As far a spring training goes, the Texas Rangers had a good one.
They finished with a winning record, if that means anything to anybody anymore.
They stumbled upon a left fielder who might also be a center fielder and a shortstop.
They saw their starting pitchers turn in their best performances in the final week.
Their offense was pretty dang good from start to finish.
Most importantly, they left for home without any major contributor having surgery or needing it.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. The Rangers had multiple candidates to be the star of camp, but Ian Desmond gets my vote over Ryan Rua, A.J. Griffin and the Big Three prospect grouping of Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson.
Not a day passed when someone wasn’t floored by something Desmond did, and not always on the field during a game. He was billed as having a terrific work ethic, and it showed through by how quickly he adapted to left field.
The guy shagged balls during minor league batting practice.
Desmond isn’t going to be perfect in left field, or, as he is now projected to play on occasion, center field. Just Tuesday, he made either a bad decision or just a bad throw while getting the ball back to the infield against Chicago.
The throw went through to home, sailing over the cut-off men, and a runner advanced from first and into scoring position.
But the Rangers think Desmond is going to be pretty darn good.
Rua came to camp as an afterthought to some, but the Rangers couldn’t ignore his performance or versatility. Griffin discarded any health concerns to pitch his way into the rotation, though the Rangers continue to not name him to the fifth spot.
Gallo had the best spring by a prospect, coming to camp with a plan and executing it. There isn’t a player fans would rather see hit than Gallo, though Mazara and Brinson are worthy of a close look.
2. The best sight of Rangers spring training was Jurickson Profar playing shortstop, making all the throws, without thinking twice about his surgically repaired right shoulder after two seasons missed.
Furthermore, he didn’t fuss when optioned to Triple A Round Rock. He understands the importance of going to the minor leagues to catch up on baseball. It’s not just the at-bats, but dealing with the grind and experiencing again the situations that crop up.
He needs to know how he will feel after 10 games in 10 days, and how he will react to plays that he hasn’t seen in a few years. He needs to develop, too, after a so-so rookie season fraught with irregular playing time.
Profar has barely played at Triple A. He could have used more time there in 2013, but the Rangers’ decision to push him is irrelevant now. The shoulder, by the way, was going to give even if he had been in the minors an extra year.
The important thing now is making sure Profar isn’t rushed back. He’s got work to do, and knows it.
Jurickson Profar hasn’t played in a major league game since Sept. 27, 2013. He will open 2016 at Triple A Round Rock, but his surgically repaired right shoulder held up during spring training.
3. Another spring best: The Rangers were largely healthy, something that they haven’t been able to say the past few springs.
There are a few exceptions, with the Josh Hamilton knee woes leading the Rangers to Desmond. But even that injury isn’t all serious relatively speaking.
It’s not like their best pitcher went down for the season (Yu Darvish, 2015) or their starting second baseman was lost for the season (Profar, 2014) or their recently acquired slugger had no strength in his left hand (Prince Fielder, 2014) or their Opening Day starter was beginning to feel the symptoms of a severe back injury (Matt Harrison, 2013).
The bullpen enjoyed a healthy ride after Tanner Scheppers needed knee surgery. Closer Shawn Tolleson took a week off because of some back stiffness, but manager Jeff Banister said that Tolleson is where he needs to be for the start of the season.
Injuries are part of the game, and they are coming to every team. At least it appears as though the Rangers will start this season not playing from behind.
We’ve still got two games left. If we get out of here and the next two games in Arlington, I’ll consider it a highlight then.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister on the Rangers’ health
4. Maybe it was just me, that I was so caught up in the countdown to my flight home, but I missed the same euphoria from the players during the media’s Wednesday morning window in the clubhouse.
The players were thrilled to be leaving. The regular season awaits. But they treated it like any other game day. There was a game to play, after all, and the Rangers went through their pregame work with the same attitude that they had March 1.
No one seemed distracted or was a distraction. The players’ routines weren’t disrupted, aside from packing the last few things in their lockers.
It was a professional day on a day when professionalism might slide some.
It didn’t. That has to be a good sign for a team that knows its good enough to win in 2016.
61 Pitches for Cole Hamels, including 43 strikes, over five inning of his final spring start. He allowed one run on two hits.
5. So, what does the Rangers’ spring training say about how they will fare in 2016?
It says here that the Rangers won’t go 7-14 in April, as they did last season, or whatever the .333 equivalent is this year. They have all their key parts oiled and ready to go, or at least it appears that way.
The players aren’t shy in saying that the Rangers are good and are going to be good. This isn’t just propaganda. They are the reigning division champions, and there were more additions than subtractions to that roster.
Even if an injury hits a key player, there is quality depth in the minors to keep the wheels from falling off.
Some players could decline from 2015, but every team faces that. Some players could also take off.
A full season of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and Derek Holland automatically would make the Rangers better. It’s just a matter of getting a full season from Perez and Holland. Hamels’ track record suggests he’ll be fine.
Every team right now is in the playoff hunt. Expect the Rangers to stay there.
So long, spring training. Hello, home.