A day off at the Surprise Recreation Campus can mean only one thing: no day off for the media.
The good news is that reporters didn’t have to show up for the 7:45 a.m. clubhouse or sit through another Cactus League thriller. But newspapers and websites are daily publications, so on with the show.
There’s still plenty to write about at Texas Rangers camp. You’ve been properly warned.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Ian Desmond has been in camp less than three weeks, but you would think he has been with the Rangers for years. Everyone seems to be smitten with the new left fielder, who has flashed his athleticism, his arm strength, his bat and his baseball IQ.
He’s also fit in seamlessly in the clubhouse and has made a favorable impression with how he deals with the media.
What he’s done in the outfield has impressed the most. Manager Jeff Banister said that Desmond’s arm already rates as one of the best left-field arms in ... baseball. The manager put Desmond into Yoenis Cespedes territory.
I’m no scout, but the players are and they whooped and hollered every time Desmond made a throw during drills Tuesday.
While he has more to learn in left field, Banister said that he is likely to give Desmond a taste of center field this spring. That also speaks to the Rangers’ confidence level on Desmond in left field.
Outside the organization, there’s a group that doesn’t like the move. The reason isn’t strictly because of Desmond, but because that group wanted to see Nomar Mazara or Ryan Rua in left field.
Those two cats are having pretty good springs, too.
.500 Ryan Rua’s batting average (12 for 24) this spring, tied for second in the majors
2. So, who is the star of Rangers camp at the midpoint of camp?
Desmond is the most important player, Rua is the surprise of camp, and Mazara is one of those fun spring storylines.
But the star of all stars is Joey Gallo. The home runs hit by Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder are of more importance, in the grand scheme of 2016 things, but Gallo’s homers require talking to him as soon as humanly possible, with video, and then some form of a story. The people eat it up.
People want to know how soon he’s going to be in the majors, what impact a Beltre extension will have on him, and if he can play left field or first base rather than third base.
Mazara’s star is rising, too, and he might end up as the better major leaguer. But for sheer star power, regardless of what he’s done this spring (and it’s been a good spring), Gallo is the star.
3. Banister said that the biggest decision facing the Rangers is who will fill out the fifth spot in the rotation. The Rangers are trying to find the most competent starter from a group of pitchers not yet competent enough for a loftier spot or formerly competent enough at some point in their baseball lifetime.
The Rangers like Chi Chi Gonzalez, the former first-rounder who had a hiccup Monday in a minor league game. Included was allowing a grand slam on a bad slider, and he admitted that he was frequently behind batters.
Nike Martinez rebounded Tuesday against the Indians, allowing two runs. Just before he started to throw, Jeremy Guthrie was finishing up 4 2/3 easy innings in a game against A-level minor leaguers.
To say Guthrie is the favorite based on that performance would be bold, but to say he’s the favorite based on his three outings wouldn’t be. Guthrie has been better than anyone, and though A.J. Griffin has been good, too, there seems to be some uncertainty about the durability of his arm.
Guthrie will have to show much more the rest of the way. He’s 36, coming off a disastrous season, and isn’t on the 40-man roster, but he’s a veteran who fills up the strike zone and has been part of the past two American League champs.
The race isn’t over. It’s not even in the stretch, but he’s the leader at the midway point.
4. The three-man bench/eight-man bullpen is a viable theory that is under consideration. The key members of the bullpen logged some serious innings last season and could use an extra arm to share the load, and the rotation has its own health concerns.
No starter is on the injury report, but Colby Lewis had knee surgery in October, Derek Holland hasn’t had a full season since 2013 and Martin Perez has only half a season on his rebuilt elbow.
But Banister has a genuine concern about leaving the Rangers short defensively. If he gives a regular a day off, he doesn’t want to use that regular in the final couple innings as a defensive replacement. That wouldn’t be a day off.
If that’s his concern, the Rangers will need a utility infielder.
Desmond said that he has taken some grounders at shortstop, where he has played his entire career, but it’s not quite exactly like riding bike again.
“It wasn’t riding a bike when I was doing it as a job,” Desmond said.
Advantage to Hanser Alberto, who is a better defensive player than Pedro Ciriaco.
If Rougned Odor were to need a day off without utility man on the roster, either Delino DeShields or Rua, if he even makes the team, would have to play second base.
Advantage to Alberto.
While making sure the Rangers are covered in the bullpen, they have to make sure they are covered up the middle.
It wasn't like riding a bike when I was doing it as a job.
Ian Desmond, when asked if playing shortstop occasionally would be easy to do
5. The off day Wednesday was welcomed by players. Even though most haven’t gone past five innings, players work hard every morning and need a day off. Coupled with a night game Thursday, that’s two days of sleeping in.
There will be multiple off days next spring with the World Baseball Classic being played. Teams get days off so that players participating for their countries can travel to the various sites.
At least one more spring off day should be a part of non-WBC years, and more night games should be played. Think about it: Players spend the spring playing almost entirely day games after early-morning workouts, and then spend the season playing almost entirely night games after an afternoon workout.
To truly simulate a season, at least the final week of camp should be loaded up with night games.