Two spring games down, a mere 31 to go until the Texas Rangers move into the regular season. If that sounds like a long time until Opening Day, just imagine how everyone here feels.
That’s not to say that nothing entertaining is happening. Far from it. However, I actually enjoyed my visit to Bailey Orthodontics this morning because it served as an unexpected detour from the routine.
The highlight again Thursday was the play of the Rangers’ best prospects. All three — and a former top prospect — got into the act against the Royals.
Thoughts? Here are the Surprise Five.
1. Jurickson Profar hadn’t played shortstop since Nov. 16, 2013, in the Dominican Winter League, but he was there Thursday for the Rangers. It was his first game in the field for the Rangers since spring training 2014.
The good news? His shoulder remained in socket after each throw he made, and he put some mustard on one throw to first to open the third inning.
“You thought it was hot? It was OK,” Profar said. “I’ve got more.”
Profar also took a walk, reached on an error and singled in his first three at-bats.
It’s refreshing to see, not necessarily because he is suddenly headed to stardom but because Profar is a good kid who has been through a lot the past three years. Yes, three years, including his mixed bag of a first year in the majors in 2013 followed by the shoulder woes.
Profar has a long way to go before anyone can say he has recaptured what made him the game’s No. 1 prospect in 2013. He’ll open this season at Triple A and needs to stay there deep into the season to catch up on lost at-bats.
Then what? A trade of shortstop Elvis Andrus continues to be a near impossible task unless the Rangers are to gobble up the majority of what remains on his contract (a lot). There’s no way Rougned Odor is traded.
But that’s getting ahead of things. Profar has to be healthy and be productive in the minors first.
2. Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo each did something good in their first starts of the spring, and it appears as though they are going to terrorize Pacific Coast League pitchers this season.
Yeah, they be with Profar at Triple A, and there’s nothing remotely wrong with that. Each of the Big Three needs the extra seasoning, barring Mazara continuing to bat .833 throughout the spring and forcing himself into the lineup.
Gallo, remember, struggled mightily at Triple A after he jumped from Double A Frisco to make his big-league debut. Mazara and Brinson thrived at Triple A, but in a very small sampling to end 2015.
But watching them play and seeing them handle the media and how they know their place in the clubhouse, it just feels like they will be mainstays with the Rangers no later than 2017.
.833 Nomar Mazara’s batting average (5 for 6) after the first two Cactus League games.
3. Ronald Guzman made his first spring appearance, replacing Mitch Moreland, and for perhaps the first time in their careers he was together with Mazara in a Cactus League game.
They were together July 2, 2011, as the Rangers invested more than $8 million into the two players from the Dominican Republic. Their careers, though, have taken different courses, including the unfortunate incident in November 2014 when Guzman was involved in a fatal car accident.
“It forced me to get more mature,” said Guzman, who in the aftermath of the wreck was subjected to unwarranted criticism and speculation for hitting a motorcyclist who was driving while intoxicated. “I need to do what I need to do. The only person that I need to talk to is God, and he knows what my intentions were and what really happened.”
The Rangers were impressed with the way he handled the situation, of which he was cleared of any wrongdoing, and then saw a glimmer of hope as he led all Rangers minor-leaguers with 87 RBIs.
He’s ticketed for Frisco to start the season after opening at Low A Hickory the past three seasons. He’s still only 21, but he wasn’t protected from the Rule 5 draft in December and no team took a chance on him.
Guzman and Mazara, by the way, speak English better than some of their American teammates.
The Rangers signed Nomar Mazara for $4.95 million and Ronald Guzman for $3.35 million July 2, 2012 as 16-year-old international free agents.
4. Derek Holland tossed 1▪ 2/3 scoreless innings in his spring debut. He was a tick wild, throwing only 20 of his 37 pitches for strikes, but, stop if you’ve heard this before, he was just getting his work in.
He was pleased, which is good. He wasn’t injured, which is very good. He was scratched from his debut last spring, had to catch up in minor-league games, and then was injured in the home opener and missed four months.
So, consider Thursday as progress.
5. Anthony Ranaudo followed Holland with two scoreless innings, an outing that should serve as a reminder that Ranaudo nearly won a rotation spot last spring and shouldn’t be dismissed this spring.
The former first-round pick from LSU and former Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Ranaudo came to camp last year with far more fanfare after he was acquired from Boston for Robbie Ross, who wouldn’t have a place on this Rangers pitching staff.
Ranaudo might be behind as many as five others in camp in the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation, which is being led by Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez. Those are the two Ranaudo competed with in 2015.
He was still standing during the final week of camp. Don’t be surprised if that’s the case again this year.