Texas Rangers

Who has impressed early this spring? Rangers players, coaches have some thoughts

Matt Bush has drawn a lot of attention during spring training.
Matt Bush has drawn a lot of attention during spring training. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

The only two Cactus League teams that did not open their spring schedule Friday were the two that share the Surprise Recreation Campus.

The Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals came to an agreement to move the traditional lid-lifter at Surprise Stadium until later in the spring season so that they could give their position players an extra day to get caught up to speed.

But they will both play Saturday, with the Rangers traveling to the other side of the valley against the Chicago Cubs before their first home game Sunday against the Colorado Rockies.

"It's always nice to see another uniform," manager Jeff Banister said.

The position players didn't have to report until Monday, though several have been in camp for more than a week. Pitchers and catchers had to report Feb. 14 and were here even earlier than that.

As such, pitchers have made the strongest early impressions on their teammates and coaches during the lead-up to spring games. Here's a sampling:

Matt Bush

Though he is planning to be a starter, it's still a possibility that Bush ends up in the bullpen. But his performance so far has convinced Shin-Soo Choo that he can handle a rotation spot.

Choo said that Bush is throwing hard, which he expected, but the movement on the pitches was better than expected.

"Impressive," Choo said. "I didn't know if it was a good thing for him to be a starter. I was a little worried about it. But I faced him, and I didn't know his four-seamer cut naturally. And then he throws a two-seamer coming back. His changeup was good. Everything comes out at the same arm angle."

Matt Moore

Pitching coach Doug Brocail said he had about five candidates who have impressed, including starters Doug Fister and Cole Hamels, but he pegged Moore at the top of his list.

The left-hander joined the Rangers via a December trade with the San Francisco Giants with an open mind as he tried to correct the things that went wrong during a dreadful 2017 season.

True to his word, he came to camp ready to listen and had already gotten a jump on getting back on track.

"Matt Moore showed up and had fixed a lot of the things I was going to talk to him about," Brocail said. "He fixed things in his deliver and fixed things in his delivery that allowed us to step back and watch. It's really exciting to know he did the hard stuff this off-season. He's been phenomenal."

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Bartolo Colon

The veteran, age 44, was holding court Friday morning with 20-somethings Martin Perez, Rougned Odor and Yohander Mendez, and they were all ears. Perez has become Colon's throwing partner each day, and he said the passion he still has for the game is still evident.

Colon might not make the team, but he is making an impact by sharing his experiences.

"He's almost 45 years old, and he's takes the baseball with passion," Perez said. "You need to learn from those veteran type of guys. He doesn't try to do too much. He keeps things simple. Every day we talk about different things, and I learn from him."

Perez drew a rave review from catcher Robinson Chirinos, who caught the left-hander Thursday during live batting practice. Perez is pitching despite having a broken non-throwing elbow.

"Everything he went through in the off-season, when I caught him yesterday, I was like, 'Wow,'" Chirinos said. "They were saying he was going to miss one month, and it looks like he's ready to pitch tomorrow. He was middle-of-the-season ready."

Jurickson Profar

The early evaluations of position players are hard to make this early — Banister, for instance, said that he can't get a handle on the backup catchers because he needs to see them in a game — but Profar has impressed with how he looks and how he is thinking.

Banister said it is plain to see that Profar worked hard this off-season and has built a strong foundation in his lower half and has worked on his speed work. He has also fortified his resolve and outlook for the season, recognizing that he tried to do too much last season and knows what lies ahead.

"The body looks exceptional," Banister said. "Just a great smile and a tremendous attitude. I had him in the office today, and it's just as good a place as I could have wished for for Pro. In his own words, this is 2018 and not 2017. I think he's at ease in his mind."

Scott Heineman

Banister likes what Delino DeShields and Ryan Rua have shown and they way they have turned early drills into a competition. Nomar Mazara likes how Rua and Drew Robinson have shown so far.

Marzara, though, has been impressed with Scott Heineman, an internal non-roster invitee who spent last season at Double A Frisco. He is an extreme long shot to make the Opening Day roster and could very well be in the first wave of player sent to minor-league camp, but he is leaving an impression.

"Everything he does, running, throwing, hitting, has been really good," Mazara said. "I didn't really know him, but I've seen him play a couple times. He's really athletic."