Power returned to Texas Rangers camp Friday, with the return of their designated hitter and with their top prospect feeling comfortable at the plate.
With players like Prince Fielder and Joey Gallo only 60 1/2 feet away, you’d think that all pitchers wear as much protection as possible. Alex Claudio, though, is proof that isn’t always the case.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Fielder was back in Arizona a few days after returning to the Lone Star State to figure out why he’s not sleeping well.
The answer is sleep apnea, a common condition but a scary one that affects some 18 million people in the U.S. For all the yuks the Rangers had at his expense Friday, kudos for him for being proactive.
He then went to Maryvale, where he spent multiple springs with Milwaukee, and went 0 for 2 with a walk. Fielder is 1 for 11 this spring, but he’s now has a solution to his sleep woes and maybe that will help him pick up the pace at the plate.
He believes it.
“Believe it,” he said.
2. Fielder’s diagnosis of sleep apnea was met on the Twitter by a chorus of people who automatically assumed he would rid himself of the problem if he lost weight.
My sense is that the general assumption about Fielder is that he’s as out of shape as a morbidly obese couch potato and eats just as much and limits his diet to things like bacon-wrapped corn dogs and chocolate cake at all meals.
It’s also my hunch that a lot of folks out there think they are in better shape and are better athletes than Fielder.
Here’s what I’ve seen from Fielder the past two-plus years, since he was acquired from Detroit:
▪ He is a strong human being and works out on a daily basis. Not just weights, but plenty of cardio. He also does non-baseball workouts, including those done by MMA types and boxers. He also doesn’t look like the Michelin Man, but instead has chunks of muscle in his upper body.
▪ It’s not just strength that allows him to hit home runs. His career batting average is .287, so there is some excellent hand-eye coordination there. Defensively, he’s not the best first baseman, but as Ron Washington said about the position, “It’s incredibly difficult.”
▪ He is a healthier eater than most, including a stint a few years ago as a vegetarian. Most would be stunned by how much and how often baseball players eat. The biggest eater on the team for years was David Murphy.
Would Fielder benefit from losing weight? Of course. But how much and what would the baseball benefits be? He’s not going to turn into Carl Lewis if he loses 50 pounds, and maybe he loses some of his power.
In other words, stop worrying about his weight until he decides to worry about it.
275 Listed weight, in pounds, of Prince Fielder in the Rangers’ media guide
3. Gallo’s first homer of the spring was a no-doubt to right field that easily cleared the wall and the berm in right field, then hit a sidewalk and bounced over a fence onto a practice field at the Brewers’ complex.
He wasn’t the longest homer Gallo as ever hit. In fact, he seemed to think he didn’t hit well at all. Initially, he thought he had, but then he saw it fall from the sky.
That told him he had put a bunch of top spin on the ball.
“I hit it well enough,” Gallo said.
He hit it off of former Rangers pitcher Matt Garza, who most times is a step or two away from a straight jacket. Here’s what Garza had to say about Gallo, who hit a 2-1 fastball no matter what Garza says:
“He’s got a good swing, you know?” Garza started. “But if I see him again, I’ll break his bat. I’m not worried about it. He’s a big boy. He hit the hell out of a high fastball on 2-0. So, next time, I’ll get him. I’m not worried about it.”
Pretty bold for a guy who posted a 5.63 ERA in 2015 and was removed from the rotation at the end of the season and didn’t understand the decision.
4. Speaking of someone else who lost his marbles, though in a different way, Claudio was struck in his manhood by a line drive — a line drive! — in the eighth inning, but picked up the ball — the baseball — and threw to first for the third out.
He then went to the ground, presumably to pick up his ... never mind.
Claudio confirmed that he had been hit there and then informed that he doesn’t wear a cup, which should make the Rangers wonder about how good of a leader Adrian Beltre really is.
Jeff Banister wears a cup, and he’s the manager. Maybe he’s afraid that Garza will try to cheap-shot him.
“Never leave home with out it,” Banister said.
Understandably, there was considerable sympathy for Claudio from Banister and the all-male postgame media horde.
“Not one man standing here ever wants to be in that position,” Banister said.
Fox Sports college basketball analyst Bill Raftery
5. The first annual Wilson Family Spring Training Adventure comes to an end Saturday afternoon, and there are questions as to if there will be a second annual Wilson Family Spring Training Adventure.
The last full day was the best day, at least from a baseball perspective. The boy, 3, got his hands on a couple batting practice balls, which he thought were the coolest thing ever, until something else cool came along.
He did his best to walk underneath the ropes that keep fans away from the bullpen, where Yu Darvish was throwing. He also got some autographs, though with considerable help from Mom and Dad.
But he now knows where I work this time off year, so that’s good, and he seems to be intrigued by baseball players and scared that a ball might hit him in the head.
I’ll tell him about Garza in a few years.