Among my favorite things to do each spring has been happening the past two days.
I’ve been packing.
My favorite thing to do arrives Wednesday afternoon, when I board a flight from Phoenix to DFW Airport.
It’s not that I don’t like covering spring training. In fact, it’s probably my favorite time of the year strictly from a reporting/work standpoint.
If I were single and didn’t have kids, part of me would probably never want to leave.
But the wife is on her last spring training nerve, and the boy keeps asking me when I’m going to come home. The girl will some day soon.
The answer is Wednesday night, when the Texas Rangers also head back to the Metroplex. They should do so with most of their Opening Day roster, if not all 25 spots, sorted out.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Time for the DDDU (Daily Delino DeShields Update): DeShields is on the Opening Day roster. Manager Jeff Banister said that DeShields has made the team with his splendid spring that he kept rolling Tuesday over in Scottsdale.
The only thing left for the Rangers to decide, and it’s not an insignificant decision, is if DeShields should play every day. I’ve got that one: Yes.
Leadoff man? Sure, though Carlos Gomez didn’t do anything to not deserve the spot. Gomez, though, can profile in multiple spots in the lineup whereas DeShields is either the leadoff hitter or the No. 9 hitter.
The Rangers are aware that spring training results can be totally misleading. In DeShields’ case, though, his success is rooted in an approach at the plate that is as good, if not better, than what he did in 2015.
Gone, for the most part, is chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Back is the keen eye that has enabled him to lead the team in walks this spring and also to not miss his pitch as often as in the past.
He had a single and a double against Colorado and is batting .316 entering the spring finale. He also threw out a runner, something that he is capable of doing with a subpar arm because he now gets to balls more efficiently and gets them to the bases more quickly.
He needs to be given the chance to recapture the catalyst trait he had in 2015 when the Rangers’ offense finally started to pick up.
His role is TBD, but he’s on the team.
2. A.J. Griffin accomplished the only thing that Banister needed from him Tuesday, to survive his final spring start healthy. In so doing, Griffin has locked down the fourth spot in the rotation to start the season.
Banister said that the Rangers are moving closer and closer to going with a four-man rotation to start the season through April 14. Thanks to two off days, they won’t need a fifth starter until April 15, at which point they are hopeful that Andrew Cashner (biceps soreness) will be ready to join the rotation.
The Rangers can backdate 10-day disabled list moves three days from the start of the MLB season, which is Sunday. So, Cashner, Tyson Ross (thoracic outlet syndrome) and Hanser Alberto (shoulder soreness) can go on the DL beginning Thursday.
Griffin stumbled early in camp has he pitched without a feel for all his pitches, but was solid over his final four outings. He could make a final tuneup Sunday in a closed-to-the-public intrasquad game between Triple A Round Rock and Double A Frisco. He would make his first regular-season start April 7.
3. Alberto’s injury woes have opened the door for Drew Robinson to make the Opening Day roster, but it could be a short-lived MLB debut for a player with 2,427 at-bats.
The Rangers like the way Robinson’s development has taken off the past few seasons, and they really like that he can play seven positions. The weakest of the seven is shortstop, which Jurickson Profar can play at a high level. So can Alberto.
A utility man must be able to play shortstop adequately. But the Rangers are more concerned about Robinson losing the momentum he has gained of late as he sits on the big-league bench.
Once Alberto is healthy, Robinson is likely to be sent to the minor leagues. On the bright side, though, is that he has proven to be a capable center fielder and would be entrusted with a 10-day stint (or longer) should there be a need.
4. Gee, the Cleburne native who lives in far southwest Fort Worth, can opt out of his minor league deal Wednesday, but he is also scheduled to pitch six innings in the Arizona finale.
Another way to look at it is he will be trying out for other teams that might have need for a trusty veteran starting pitcher. Scouts will be in attendance.
General manager Jon Daniels said that the Rangers have discussed with Gee his situation. He is due $2 million if he makes the team, a price that is pretty darn high for just a handful of starts to open the season.
Daniels said that there are ways around that, which might mean that the Rangers will try to find a way to get Gee to stay in the organization at Triple A Round Rock. The Rangers need starting pitching depth, and Gee would head the list of options should a starter be needed.
5. Among the highlights of camp for me is one that took place most days at the picnic table outside the Rangers’ offices at the Surprise Recreation Campus.
There sat Rangers minor league coach and native Texan Chase Lambin, wife Sara, son Chase and daughter Stella as they all ate lunch together. (The kids had quiche Tuesday.)
It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s something everyone in camp with kids far away wishes they could have done. Players, coaches, scouts and executives seemed to bring their kids to the ballpark more this year than in the past.
Or maybe I just noticed it because I missed my kids.
Good for the Lambin family.