Batting practice was not held on the back fields Sunday for the Texas Rangers, who instead saw left field of Nolan Ryan Field turn into a playground for the players’ families.
It was Easter Sunday, and three giant bounce houses were installed in the left-field corner and an egg hunt was held.
There was no word on the winner, though the older kids appeared to do pretty well.
Then there was the usual clubhouse time for the media, then some rare time with a realistic roster hopeful, followed by more good stuff on the field during a 5-4 victory.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. Jeremy Guthrie came into the new media room on the Rangers’ side of the Surprise Recreation Campus, an unprecedented act by a player even though all are welcome. After all, we spend time in their clubhouse every day.
Guthrie is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation and has an out clause in his minor league deal that he can exercise Monday. He was curious what the beat writers thought his future might hold.
He thinks he knows, or at least is trying to be realistic about his chances.
Guthrie believes that being relegated to a minor league game Saturday rather than the A game against Colorado is the strongest indicator that he won’t make the rotation. He hasn’t been told anything.
He expects to learn his fate Monday. Manager Jeff Banister said that enough information has been gathered on all of the candidates for a decision to be made, but an announcement is on hold as the Rangers determine if a candidate could hold down another role and as they wait to make sure everyone gets through camp healthy.
Guthrie knows his guarantee if he makes the club is less than that of A.J. Griffin, the perceived front-runner, and knows that the Rangers could have multiple players to add to the 40-man roster and likely don’t want to dump too much of their depth.
He does know that he’s not ready to give up on baseball or give up an opportunity with the Rangers until a better one comes along.
2. Colby Lewis pitched longer and threw more pitches than any other Rangers pitcher this spring, and said that if he feels as good as he did against Arizona during the regular season, all will be well.
The right-hander was fairly candid in talking about his spring. He said his body hasn’t gotten into baseball shape as quickly this spring, even though he had lost 30 pounds riding his bike during the off-season.
He also said that he and others were curious to see how he’d feel working into a seventh inning after not getting through five previously and after he was bounced around for nine runs on 11 hits Tuesday in 4 2/3 innings.
The answer he got: Crisp.
But on consecutive days the Rangers have seen the best spring stuff from two starting pitchers, with Martin Perez feeling as if he conquered the world Saturday. Derek Holland was much better Wednesday and gets a night game Monday against the Dodgers.
Of course, no one is worried about Cole Hamels even though he hasn’t wowed anyone yet. He and the Rangers just want to wow on Opening Day.
3. Matt Bush hasn’t had any problems with the wow factor. He returned to Cactus League action in the eighth inning Sunday and buzzed the crowd with a fastball that registered at 100 mph on the Surprise Stadium radar gun.
He also popped a bunch of 98s, though mlb.com’s game tracker didn’t have him throwing harder than 99. But it’s not the gas that is impressing Rangers people. It’s the gas plus the curveball that is also wiping out hitters.
It looks like it can play in the majors right now.
But it’s still too early to get too giddy about Bush, who was making his second appearance in an A game. One reason is the Rangers have a loaded bullpen and the chance for a pretty loaded bullpen at Triple A Round Rock. Bush appears to be headed to Double A Frisco, though general manager Jon Daniels said last week that that isn’t firm.
Another reason is the slippery slope that he goes through each day off the field. So far, so good, and he has given no indications to the Rangers that the life/baseball combination is getting too heavy for him.
When asked what is realistic for Bush, Banister said, “Just go pitch.”
So, let Bush do that. If he does it well, he’ll tell the Rangers when it’s time to put them in their bullpen.
4. Let the record show that Easter Sunday was the first day when regulars Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland logged nine innings.
Asked afterward if he needed any oxygen, Beltre said he was good to play four or five more innings. He might not play longer than four or five innings the rest of camp, with the possible exception of the Monday night game.
I’ve been going back and forth on the importance of playing nine innings in spring training. Most NFL stars don’t play four quarters in training camp. Marathon runners don’t run a marathon leading up to race day.
The baseball season is a 162-game marathon. I wouldn’t call each game a sprint, not with the average pace of game still closer to three hours than 2 1/2 hours. But if feel is such an important part of the game, I would think players would want to see how their bodies feel after nine innings and during the process of getting there.
Lewis was curious to see how he’d feel in the seventh inning, so why wouldn’t Beltre want to know how he feels in the ninth?
It was a slow process, for me anyway. If I can feel like I did today all year, it’ll be real good shape for me.
Right-hander Colby Lewis
5. It’s been too long since The Surprise Five included anything about Ian Desmond and the outfield. It’s been, like, a few days.
He was in center field for the second straight game Sunday, with Delino DeShields and Drew Stubbs nursing sore parts. The Rangers still want to see Desmond play the position in case DeShields and Stubbs, assuming he makes the roster, have to nurse sore parts during the season.
That’s all it is. There isn’t an insurrection about to take place in which he swaps places with DeShields and DeShields suddenly falls into a platoon in left field once Josh Hamilton returns from the disabled list.
Desmond was signed to be the Rangers’ starting left fielder. That’s where the biggest need is. That’s where it’s going to be, barring an injury somewhere along the line.