The good news for the beat writers this time of spring training is that news starts to pop up every day. That means no more features and notes on the nonroster invite/top prospect who is making waves in camp.
Roster spots and roles on the club are at stake. Injuries become magnified with the season so close. So do slumps.
Then, there’s the annual springtime news story, that being who will be the starting pitcher on Opening Day.
In Rangers camp, each spring also seems to bring a contract extension.
Two of those things happened Saturday.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Rougned Odor is all locked up after agreeing to a six-year, $49.5 million deal with an option for a seventh year. He said on Tuesday that he thought a deal was getting close.
He was right.
The deal will rate as a bargain for the club should Odor continue to hammer 30 homers a year after launching a team-high 33 in 2016. Even if he doesn’t produce at that level, the extension is still club friendly with an average annual salary of $8.25 million.
In covering six years, the Rangers are buying out Odor’s first two years of free agency and can cover the third year with the club option. In getting only one option year, Odor can hit free agency as a 29-year-old and score an even bigger deal.
As things stand now, the Rangers are at risk of losing their Opening Day starter and catcher, for whom they surrendered two former first-round draft picks to acquire, to free agency.
Lucroy said only that extension talks with the Rangers have been tabled. He didn’t mention if numbers were exchanged or if talks could pick up during the season, but he does want to stay with the Rangers.
Lucroy is playing in the option year after a five-year, $11 million contract with Milwaukee (talk about club-friendly). He’s now one of the game’s top catchers, and it’s easy to assume he wants to be paid as such.
There’s no faulting him for that.
Then, there’s Darvish, who the Rangers believe is healthy and going strong ahead of his first full season following Tommy John surgery. Yet, he’s apparently not healthy and strong enough for a contract extension.
At least the Rangers aren’t at risk of losing Odor for the next six, maybe seven, years.
2. Darvish, as just about anyone could deduce, was named the Opening Day starter for a host of reasons, including that he’s been really, really good this spring.
He’s healthy and dialed in mentally, manager Jeff Banister said. Not said was that giving Darvish the start is another gift to keep him interested in staying with the Rangers. Also not said was that Darvish likes puppies.
Banister, though, stopped with Darvish, saying he’d reveal the rest of the rotation in the coming days. The expectation is that Cole Hamels will start the second game and be followed by Martin Perez and A.J. Griffin.
The Rangers are trying to decide if they will use only a four-man rotation early in the season. It’s possible that Andrew Cashner (biceps soreness) could be ready by the first time the Rangers need the fifth starter April 15.
Hamels seems like an automatic choice for the No. 2 spot, but he is starting Sunday and would need to tweak his schedule to be ready April 4. He might be required to stay in Arizona on Thursday on short rest to pitch a minor league game or just throw two heavy bullpens before April 4.
Perez would be easier to slide into the No. 2 spot. He pitched Saturday, could pitch a minor league game Thursday and stay on schedule for the second game. Hamels could start Sunday, Friday at Globe Life Park and the third game April 5.
By putting a pitcher between Darvish and Hamels, the Rangers could protect their bullpen against consecutive short outings by Perez and Griffin. That’s selling Perez and Griffin, but especially Perez, short, but it’s not unreasonable.
3. Of course, if the Rangers go with only four starters, they could go with eight relievers and have some extra protection in the bullpen. With Tanner Scheppers (abdomen) likely out of the hunt, Mike Hauschild becomes more and more likely.
The Rangers haven’t heard how much time Scheppers will miss, but he was injured while pitching a second inning of work Friday. Hauschild threw the two innings before Scheppers and was scoreless yet again.
Left-hander Dario Alvarez could be the eighth reliever — and a second lefty — behind Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Tony Barnette, Jeremy Jeffress, Alex Claudio and Hauschild.
Nick Martinez and Dillon Gee can make the rotation if the Rangers decide that extra rest for the starters is the best course of action. They don’t appear to be leaning that way, however.
4. That’s not good news for Martinez, who has relief experience but would likely be depth as a starter in the minors.
He’s been very good his past two outings, including two runs in four innings Saturday against Seattle. He shut down San Diego on Monday, so maybe Martinez just likes pitching at the Peoria Sports Complex.
A far more likely explanation is that Martinez has finally found the feel for all of his pitches and is able to locate them much better. He has liked his thought process in his rough outings and felt positive about many of the things he did in the stinkers.
He’s not doing them anymore, at least not nearly as much, and he has the appearance of a pitcher who should be in the Rangers’ rotation. His problem is that Griffin also looks as if he should be in the rotation, and Griffin built up some credits last season.
That has given him the edge for what would be the final spot if the Rangers go with the four-man rotation. Martinez’s best hope is that the Rangers go with five starters to open the season.
5. Here’s my crack at the Opening Day roster. No gambling, please.
Starting pitchers (4): Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, A.J. Griffin
Relief pitchers (8): Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Tony Barnette, Jeremy Jeffress, Alex Claudio, Dario Alvarez, Mike Hauschild
Catchers (2): Jonathan Lucroy, Robinson Chirinos
Infielders (6): Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Drew Robinson
Outfielders (5): Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Gomez, Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields, Ryan Rua
I’m torn about Robinson making the team. The Rangers are worried about him rotting away on the bench as a rookie who needs everyday at-bats, but he’s more versatile than James Loney. Loney, like Robinson, bats left-handed and, unlike Robinson, knows how to come off the bench.
But Loney would also need a spot on the 40-man roster, and the Rangers don’t have one and don’t want to create one.
Loney and Robinson are also healthy. Hanser Alberto is still out with shoulder soreness. If he gets healthy, I like him to make the roster. Right now, that’s iffy.
So is predicting the Opening Day roster.