise are concerned, is Bell Road. If you’ve never been on that stretch of hell on earth, ask someone who has. They’re sure to agree with this assessment.
Monday was an exception. Almost always the worst place to drive in spring training, Bell Road was surprisingly not packed at 5 p.m.
As much as The Surprise Five does not endorse spring night games, it will bend for less traffic on Bell Road.