Spring games are under way, which means it’s time to watch the projected Texas Rangers regulars play until they get two at-bats.
After that, games are determined by players almost certain to be in the minors or fighting for backup jobs. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though even those guys often don’t finish games.
But that’s the way spring training go, at least these first few weeks. For now, pitchers are getting in their work and position players are just trying to not get hurt.
That said, spring training is an ideal vacation destination. Anyone with kids who love baseball should bring the family here at least once.
(Attention Arizona Office of Tourism: Please email me for the address where to send my check.)
Thoughts? Here are the Surprise Five.
1. Colby Lewis got in his work Wednesday in the Rangers’ Cactus League lid-lifter, tossing two scoreless innings in a 6-2 win. Nick Tepesch got in his work, too, but his two scoreless innings were entirely different.
Guys already on the team, like Lewis, don’t have to worry about results. Case in point: His performance in the opener last year. He allowed six runs in one inning, including back-to-back-to-back homers, and went on to win 17 games.
So, when he was asked if a good outing gives him a boost of confidence, he said, “No.”
Tepesch, meanwhile, is competing for a job. No one wins a job in the first game of spring training, but a good impression can go a long way.
“Some of these young guys are going to go out there and start heaving their entire tool box up there,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s a competing situation for them in their mind.”
2. Nomar Mazara was the lone player from the Rangers’ Big Three prospects to play, and his Day One performance was the highlight of the Rangers’ win. But it didn’t do anything to unseat Ian Desmond or Shin-Soo Choo.
Mazara singled in his first two at-bats, driving in a run with the second hit, and drove a three-run homer off former Rangers pitcher Ross Ohlendorf in the ninth to turn a one-run game into a 6-2 outcome.
Jokes were made about him unseating Desmond, and it could happen next year when Desmond hits free agency again. For now, though, Mazara will be going back to Triple A, where he finished last season and where the Rangers believe he needs to be in 2016.
3. Tepesch and Mazara weren’t the only ones to make a favorable first impression. Tony Barnette, the former star closer in Japan, had the best inning of the day.
Pitching the sixth, Barnette needed only seven pitches, all strikes, to mow through three Royals hitters in a perfect frame. Included was a strikeout of the massive Balbino Fuenmayor on an 88-mph sinker.
Barnette, who has a two-year contract but has never pitched in the majors, has made the team. The Rangers likely are looking only for the No. 5 starter until Yu Darvish is ready and a multi-inning reliever for the seventh spot in the bullpen. That’s it.
97 Career saves in Japan for right-hander Tony Barnette, who tossed a perfect inning Wednesday on seven pitches
4. Darvish threw again off a full mound, again with the catcher in front of home plate, and will do it once more before the catcher takes his normal position. That should happen Sunday or Monday.
Pitching coach Doug Brocail continues to be impressed with Darvish, who has a certain air about him in the clubhouse.
“He’s walking around a little sexy,” Brocail said.
The Brocail-to-English translation is that Darvish is feeling good, throwing well and getting his swagger back, but none of that will accelerate the rehab program that calls for him to return in mid-May or early-June from Tommy John surgery.
Yu Darvish has 680 strikeouts through his first 83 career games, a major-league record. It’s the third-highest total ever for a pitcher in his first three big-league seasons.
5. Adrian Beltre is working at his own pace and will let the Rangers know when he is ready to play in Cactus League games. Anyone have a problem with that? The Rangers don’t.
He’s being honest with them, and the Rangers with the media. In past springs Beltre has been bothered by various minor “injuries” that would never keep him out of a regular-season lineup, though his 2011 calf strain was relatively serious.
Beltre, who turns 37 on April 7, takes the same approach to spring training as an NFL veteran does to training camp. He could do without it, and doesn’t want to do something — like play — that might risk an injury if he’s not 100 percent ready to go.
“It’s spring training,” Beltre said. “It’s as simple as that.”
He came to me, and said, ‘Can we give it a couple more days?’ Yeah, we can give it a couple more days.
Manager Jeff Banister on Adrian Beltre