The media’s day Tuesday started with a surprise press conference. No details were given.
So, the speculation turned to what could be in store.
No one saw that coming, but it could explain why Chirinos was in such a good mood Monday during his first day back in camp after the World Baseball Classic.
The extension buys out his remaining year of salary arbitration and guarantees that the Rangers have catcher under contract for 2018. Jonathan Lucroy remains a candidate for an extension.
Chirinos’ deal also includes an affordable club option for 2019, so that’s another benefit to the club.
It’s a peculiar deal, because the Rangers didn’t have to do it. Chirinos would have been under control for next season. But they did it, because they love the guy and teammate he is as much as they like him as a player.
That was hardly the only news Tuesday.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five from Rangers spring training.
1. Cole Hamels looked like springtime Cole Hamels in the first inning Monday night, when the Chicago White Sox knocked him around for two runs on two hits. The defense didn’t help, as Elvis Andrus and Hamels each committed an error.
When the left-hander was done three innings later, he looked like regular-season Hamels. He faced the minimum from three, allowing only one more hit and striking out five. He finished by striking out the side.
Hamels said only that he’s right where he needs to be after a four-inning spring start. There’s work left to do, mostly building up arm strength in his final two outings.
By Opening Day, if he gets that assignment, or by Game 2 on April 4, he should be able to cover at least seven innings with a feel for all of his pitches.
At this point, he’s ahead of where he was last spring, and all he did last April was go 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA.
The moral of Tuesday night: Anyone who was worrying about Hamels can stop.
2. Adrian Beltre’s biggest concern upon his return to Rangers camp wasn’t his 1-for-16 in four games in the World Baseball Classic or his injured left calf or getting 3,000 hits.
His concern was the media’s upcoming coverage of him as he approaches 3,000 hits.
Beltre doesn’t want the chase to become a daily distraction for his teammates and doesn’t want to talk to the media each day about it. He doesn’t want it to keep them from the ultimate goal of winning the World Series.
To his credit, he understands that the media has a job to do and did say please.
No. 3,000 is likely to come in May, assuming he stays healthy and productive. So, he’ll get a media-free April and probably an easy start to May.
Once he gets to 10, all bets are off, but there are solutions to this inevitable collision (more like a fender bender).
The Rangers can bring him into the interview room. They can do a writers-only session outside the clubhouse. The Rangers beat writers aren’t exactly the roughest toughest group most of the time.
Common ground will be found. It’ll be as easy as Beltre getting to 3,000 hits.
3. The hamstring tweak/tightness/injury Joey Gallo is dealing with is only going to delay the inevitable. He’s not going to be on the Opening Day roster.
He wouldn’t be if he were healthy, which it seems like he will be soon. Then again, I haven’t gotten my hands on that MRI yet.
The left-field job is down to three players and could be shared by three players: Jurickson Profar, Delino DeShields and Ryan Rua. DeShields started there Tuesday and batted leadoff while Carlos Gomez batted seventh as the center fielder.
Intriguing, isn’t it?
In discussing it Monday night with manager Jeff Banister, he didn’t name Gallo as being in the mix. When Gallo was brought up, Banister had this to say: “The challenge for him is to continue to show the progress. He’s shown the progress we wanted to see, the maturity. I’ve got to think a guy like that is trying to push some waves, too.”
It won’t be a shocker if Gallo start the season at Triple A Round Rock. That has been in the Rangers’ minds since October. If he goes down and kills it, they’ll find room for him in the majors.
The good news for Gallo is that the coaching staff and front office are talking about him unlike ever before, bringing up his maturity, as Banister did, and being impressed with the way he has gone about things this spring.
Prediction: He’ll be make an impact this season and will be a regular, finally, in 2018.
4. Of course, if Gomez’s jammed left shoulder is worse that Rangers trainers believe, DeShields might become the Opening Day center fielder for the second consecutive year.
Gomez was injured sliding awkwardly into third base to finish off a fifth-inning triple. He was immediately removed from the game after grabbing at the shoulder.
There’s no need to get carried away with this, but let’s go ahead and do it anyway. Then again, I haven’t gotten hands on the MRI yet. (One hasn’t been scheduled. Gomez will be evaluated Wednesday.)
If Gomez starts the season on the disabled list, maybe Gallo makes the Opening Day roster and platoons with Rua and gives Mike Napoli an occasional breather while Profar works almost exclusively as the utility infielder and the backup in center field.
The Rangers, though, seem so intent on getting Profar 400-500 at-bats (based on his overall WBC performance, it’s hard to argue), and it doesn’t seem likely that Banister will begin to give off days to the four infielders in the first week of the season.
So, Gallo can’t make the roster even with a Gomez DL to start the season, unless the Rangers just say to hell with it and make him their starting left fielder.
You know what? I’d be OK with that.
5. Profar shouldered the blame for the Netherlands’ 11-inning loss to Puerto Rico in the WBC semifinals Monday night after he was caught napping in the first inning on a heady play by all-world catcher Yadier Molina.
Profar had just singled sharply to put runners at first and third. The problem is that as a pumped-up Profar showed some emotion toward his dugout after rounding first base, Molina threw behind him and he was tagged out.
The next batter, Wladimir Balentien, launched a two-run homer. Profar’s gaffe cost his team a run, and they lost 4-3.
“I just want to put this loss on myself,” Profar told reporters afterward. “I didn’t play good enough for my team.”
Banister was fully aware of the play, and said unequivocally that he will not discuss it with Profar. He also is not the least bit worried that Profar will come to camp, possibly Wednesday, with a WBC hangover.
The great players move on, Banister said, just as Beltre already has from his dicey plate performance for the Dominican Republic. Profar isn’t great yet, but has great instincts that should serve him well.