This is really going to happen. The Texas Rangers are going to have an Opening Day roster.
Five spots were nailed down Tuesday morning, and another was locked up during Happy Hour as the Rangers acquired catcher Bryan Holaday, the TCU-ex and Fort Worth resident, from Detroit for catcher Bobby Wilson and right-hander Myles Jaye.
Sam Freeman was designated for assignment, leaving Phil Klein and Cesar Ramos left to sweat out which of them will survive to be the eighth reliever April 4, and then have to sweat out if they will stay on the roster more than the first four games.
After that, the fifth starter will need a spot on the roster for the April 8 game at Anaheim. A reliever will lose his job after manager Jeff Banister said on Monday that there are enough multi-inning relievers to go with a standard seven-man bullpen.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. The Rangers needed one month to generate significant news from the camp. One month to the day, in fact, after their biggest spring moment, the signing of Ian Desmond to play left field and, now with Drew Stubbs feeling out other teams, center field on occasion.
Finally, on Tuesday, the Rangers announced three of their four bench spots and two of their final three relievers. Then, as at least one member of the media was attempting to build his daily step count before heading to dinner, the Rangers announced a trade for Holaday.
They still refuse to announce their fifth starter, even though it appears to be a lock. That’s fine. No mystery there.
The bench will have Holaday, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Rua and Hanser Alberto on it. Gimenez was going to be on it until the Rangers pulled the Holaday deal.
The other two guys were at this point, with the combination of [Ian] Desmond being able to play in center field, better construction.
Manager Jeff Banister on Ryan Rua and Justin Ruggiano making the team instead of Drew Stubbs
Ruggiano rates as an upset, but at some point in the past week the Rangers began to cool a bit on Stubbs’ fit. They told him to look for a major league opportunity somewhere else, and if that doesn’t work out, they would welcome him back to Triple A.
The thought was his speed and defense would help him prevail. He also would have needed a spot on the 40-man roster.
Stubbs took his out rather than just go straight to Triple A, which Banister said wasn’t “optimal.” Yet, Banister said that the Rua-Ruggiano combination is going to work because the star of camp, Desmond, has shown that he isn’t a liability in center field in small doses.
Those doses might get bigger yet. The Rangers can’t seem to get enough of Desmond.
2. A.J. Griffin’s start Tuesday wasn’t exactly a Victory Lap, but it wasn’t a last-lap crash either.
“I think he’ll still be on the program,” Banister said.
The right-hander is going to be the fifth starter. Banister wouldn’t say it, but he encouraged the beat writers to write what they thought it would be in their own words with the implication that it wouldn’t be wrong.
Griffin allowed four runs on seven in hits in only 3 2/3 innings before running into his pitch limit. Two of the runs came on a first-inning home run by Todd Frazier, the sixth surrendered by Griffin this year.
He also struck out six to boost his Cactus League total to 19 in 18 innings.
The homers don’t concern Griffin, who pointed out with a shrug of the shoulders that he led the league in homers allowed in 2013. That’s a by-product of constantly being around the plate.
The strikeouts, though, are an indication that he his getting sharper each time he pitches.
“I feel like all my pitches can be put-away pitches depending on how the at-bat is going,” Griffin said. “My changeup has been outstanding all spring.”
The Rangers continue to throw him a curveball by not telling him he’s the No. 5 starter. Griffin is probably smart enough to have figured it out, though, especially if the media has.
3. While the most relieved and most grateful player to make the Rangers’ roster was Ruggiano, the best day was turned in by utility man Alberto.
He won the Rangers’ spring-long free-throw shooting contest, beating fellow middle infielder Elvis Andrus in a matchup of players from known basketball havens the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Alberto then was told that he will be on the Opening Day roster. He followed that up with a home run (albeit wind-aided) off Chris Sale.
8 Citizens of the Dominican Republic who have played in the NBA. The list includes Mavs forward Charlie Villanueva, who has U.S. and Dominican citizenship.
Alberto beat out Pedro Ciriaco, but not simply because he was on the 40-man roster and Ciriaco would have had to been added. Alberto is the better defender and has shown improved speed this spring, and he also fits into the clubhouse with ease.
He can frequently be seen engaging Andrus and the veteran of veterans, Adrian Beltre, in lighter moments in the clubhouse. He relished in his championship moment in the hoops contest.
The Rangers believe in chemistry. Not that Ciriaco didn’t fit in, but he didn’t fit in as well as Alberto does.
“When you add the intangible side of what this cat brings, it’s pretty impressive,” Banister said.
4. Gimenez told the Rangers that he will try to play Wednesday and twice this weekend in an effort to make the roster after getting kicked in the gut by the Holaday trade. Gimenez will be out playing even though he has an infection in his lower left leg that looks, well, horrible.
“Just my luck,” he said Tuesday morning, not knowing that his luck was about to get considerably worse.
That’s Gimenez’s career in a nutshell, though. He has bounced around plenty in his career, but was hoping he had found a more permanent spot with the Rangers. A shoulder injury last year required surgery after the season ended, and his throwing wasn’t where it needed to be early in camp. Though it has gotten better, the Rangers simply believe that Holaday is better.
The hope here is that Gimenez, a wonderful person, can find a way to stay in the organization. He can play left field and first base, but so can Ruggiano and Rua. All three are right-handed hitters, and Ruggiano and Rua are better hitters.
So, a move to the disabled list or a DFA could be in Gimenez’s future, and he would have to go unclaimed to get to Triple A, and then he would have to decide if he wants to accept an assignment.
Just his luck.
5. The minor league rosters were announced Tuesday morning, and the Big Three prospects won’t be together to start the season.
Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara have landed at Triple A Round Rock, but Lewis Brinson will begin at Double A Frisco in a somewhat surprising move. Brinson finished last season a Triple A, as one of the team’s top hitters in the playoffs, but he had only played 28 games at Frisco before the promotion.
He also was crowded out of Round Rock by James Jones, who didn’t make the big league roster. Ryan Strausborger and Jared Hoying will be in the outfield along with Mazara and possibly Stubbs.
The Rangers’ stance is that it only matters where a prospect finishes the season and they have a track record of pulling players from Double A to the majors. See Gallo and Jurickson Profar, among others.
So, it’s entirely possible that Brinson could be called upon if the Rangers need a center fielder for an extended stretch. Then again, Desmond might be the guy, if he hasn’t shown an ability to play some other position like pitcher or catcher or maybe both at the same time.
The Rangers can’t seem to get enough of that guy.