Gil LeBreton

March 2, 2014

Fourteen days, 14 Rangers observations from Surprise

Feliz concerns, Fielder swings have highlighted Rangers’ early camp.

Fourteen days of spring training, 14 observations follow about the Texas Rangers.

Admittedly, it’s early. Most of the pitchers have worked only one inning in Cactus League play. Most of the hitters have fewer than 10 at-bats. Elvis Andrus still hasn’t shaved his Lincoln beard.

It’s early. But . . .

1. The alarm bells that sounded when left-hander Matt Harrison had to return to Arlington to get his post-surgical back checked have quieted. Harrison has worked extremely hard to get back on the mound after missing virtually all of the 2013 season.

The intense work might have triggered the discomfort that he felt 10 days ago. He’s back on his throwing program, but he’s behind schedule, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

By publicly conceding that Harrison likely won’t be ready for the season opener, the Rangers, in effect, are taking him off the clock. There is no deadline screaming in Harrison’s head, compelling him to work faster.

As manager Ron Washington said, “If we know that Harrison won’t be back until May, who cares? At least we know we’ll see him in May.”

The feeling here is that sometime in the final week of spring training, Harrison will be routinely placed on the disabled list and, barring any further setbacks, he will miss only one or two starts.

2. The No. 5 starter on the opening day roster could well be veteran Tommy Hanson. He is throwing harder than he has in two seasons, and the Rangers are paying him $2 million, which suggests that Hanson will get a longer look than the other starting candidates.

3. Hanson will be the No. 5 starter, because the feeling here is that Colby Lewis, resurfaced hip and all, will have impressed enough to be the team’s No. 4 starter when the season opens. Lewis insists that he feels great and, clearly, he has not forgotten how to pitch

4. Neftali Feliz didn’t do himself any favors with his problematic first outing of the spring Sunday. Feliz gave up a two-run home run to White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers and another drive by Blake Tekotte that was caught against the right-field wall. None of Feliz’s pitches topped 92 mph.

The coaching staff has hinted at its disappointment with Feliz. The Rangers had someone in the stands in the Dominican Republic, watching every pitch Feliz threw in winter ball.

But so far he hasn’t come close to matching either the velocity or the dominance that he showed there.

5. If Feliz doesn’t soon flash his 2010-11 form, the Rangers likely won’t hesitate to give the closer job to Joakim Soria, who’s done it before.

6. In part because of the bullpen ramifications and partly because, well, there is competition from experienced starters, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers will remain relievers.

7. It’s apparent that every Prince Fielder at-bat is going to be a must-see Rangers moment this spring. He doesn’t give away a single swing.

8. Hottest Rangers hitter in camp: UTA’s Michael Choice who, despite going hitless in two trips Sunday, continued to pound the baseball. His third-inning out was a screaming liner that was caught by Chicago center fielder Adam Eaton.

9. Because of shoulder tendinitis, Jurickson Profar still hasn’t played in the field. But there’s been nothing wrong with his hitting. He just turned 21 and had two hits Sunday to raise his average to .308.

10. New bench coach Tim Bogar seems destined to be somebody’s major league manager one day. Both Bogar and Washington say the dugout chemistry between the two will be apparent.

11. The Russell Wilson visit today will bring camera crews to town and likely sell a few Rangers-themed, Seahawks-style, lizard-green jerseys. But baseball players are such creatures of habit that it’s hard to imagine that the quarterback’s appearance will cause any disruption.

12. Engel Beltre is out of options, but he’s the third-best extra outfielder trying to make the team. Choice is the front-runner, and Jim Adduci has also outperformed young Beltre.

13. Just a hunch, but I predict that ex-Ranger, now-Boston catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be the first that umpires cite under the new home plate collision rule. Catchers without the ball can’t deny the runner the plate, and that was an A.J. specialty.

14. Andrus’ Lincoln-esque facial growth is easily the silliest looking beard in camp, but there’s ample competition. The most stylish beard has to be the full-cheek, beehive monster currently being sported by traveling secretary Chris Lyngos.

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