By the time the Los Angeles Angels scored their first runs Thursday afternoon, the Texas Rangers had already scored nine times at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Six of those came in the sixth inning, which started with homers from Matt Davidson and Ronald Guzman. Patrick Wisdom delivered the biggest shot in the fifth inning, finding a parking lot at the Marriott beyond left field.
Guzman went deep again in the sixth.
It was some welcomed pop from an offense that has struggled to find its footing early in the Cactus League schedule. The Rangers have struggled overall, but so far one of the basic tenets in baseball has held true:
A team is only as good as its rotation.
Here’s the Surprise Five from Thursday at Rangers spring camp.
1. Bryce Harper is off the market, finally, after agreeing to a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. There is no opt-out clause, reportedly, and Harper also gets a no-trade clause.
It sounds like he wanted to be in Philadelphia all along. It also sounds like he wanted to have the biggest guaranteed deal in MLB history.
The Rangers, just as was the case with Manny Machado, never played on Harper. The timing wasn’t right this off-season, according to general manager Jon Daniels.
However, the Harper deal wasn’t the most significant this week in the Rangers’ hemisphere.
Third baseman extraordinaire Nolan Arenado will not become a free agent after the season. He signed an eight-year, $260 million contract extension Tuesday to stay with the Colorado Rockies.
Arenado was considered by many, including the Surprise Five, to be the ideal free-agent target for the Rangers to pursue and help christen the first year of Globe Life Field. With no third basemen in the minors close to ready, Arenado would fill a hole and maybe fill some seats for years to come.
As things stand now, the most attractive free agent who fits the Rangers would be left-hander Madison Bumgarner. Native Texans Here are two others to consider:
Former TCU player Matt Carpenter and former Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish.
Carpenter would fill a need at third and would give the Rangers another high on-base guy (and another lefty hitter), and all that has to happen is the St. Louis Cardinals declined their $18.5 million club option on him.
Darvish can opt out of his six-year, $126 million deal with the Chicago Cubs after the season. He would need to be healthy and look like the pitcher he was with the Rangers, and he would also need to have an itch to gamble.
Darvish would be 33 years old, and he would have trouble getting the kind of money the Cubs have guaranteed him. But Darvish lives in Dallas and never wanted to leave the Rangers when they traded him in 2017.
Speaking of former Rangers pitchers with the Cubs who live in DFW who will be free agents after the season, Cole Hamels will be out there, too. He talked Wednesday about how attractive Globe Life Field will be for free agents.
Maybe he was sending Daniels a message.
2. Drew Smyly worked a perfect first inning Thursday, and after the third out let out a big breath. It’s go time, he essentially told himself.
Smyly, like two others in the projected Rangers rotation, is coming off Tommy John surgery and barely pitched in 2018. He had a healthy off-season, has been issue-free so far this spring, and with one start under his belt, he’s ready to ratchet things up.
And he will, slowly. That’s life for a starting pitcher in spring training. Actually, that’s life for a healthy starting pitcher in spring training, and Smyly is finally healthy again after Tommy John surgery in 2017.
“So far it’s been very smooth sailing for me with my arm and the recovery aspect of it,” Smyly said. “Spring is something I haven’t done yet [after surgery] with building my innings and pitch count … and getting ready to start every five days. But right now I’m so excited to be in that every-five-days routine.”
Miller goes Friday, and will try to make it three straight successful debuts for pitchers on the comeback trail.
3. The best inning by the pitchers who followed Smyly was the perfect inning Connor Sadzeck posted.
The right-hander struck out one, on one of his upper-90s fastballs, but also worked quickly and efficiently. For a guy out of minor-league options, every spring outing has some level of importance.
Sadzeck made his MLB debut last season and survived despite a 1.821 WHIP in 13 games. His ability to touch 100 mph is what put him on the 40-man roster three years ago and would likely prevent him from clearing waivers should he fail to make the Opening Day roster.
Jordan Romano is also in a make-it-or-break-it position. He is a Rule 5 pick and must stay on the 25-man roster all season. If he doesn’t make the team, he would go through waivers and, if he cleared, be offered back to the team that lost him.
That would be the Toronto Blue Jays, who look to be in a rebuilding scenario, too. It would seem they would want Romano back, though they might also want to work out a trade for a different prospect.
It’s hard to imagine both making the Opening Day roster without an injury or the Rangers going with a three-man bench. The Rangers already have five right-handers in the bullpen and want at least one left-hander to fill it out.
4. Jonathan Hernandez struggled in his spring debut last week, walking three and allowing three runs while record one out. His ERA entering Thursday was 81.00.
That’s not good.
Nor was the walk Hernandez, one of the Rangers’ most advanced pitching prospects, issued to open the eighth inning against the Angels. But he induced a double play and struck out another for a scoreless inning.
His ERA? 20.30. Ugly, but it looks a lot better than it did to start the day.
5 A friendly reminder that readers can follow the Star-Telegram’s Rangers coverage at the following links:
There’s been some good stuff at all three, not that anyone here is biased.