The sun actually came out of hiding Sunday at Angel Stadium, where El Nino had created rain showers and overcast skies for the first three games of the Texas Rangers’ first series here this season.
Nomar Mazara made that happen. He’s that good.
Or maybe the weather pattern shifted.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 3-1 loss.
1. Mazara’s debut? Pretty good, if 3 for 4 with a homer that accounted for his team’s only run is any good. He was the only one not mesmerized by the soft-tossing Jered Weaver, who has been stumping Rangers hitters for years.
This year and last, though, Weaver has been lucky to throw his fastball 84 mph. But he’s able to locate and change speeds, and the fastball-loving Rangers couldn’t seem to solve him.
The Rangers Reaction from Saturday said that Mazara would not be the player brought to the minor leagues. One reason for that call was the unknown on Shin-Soo Choo, who is going to miss four to six weeks with a strained right calf. That absence is long enough for the Rangers to put their best foot forward, and apparently that’s Mazara.
He did nothing Sunday to make anyone question the decision.
Other factors playing in his favor: He bats left-handed, as Choo does, and he had a spot on the 40-man roster. Mazara could come to the majors without the Rangers needing to first designate someone for assignment.
Alex Claudio’s guardian angel deserves a raise.
Ryan Rua has made himself too versatile, it turns out. He was never seriously considered to be Choo’s full-time replacement. The Rangers want him to face left-handed pitching as an outfielder and a first baseman.
Mazara is going to be with the Rangers until Choo and Josh Hamilton get healthy. Hamilton will need another month, according to the last target date the Rangers provided. He is in Arizona working out, but he hasn’t faced any live pitching.
Extended spring games begin this week, though.
Those decisions can wait. For now, as was the case last year with Joey Gallo, the best thing to do is sit back and see what Mazara can do. His approach should let him do quite a bit.
2. The Rangers held off as long as they could before making the decision to add Brett Nicholas, apparently as they looked outside the organization for someone better.
A trade never developed in, hello, 12 hours, either for Derek Norris (San Diego) or Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee) or anyone else. Now probably isn’t the best time for the Rangers to make a deal, with teams trying to turn their desperation into a higher tier of prospect or prospects in return.
It seems a little heartless to not give Nicholas a chance to be a twice-a-week backup after six previous seasons in the organization after being drafted in the sixth round in 2010. He has worked diligently to earn this chance. Maybe he’s not Johnny Bench, but he’s probably better than some free agent still lingering out there.
He’s also cheaper. And, as memory serves, Chris Gimenez helped hold the position together last year, and he’s probably stepping on the gas to get back after dealing with that gruesome leg infection.
Nicholas is fully aware that his first big-league stint could be short-lived. He’s been passed over enough to understand the business side of the game he plays. But he knows the Rangers pitchers and made a favorable impression in spring training.
That should count for something.
Brett Nicholas was the Rangers’ sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft and spent six seasons in the minors plus three games this season before getting called up to the major leagues for the first time.
3. Martin Perez was lucky to allow only three runs in 6 1/3 innings. He was constantly pitching with runners on base, the by-product of seven hits and five walks.
Nevertheless, manager Jeff Banister liked the outing more than Perez’s first, in which he allowed two runs in six innings. Perez seemed to like his work, too, as he did make pitches to get out of jams.
But the walks are an issue, not just for Perez but for the staff as a whole. Cole Hamels walked two Saturday night after walking three on Opening Day, and brought up that he is issuing too many free passes. Perez also knows that he must cut out the walks if he wants to work deeper in games and allow fewer runs more consistently.
Consider this: Three runs in 6 1/3 innings rates as a flawed start for the Rangers. Derek Holland has had their worst start, three runs in five innings Thursday. If that’s the worst by a Rangers starter, the rotation is faring just fine.
Colby Lewis gets another shot at the Mariners on Monday. Seattle was just cooled off in a sweep by Oakland. The Rangers, who lost 2 of 3 to the Mariners last week, might want to pay attention to whatever it is the A’s did.
4. The Rangers ended up splitting the four-game series with the Los Angeles Angels, who I hate referring to as the Los Angeles Angels. Opposing players don’t. They call them Anaheim, which is my preference.
Whatever you call them, the Angels aren’t very good. At least not yet. As a fellow member of the media noted, they have three No. 5 starters behind Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago.
Their lineup isn’t very good, despite the presence of two 40-homer hitters. They have good defense in the outfield and at shortstop, and their late-inning relievers are good enough. But that’s about it, plus they have absolutely no depth in the minors.
If the Angels are so bad, aren’t the Rangers just as shaky after the split? I get that, but the answer is no. The Rangers are better. Their rotation is better, the lineup is better and, despite the catching situation, there is depth in their farm system.
See Mazara, Nomar.
Things change, of course. Hitters get hot. Pitchers get hot. All players are allowed to get better. But some of the players the Angels are giving semi-regular to regular at-bats have been around for awhile and haven’t improved much.
It could be a long year for Anaheim, or whatever you want call them.