Spring training is over, and the Texas Rangers rallied impressively to finish with a record of 15-16-3. After the way they started their spring schedule, that’s not too shabby.
They finished with a 0-0 tie with the Kansas City Royals in the annual Cactus League finale, a game in which 90-95 percent of the players don’t care what the outcome is.
The don’t-care sentiment wasn’t unanimous, though. The Rangers’ starting pitcher cared how he did. The relievers behind him needed to have good showings. Their designated hitter Wednesday, and presumably their center fielder for the season, cared how he did.
The third baseman was missing, and that’s concerning.
Thoughts? Here are the Surprise Five for the last time from Rangers spring training.
1. This Adrian Beltre calf injury seems to be a little more of a concern to him than the one that A) was more severe to start spring training and B) threatened to keep him from the World Baseball Classic.
The timing of it is the primary reason. Way, way back in February, he had time to mend the Grade 1 strain in his left calf, and missing the WBC wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
The new injury, in the right calf, crept up Monday. That was only one week from Opening Day. The Rangers are five days from the lid-lifter, and the roster must be set Sunday.
The 10-day disabled list is a possibility.
When asked if it’s feeling better than the past few days, he said, “a little better.” When asked if he will be ready by Opening Day, he said, “My mindset is to start the season playing until otherwise told something different.”
So, the medical staff and Beltre have some serious work to do.
The third baseman said that he has been receiving treatment as much as possible each day. He did have a fairly lengthy stint in the batting cages Wednesday, but even he knows that the ultimate test is being able to run on enough cylinders to not be a hindrance on the bases.
Batting and playing third base, he said, won’t be problems even though he hasn’t played since an on-plate appearance Sunday. A decision hasn’t been made if he will play Friday and/or Saturday against Kansas City at Globe Life Park.
Just judging by his comments and tone in the interview, he’s concerned. That means the Rangers should be, too.
2. The intriguing thing about a Beltre DL move to start the season is the possibility of Joey Gallo opening the season with the Rangers. Of course, it would be only a temporary assignment, assuming Beltre would return quickly and Gallo didn’t open with 10 homers in five games.
Had Mike Napoli not been signed, Gallo would be the Rangers’ first baseman based on what he did this spring. He showed power, but he was also better at the plate in terms of his approach.
Gallo will always strike out a lot, but he showed a keen understanding of how pitchers will attempt to get him out and didn’t chase as many pitches out of the zone as he has in the past.
His mindset has been right as well, with more faith that what he’s doing is right even when it looks like it might not be.
He has taken the next step that all players have to take. The next step is being an everyday major-leaguer.
3. Time for the DDDU (daily Delino DeShields update): He led off the spring swan song with an infield single while Carlos Gomez watched from the No. 5 hole in the lineup. That was by design, as manager Jeff Banister wanted to tinker with having both in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher.
DeShields has been hitting leadoff since Gomez was injured last week, and has shown the same ability to ignite the offense that he did in 2015. DeShields still hasn’t been named the starting left fielder, though he absolutely should be.
You might have read that previously in the Surprise Five. Like, oh, at least three or four times.
There’s no telling what Banister is going to do with the lineup. That’s not slighting him as a manager but acknowledging that his lineups change frequently depending on a number of factors that vary game to game.
DeShields, though, has earned the job in left field. He needs to be given the chance in the regular season to show that he can help this team.
You might have read that previously in the Surprise Five, too.
4. Gomez was hoping for a high-scoring Cactus League finale that would allow him to get seven or eight at-bats after missing more than a week. Wishful thinking.
I’m not sure about this, but anyone who didn’t swing at the first pitch might have been at risk for a fine. The plate ump apparently had a flight to catch, too.
The game was over in a cool 2 hours, 11 minutes, and Gomez batted four times, collecting two hits. They were his first at-bats since he jammed his left shoulder sliding into third base March 21. And, wouldn’t you know it, he singled in his second at-bat and had to slide into third base.
There were no obvious issues with him during the game, even after his adventurous third at-bats. Gomez fell in the batter’s box after hitting a chopper to third base, where the Royals minor-league paused while Gomez got up.
Gomez then took off to first base, and the throw was too high as Gomez reached on an error. He appeared to fall on his right shoulder.
Gomez expects to play at least once this weekend and has no doubt that he will be in the lineup Monday. He might be sore, he said, but he can play through it.
His shoulder issue put an early end to a quality spring for Gomez, who is trying to pick up where he left off last season after the Rangers rescued him from the dumpster. He rewarded them with eight homers over the final six weeks and agreed to return on a one-year deal for $11.5 million.
Gomez continues to be a model citizen, which runs contrary to the reputation he had when the Rangers signed him in August.
5. Dillon Gee enjoyed the benefit of pitching on spring getaway day while turning in six scoreless innings on two hits with nine strikeouts. He needed only 67 pitches/51 strikes as Kansas City hitters, not to mention Rangers hitters, weren’t exactly trying to grind out at-bats.
But there were big-league batters in the box, and Gee threw quality pitches and lots and lots of strikes to get his 18 outs. There were also scouts in the stands watching him, and he is free to take the out in his minor-league deal whenever he wants.
The Rangers still haven’t completely committed to a four-man rotation. If they were going with five starters, though, it’s doubtful Nick Martinez would have been optioned to Triple-A Round Rock unless they like Gee so much more that they would spend $2 million for two or three starts before Andrew Cashner returns.
It’s not Jon Daniels’ money.
Gee should be some team’s fifth starter. He had a few bumps along the way, but who doesn’t in spring training? The Cleburne native knows how to pitch and knows how he must get his outs.
That’s more than a lot of pitchers in baseball with job security can say.