The 2017 baseball season is upon us, which means The Surprise Five has morphed into Rangers Reaction, an often shorter but still substantive rundown of the day that was at Texas Rangers Inc.
Here’s Vol. 1 of 162. All of them can be found at the Star-Telegram Rangers page here, by liking the Facebook pages here and here, or on the Twitter here or here when Stefan Stevenson draws the short straw.
There are no short straws on Opening Day, when everything is just about right except possibly the final score. Bunting is everywhere. The crowd is enthusiastic. The press box is filled with media types who won’t be back until Adrian Beltre’s 3,000th hit or the playoffs.
(Tony Beasley should sing the national anthem before every game.)
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
1. One game into the season, and some fans on the Twitter are questioning why Sam Dyson is the closer and why general manager Jon Daniels didn’t do anything in the off-season to address the back of the bullpen.
Knees jerk much?
Hmm, let me think. Maybe because Dyson saved 38 games last season despite becoming the full-time closer six weeks into the season. Maybe because Matt Bush throws 100 mph and has nasty breaking pitches.
Dyson was lousy, and he admitted it. Bush made one bad pitch in the eighth inning, and he admitted it.
Bullpens aren’t perfect. Closers rarely are. Chances are that the Rangers will see their closer blow multiple saves this season, just as they did last season while still managing to win a league-high 95 games.
If anyone wants to blame Daniels, question why he didn’t sign a proven left-handed reliever to take the spot of Jake Diekman. That’s a big void as Diekman deals with ulcerative colitis. It’s a bigger void with right-hander Keone Kela grounded.
They might have been candidates for the seventh instead of Bush or the eighth in place of Bush.
But to already question why Dyson is the closer and why Bush works the eighth?
Knees jerk much?
2. Darvish’s outing — four runs, four hits, four strikeouts, five walks, two wild pitches, one home run, zero shutdown innings — still should have been just good enough. By his high standards as well as the standards everyone else uses to judge him, it wasn’t and it’s already time to tinker.
Darvish told members of the Japanese media that he will be moving back to the third-base side of the rubber after pitching all spring on the first-base side. Darvish noted that he got only one swing-and-miss at his slider Monday, and that’s just not acceptable to him.
Indeed, it’s strange.
But he still did some good in his first MLB Opening Day start. He worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fifth; he mowed through the first two innings on only 21 pitches; and he had a sharp new haircut.
However, he continued to attempt to be too fine with his pitches, catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. He continued to shake off Lucroy, which has gotten him into trouble in the past. Maybe he was feeling some extra motivation as he yanked a little too hard on some of his sliders that ended up in the dirt, though he said he was trying to stay even-keeled during the opening start.
His next start comes Saturday against Oakland, his longtime nemesis. It doesn’t seem to matter how bad the A’s are, and they’re going to be bad, they always seem to get to him.
Maybe he’ll try the middle of the rubber if he isn’t right again.
3. Odor wasn’t the reason the Rangers lost. He was the primary reason the Rangers were able to build a 5-1 lead after three innings.
Odor connected for homers in his first two at-bats of the season, a solo shot in the second inning and a three-run shot in the third. He downplayed his power show, saying his blasts were dwarfed by the 461-footer Carlos Gomez hit to start the third.
A frequent question since Thursday, when Odor’s six-year contract extension became official, was if the 23-year-old would feel any pressure trying to live up to the big new deal.
Each time manager Jeff Banister responded by saying Odor just plays and won’t let that potential weight of $49.5 million guaranteed topple him.
It’s probably too early to definitely say that Odor won’t be burdened by the contract, but he’s off on the right foot.
“I don’t think we have to worry about Roogie in that regard,” Banister said.
4. The talk before the game centered on left field and the decision to give Jurickson Profar the Opening Day start over Delino DeShields and Ryan Rua, but mostly DeShields.
Profar didn’t do anything to cause massive second-guessing of manager Jeff Banister, who said that DeShields and Rua will get their chance soon. Soon, as in the next two days.
There is an opportunity for one of the three to seize everyday duty there, and it says here (yet again) that DeShields will do just that. Everything about him during spring training was better than ever, including his defense.
In the meantime, Banister has a tall task trying to find a way to keep all three from collecting rust. He has numbers and history and matchups and all that stuff. Part of the reason Profar started was because he was 2 for 4 with a homer in his career against Kluber.
Banister said that a lineup has two leadoff spots, first and ninth, and when DeShields does play, that’s where he’ll bat. Carlos Gomez batted first Monday, and it’s hard to argue with the results.
His homer to start the third was a mammoth shot into the club level in left field. A ball had traveled there only 19 times previously in club history. Maybe that power threat, which all managers like their leadoff hitters to have, will keep Gomez atop the lineup when DeShields plays.
But when all is said and done, DeShields will play more in left field than Profar or Rua.
5. A final few thoughts on Kela, who clearly has some bridges to rebuild after not just the incident Wednesday that led to his demotion but for past transgressions dating to his rookie season in 2015.
Some players are willing to give him another chance and want to see the club put its arms around him and help him straighten out. He’s still only 23, albeit only until April 16, and jumped from Double A to the majors.
Others aren’t going to be so open to him when he comes back. He’s entering his third season and has been told time and again the right way to do things. It’s about being a professional, on the field, in the clubhouse, in the weight room, with the media, on the charter, etc.
But it is “when” he returns, not “if.” The club has no real interest in trading him since Wednesday, in large part because he has a remarkable arm and can really be a help to the Rangers this season.
There aren’t many arms like his around. Daniels said that Kela is one of the most talented relievers in baseball.
The Rangers, from the front office to the players in the clubhouse ,want to win. Some believe that Kela’s presence in the clubhouse, if unchanged, could affect that. Some say give him and his golden arm a chance.
Talent is almost always going to win out.