The Texas Rangers had a newsy day Sunday.
Matt Bush is headed back to the bullpen. Bartolo Colon strengthened his case to join the rotation. Delino DeShields is the everyday center fielder and leadoff man. And they saw the man they coveted this offseason – Japanese standout Shohei Otani – for the first time in a Cactus League game.
Away we go with the Surprise Five …
1. Matt Bush is headed back to the bullpen. It shouldn’t have come as a major surprise after his start on Friday night.
Bush wondered aloud whether the Rangers were committed to making him a starter, and stated he’d like the organization to make a decision sooner than later. The decision came Sunday when they informed Bush he’d be heading back to the bullpen.
Manager Jeff Banister felt Bush took the news well, and is ready to prepare for a relief role for a third consecutive season.
Bush won’t be in consideration for the closer job, Banister said, because they value his ability to pitch multiple innings in high-leverage situations in the sixth and seventh innings.
“Matt has an opportunity to be one of those exceptional in today’s game bridge pitchers,” Banister said.
2. Banister made it clear that Delino DeShields is expected to be the Rangers’ everyday center fielder and leadoff batter. More than that, though, Banister threw out the lofty goal of DeShields stealing 50 bases this season.
DeShields had 29 steals last year, tied for third-most in the big leagues, and only one player topped the 50 mark (Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton with 59).
“I think that’s a legitimate goal just based on his previous on-base performances and his speed,” Banister said. “We feel that he’s that type of player.”
3. Speaking of stolen bases, Banister made it clear on his team’s message to the players on the bases.
“Every player has the green light to steal a base until they don’t,” Banister said.
The Rangers combined for the fourth most steals last season with 113, led by DeShields’ 29 and Elvis Andrus’ 25. But the Rangers also tied for the most caught stealing with 44.
The Angels also had 44 caught stealing, but led the league with 136 stolen bases.
4. It wasn’t a great day at the plate for Joey Gallo or Rougned Odor, two everyday players who are off to slow starts this spring.
Gallo went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and is now batting .208 this season. He entered the game having reached in six of the previous eight.
Odor, meanwhile, also went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and is now batting .148. Odor snapped an 0-for-12 drought on Saturday, but has yet to have a multi-hit game in the Cactus League.
5. The Rangers faced the guy who they wanted to sign this offseason – Shohei Ohtani – for the first time Sunday. Ohtani served as the Angels’ designated hitter and singled in his first at-bat off Bartolo Colon.
Ohtani had a clean single to right field, just his second hit of spring training.
“It looks like he is going to be a good hitter, but it's up to them to decide when he pitches and when he hits,” Colon said
Colon said Otani singled on a fastball that he meant to throw inside that found the middle of the plate
Rangers reliever Tayler Scott struck out Ohtani swinging in the fifth inning, and Erik Goeddel got him to ground out in the sixth.