A night game Friday for the Texas Rangers followed by a day game Saturday made for a long night at Surprise Stadium.
Rangers regulars played six innings, with Rougned Odor making the most of his four at-bats, before giving way to just-in-case players from minor league camp. They turned an 8-5 Rangers lead into an 11-8 deficit before Bobby Wilson hit a two-run homer to win it 12-11 in the ninth.
Fortunately, the neighborhood bar was staying open until midnight to provide refreshments that were badly needed after the working press box turned into a night at the Improv.
The good news is that everything starts anew bright and early Saturday morning, followed by the long trek to Scottsdale. At least there won’t be any rush-hour traffic.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Odor seems to be over that right oblique thing. He swatted three homers and had an RBI single in his second at-bat in six innings of work.
“First time in my life,” Odor said of his three-homer game. “I feel good. I was seeing the pitches well, everything went well.”
He didn’t hit the homers off extra pitchers from minor league camp. He took Tyson Ross deep twice and got Brandon Morrow for No. 3. The Rangers’ crack PR staff couldn’t recall a previous three-homer game in spring training by a Rangers player. Ever.
Odor has a hit in six straight games, during which he is batting .550 (11 for 20). He’s batting .464 this spring.
There was talk during manager Jeff Banister’s daily briefing about the Rangers taking a look at Odor in the leadoff spot, where he was Friday to ensure an extra at-bat. Banister said that Odor could probably hit anywhere in the lineup.
He batted eighth most of last season after his return from Triple A after a dreadful start. Banister has yet to announce an Opening Day lineup or field anything resembling one this spring. Odor might bat in the first third of the lineup some day. Just probably not Opening Day.
He looks to be right on time. It just goes to show where he’s at timing-wise and how he’s seeing the ball. It’s pretty impressive.
Manager Jeff Banister on Rougned Odor
2. This fifth starter thing isn’t necessarily getting complicated, but the Rangers are considering just about every possibility under the high desert sun to fill out their rotation.
First things first: The competition is down to three viable candidates — A.J. Griffin, Nick Martinez and Jeremy Guthrie — after Chi Chi Gonzalez was optioned to minor league camp Friday.
Griffin offers the more complete spring résumé, but he offers two years of arm troubles and would need to be added to the 40-man roster. So would Guthrie, whose stuff got better last time out but has been underwhelming at times. Martinez has options, is on the 40-man and is versatile enough to pitch in the bullpen.
That becomes an advantage if the Rangers decide to use every off day to skip the fifth spot. The fifth starter would then for a few games become a long reliever whose presence would allow the Rangers to have four bench players. I’ll guess Chris Gimenez, Ryan Rua, Hanser Alberto and Drew Stubbs.
The fifth starter likely won’t pile up the innings each start, which could force the Rangers to use Derek Holland in the fourth spot. He is more likely to pitch deep in games, which in theory would keep the bullpen fresher for the fifth starter’s game.
Then there’s this: There might not be five starters on the Opening Day roster. The season opens April 4. The fifth starter isn’t needed until April 8. So, the Rangers have four days to go with an extra reliever and a four-man bench. That extra reliever likely wouldn’t be the fifth starter.
Has anyone’s head exploded yet?
3 Viable candidates (A.J. Griffin, Nick Martinez, Jeremy Guthrie) for the fifth spot in the Rangers’ rotation
3. Cole Hamels is starting the season opener against Seattle and assures he will be ready to go after throwing 73 pitches — that’s a lot — in three innings.
The left-hander will start once more this spring, in the Cactus League finale. He promises to make it quick on getaway day, which is what every writer wants on getaway day.
If it is quick, that means that he will have tightened things up compared to Friday, when he walked three and threw only 55 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Having never witnessed a Hamels spring training, the Rangers have to assume that he will be fine by April 4. He seems to think he is close.
He likes the action on his pitches. He said that he just needs more repetition to get them where he wants them, and thinks he can accomplish that with flat-ground work, in his next bullpen session and in his last spring start.
4. Yu Darvish met Friday with the media, which he likes to do about as much as a teenager likes to read the newspaper. Wait. What?
His answers weren’t exactly insightful. He feels good and was encouraged by his 35-pitch bullpen session, but other than that it was tough to get him to say a ton. Apparently, he doesn’t think that what he is doing is worthy of media coverage. It is.
Manager Jeff Banister said that he has noticed Darvish start to feel like a part of the team again as his rehab from Tommy John surgery has advanced. Banister said that he has gotten to know Darvish, and the relationship building will continue once Darvish is on the active roster.
No one on the coaching staff has any experience with in-season Darvish, only injured, misses-the-game Darvish. That Darvish has been different this spring, actually interacting more with the media.
I’m curious to see how that changes as he gets back to being a pitcher again.
5. The best three just-in-case players — or JICs — this spring for the Rangers have been Ronald Guzman, Jared Hoying and Josh Morgan, and all three were in the game together late Friday.
Hoying is the only one who has been in major league spring training, and he’s been a nice player at Triple A Round Rock. He’s a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder with some pop, something the Rangers have in stock. They’re also covered at first base, somewhere else Hoying could play.
But just as Ryan Strasborger unexpectedly got a shot in 2015, maybe Hoying could get a shot some day. The Rangers are expected to be in contention in September, so they might not be in the same charitable mood once the roster expands as they were during a disastrous 2014 when they made Guilder Rodriguez’s dreams come true.
Guzman and Morgan look like they’re tracking toward the majors, though each has a long way to go but plenty of time to get there. Hoying might not have much time left.