The first spring workout for Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers wasn’t like those from days of yore under former pitching coach Mike Maddux, and it caught the attention of Colby Lewis.
Lewis, now a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels, recalled how pitchers were throwing bullpens and live batting practice on the first day of spring training under Maddux, Lewis included.
Not one bullpen was thrown Wednesday. It was a get-your-feet-wet kind of day with pitchers fielding practice and some discussions in the various bullpens.
Pitchers are scheduled climb up the mound Thursday, though there’s one fairly significant issue – it could be another get-your-feet-wet kind of day.
As of Wednesday morning, there was a 100 percent chance of rain hitting the Surprise Recreation Campus, and temperatures on the 10-day forecast don’t fit the mental image of what spring training weather is supposed to be.
It won’t be shorts weather, in other words.
Alas, the Rangers will have to figure out a way to fight through the cold and get ready for spring games, which begin Feb. 23. The Surprise Five, an annual staple of the Star-Telegram’s spring coverage, will begin now.
1. As a general rule, any friend of Maddux is a friend of the Surprise Five, and he and new Rangers set-up man Shawn Kelley were friendly during their time together with the Washington Nationals.
“Shawn Kelley is as good as gold,” Maddux said. “Tremendous person and a lot of fun.”
So what the heck went wrong last season, when the Maddux-less Nationals designated the right-hander for the assignment after he infamously slammed his glove to the ground following a two-run homer by former Rangers great Austin Jackson in a game the Nationals won 25-4.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo felt that Kelley had shown up manager Dave Martinez.
“There was some stuff that went on behind the scenes,” Kelley said. “It wasn’t all about what happened on the field. There was a lot going on in the clubhouse. There were a lot of things that went wrong. There were a lot of things that didn’t go the way they should have.
“I love Davey. We still talk. He’s a great guy. He knew he didn’t know everything about managing from Day 1. I would be surprised if that team doesn’t do a lot better this year.”
But about the glove slam or glove spike (either will do nicely on a Google search). Kelley had fun with it Wednesday and said that he has had some fun with texting the gif to friends if the situation calls for it.
He knows that it’s not going anywhere.
“I like it when anybody in this sports does something and shows emotion,” he said. “I can top that. I can one up that.
“I have never been a big thrower of equipment. I had a couple of outings when I was younger where I would come in and throw my glove on the bench or something. I have probably slammed a bat when I was in high school or college when I used to hit. That was probably my best blowup. Now, I have thrown some clubs on the golf course. That glove throwing would be PG compared to golf. I have broken golf clubs.”
2. The news of the day is that Mike Minor is likely to be the Opening Day starter March 28 against the Chicago Cubs. The question came after manager Chris Woodward said that the left-hander is the club’s best pitcher.
“I would love for him to be,” Woodward said. “Obviously, I am not going to announce it yet, but in all likelihood as long as things go the way they should … I’ll let you know.”
Minor said that he is looking to take the mantle as the No. 1 starter, which prompted the best-pitcher comment.
“He is our best pitcher,” Woodward said. “I love that he wants to fulfill that and take on that. Obviously, we’ve got to monitor that and see how it goes. We are going to keep our eye on him, but if he shows he’s healthy and his stuff is good through 70-80-90 pitches, I would love to do that.”
All that could derail Minor from what he considers a major accomplishment is an injury or a trade. He said that he’s healthy, so that’s good, and Daniels said that the Rangers have yet received the kind of package they would need to move Minor.
“Any conversations we had where we were considering trading big league players, we had a threshold we would have to get to where we would consider it,” Daniels said. “There was a good deal of interest in him, but it didn’t make sense for us. The discussions we were having didn’t quite get there. I’m happy he is in camp with us.”
Minor is happy, too, and he’s ready to pitch without any limits on his workload. The Rangers kept a tight leash on him in 2018 as he returned to a starting rotation for the first time since 2014.
“We haven’t talked about it, no, but my impression is that I’m built up from last year,” Minor said. “The year before being in the bullpen, last year starting and doubling the innings, and this year should be full go I believe.”
3. Just because Tuesday was report day for pitchers and catchers doesn’t mean that there are no position players in camp. That’s far from the case.
Willie Calhoun has shown up 24 pounds lighter. Ronald Guzman has a beach-blonde mohawk thing working. Rougned Odor’s beard is far more manageable.
The number of early-reporting position players has picked up the past several seasons. Even Adrian Beltre would show up a few days early, possibly because he needed treatment for an injury.
That’s actually a pretty good theory.
4. There was no real news on the injury front on Day 1.
Knock on the nearest piece of wood if you believe in doing so.
Right-handed reliever Matt Bush and Rafael Montero are both recovering from surgeries and won’t pitch this spring, and outfielder Scott Heineman is also on the mend after a procedure on his left/non-throwing shoulder.
Heineman won’t be playing any games this spring, but he said he is ahead of schedule and can do some baseball activities. He can throw and catch and do some base running, but he is under orders to not go too crazy shagging balls during batting practice or during outfield drills.
5. One of the first things a reporter does upon entering a clubhouse for the first time is to check where some of the key players are going to be located and who has moved where from last season.
Along the way, some new jersey numbers are discovered.
Make note of these:
Minor goes from 36 to 23 after surrendering 36 to Edinson Volquez.
Jose Leclerc goes from 62 to 25 because, who wants to be 62?
Guzman goes from 67 to 11 because, who wants to be 67?
Jeff Mathis has taken Hanser Alberto’s No. 2, which is pretty fitting for a catcher, and Drew Smyly has taken No. 33 off the back of another lefty, Martin Perez.
Shelby Miller will wear 19, which Jurickson Profar wore last.
Jett Bandy is wearing No. 28, which belonged to former manager Jeff Banister.
Kelley has 27 the back of his jersey, which means that third-base coach Tony Beasley has a new number to select.
My money is on 26, the lowest-available number and really, really close to 27.