Crowds have picked up at the Surprise Recreation Campus the past few days as spring breakers descend on Texas Rangers spring training.
The back fields were busy with autograph hounds and fans who just wanted to see their favorite baseball team in what has to be the most perfect weather on the planet.
The Rangers keep on winning far more than they lose. They wiped out Oakland on Saturday, taking advantage of the A’s inept defense in a 14-5 victory that upped their Cactus League record to 8-2.
Adrian Beltre also hit a three-run homer, so that helped, too.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Beltre knows that he typically doesn’t hit in spring, and his .146 average in 2015 proves his point. So, his 6 for 12 start to this camp is, as he said, unusual.
But like any veteran, he doesn’t put much stock in what happens in games that don’t count. The fact that he batted only .205 in April last year after his putrid spring was just a coincidence.
As memory serves only one Rangers player hit at all to open last season.
The Rangers have also dismissed April 2015 as nothing more than a bad month. Manager Jeff Banister said before camp opened that there wouldn’t be any changes this spring to try to ensure a better start to the season.
If anything, this camp has been 2015 Lite. Players will have their second day in a week when they don’t have to show up before 7:45 a.m. and will take batting practice in the cages.
The club doesn’t break camp for the regular season until March 30, followed by an off day, two exhibition games against Cleveland at Globe Life Park and then another off day before Opening Day.
Maybe things will pick up as the end of camp draws near. It doesn’t feel like it will, though.
2. Alex Claudio was standing upright without any ice below the waist a day after his family jewels got crunched. Furthermore, he was defiant about wearing a cup.
He won’t do it despite nearly having a vasectomy Friday against the Brewers.
But he’s not alone. In what undoubtedly is the pinnacle of my career as a reporter, I canvassed 20 Rangers pitchers on their cup use.
Eleven don’t wear a cup.
Colby Lewis is not among them, and his reason why makes perfect sense.
“I look at it like I’m the closest guy to that batter,” Lewis said.
Chi Chi Gonzalez is also a cup wearer after two cup checks last year, one by former special assistant Greg Maddux during spring training and the other, which was captured on camera, by Beltre in the Rangers’ dugout after a home run.
“Just in case Beltre wants to do that to me again,” Gonzalez said.
As for those who don’t, they shall remain anonymous, but many of them either have a significant twist in their delivery or fall off the mound dramatically. They will usually get hit in the butt or the back, or so they say.
Good luck with that.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre spent 18 days on the disabled list in 2009 with a severely bruised right testicle after being struck there by a ground ball. He was not wearing a protective cup and still doesn’t wear one.
3. It’s probably a bit premature to handicap the race for the fifth spot in the rotation, but when has that ever stopped the media?
It says here that Gonzalez leads the field, followed by Jeremy Guthrie and Nick Martinez. A.J. Griffin might not be ready in the Rangers’ eyes to open the season in the majors, Nick Tepesch, Phil Klein and Cesar Ramos have run hot and cold, and Anthony Ranaudo is having mechanical and velocity issues.
Guthrie is in camp on a minor-league contract, so he would need a 40-man spot should he prevail. Gonzalez and Martinez are on the 40-man roster and have minor-league options. There’s some flexibility there.
The concern with Griffin is legitimate. He has thrown only 14 1/3 innings the past two seasons after Tommy John surgery and a shoulder problem while rehabbing. He said that he still trying to get the arm and body used to pitching again, but is seeing it return quickly.
I’m not sure it’ll be soon enough.
Here’s another thing to consider: Los Angeles Dodgers starters are dropping like flies, with Alex Wood the latest to be stretched. Guthrie has had a nice spring so far, but the out in his minor-league deal isn’t until March 28.
4. Starters are playing only five innings, if that, as this point in spring training, so it’s difficult to forecast how a team will do in the regular season.
After seeing the A’s twice, though, it could be a long year in the worst ballpark in America.
They didn’t field their regular lineup for either the Tuesday game at Mesa or the Saturday game at Surprise Stadium, so they deserve some benefit of the doubt.
But what they did field wasn’t competitive, and their defense is beyond questionable. Ron Washington, hired on to cure their infielders’ fielding woes, has his work cut out for him.
That was a big part of the day for us. When other teams make a mistake, you want to stay focused and stay engaged and stick to your game plan.
Manager Jeff Banister on taking advantage of Oakland’s errors
5. If anyone was roaming the back fields Saturday morning — either watching the B game on Nolan Ryan Field or watching drills, bullpens and batting practice in the areas behind it — and found a pair of eye glasses, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will be rewarded with my undying love and possibly an alcoholic beverage, if you’re into that type of thing.
The missing glasses brought a close to the first annual Wilson Family Spring Training Adventure and might have been knocked from my pocket as I was unsuccessfully herding the 15-month-old back toward the car.
She saved her best for last, apparently, as she tormented American flight 544 with non-stop crying the entire way home. The 3-year-old reportedly was well-behaved for 45 minutes before he started to practice his throwing motion.
The second annual Wilson Family Spring Training Adventure is officially in doubt.