A fairly newsy day developed Monday at Texas Rangers spring training, where there seldom seems to be a day in which there isn’t something at least mildly newsworthy.
There was nothing mild about Monday’s news, with Josh Hamilton in Alabama, Yu Darvish on a half-mound and Prince Fielder on the field for the first time.
Thoughts? Here are five.
1. No one should pat themselves on the back for predicting that Hamilton would be injured this season. That’s almost as amazing a guess as predicting a hot day in August in Texas.
The 2010 American League MVP found himself in Birmingham, Ala., to get a second opinion on his left knee. Why, of all places, Birmingham? Dr. James Andrews, the famed orthopedist, still has a clinic there despite relocating the bulk of his operation to Pensacola, Fla., where Darvish had Tommy John surgery last year.
Jon Daniels informed the media of the exam, and didn’t seem the least bit concerned about it. Maybe the answers Hamilton was getting from Rangers physician Dr. Keith Meister weren’t satisfactory enough. Maybe Meister is truly at his wit’s end and wanted input from Dr. Jeff Dugas.
Whatever. The fact that Hamilton’s knee hurts now and hurt during the off-season after a second operation is apparently motivating the Rangers to get more serious about adding a veteran outfielder. They absolutely should.
They should have added Justin Upton in the off-season. He was a perfect fit, even if he would have stretched the budget. Ray Davis could probably find $20 million a year just shaking out his couch cushions.
Now, the Rangers are left with David Murphy, which isn’t a terrible alternative, or Drew Stubbs, Will Venable, Ryan Raburn and Austin Jackson. The Rangers have contacted Murphy, among others.
The general thought within the organization is that Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson would benefit from more Triple A time. Ryan Rua and Pat Kivlehan are on the radar, too, but seem to be long shots. (James Jones is already on the radar.)
What happens? That depends on the severity of Hamilton’s injury. But what’s the harm in bringing in, say, Murphy on a minor-league deal? If he makes the team, great news. If he doesn’t, that means someone outperformed him, which would also rate as great news.
He has had some ups and downs, but he still has some discomfort. The purpose of the second opinion is to find out if there is something else we can do. You'd like to have a better handle on what we can expect from him this year.
Jon Daniels on Josh Hamilton’s left knee
2. Part of the reason the Rangers might stay away from Murphy would be a desire to add a player who can play center field, but they really don’t need that.
Jones can play center field, and I believe he makes the team if the status quo holds with Hamilton. Daniels also said that Justin Ruggiano could play center field for two weeks should Delino DeShields need some DL time, as he did last season.
Between Jones and Ruggiano, that should be enough to hold down center field if needed, and Brinson isn’t too far away as long as he stays healthy and picks up where he left off last season at Triple A.
In other words, just sign Murphy.
David Murphy played for the Rangers from 2008-2013 before signing a two-year deal with Cleveland. He was traded to Los Angeles last season, but the Angels bought out the club option and allowed Murphy to become a free agent.
3. Darvish took the next step in his comeback from Tommy John by throwing off a half-mound, a mound with half the height and half the slope of a regulation mound.
While a big step in the recovery process, it’s hardly the last step. He hasn’t even started throwing breaking balls yet, at least not with the team’s permission, and still isn’t expect to return any sooner than mid-May.
But he did throw two changeups to end his session, and catcher Chris Gimenez told the Japanese media that they were the two best changeups he’s ever seen Darvish throw.
4. Fielder arrived to camp, a day earlier than expected, and went through a workout with the rest of the position players. All of them are now in camp, a day before they had to report.
Fielder was asked if he can have bigger numbers than the 23 homers and 98 RBIs he had last season, to which he said 35 homers and 120 RBIs.
“I’d take 46 and 100,” he said after being asked if he could resemble the form he showed in Milwaukee. “That would be sweet. I wouldn’t care what my average is.”
Both would seem to be a stretch. Working in his favor is surviving his comeback season in 2015, which included a decline in the second half, and getting an off-season with zero medical concerns.
Because there are no questions about his health, maybe he swings for the fences more than just slapping singles, or at least takes better advantage of situations when he has the upper hand.
.305 Prince Fielder’s batting average in 2015, the second-highest mark of his career
5. Kivlehan played football at Rutgers, where as a defensive back he mostly played on special teams. That includes one fateful play Oct. 16, 2010, in which Kivlehan found himself two players away from Eric LeGrand on a kickoff coverage.
LeGrand would be paralyzed from the neck down on the play as he tackled an Army returner. Kivlehan still wears a bracelet supporting LeGrand’s fight and said that the two still talk a few times a year.
Kivlehan said that if he had tried to play football professionally, he’d have a 9-to-5 job now. Instead, he took up baseball again and is in Rangers big-league camp as a player who is likely to move around the infield and outfield corners as the Rangers try to learn more about the third player they acquired from Seattle with Tom Wilhelmsen and Jones.