Texas Rangers

Rangers notes: Jeff Banister sets tone during state of the union meeting

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, left, and manager Jeff Banister, acting as a base runner, take part in a bunt-fielding drill for pitchers Wednesday morning in Surprise, Ariz.
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, left, and manager Jeff Banister, acting as a base runner, take part in a bunt-fielding drill for pitchers Wednesday morning in Surprise, Ariz. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Manager Jeff Banister and the organization’s entire coaching staff and support personnel held a Texas Rangers state of the union, of sorts, before Wednesday’s first full-team workout of the spring.

All 57 players in major league camp, except for injured pitcher Tanner Scheppers, heard Banister open and close the meeting by reminding the players how few (if any) outside the Rangers’ clubhouse walls thought they’d amount to much in 2015.

“No one gave us much credit,” Banister told them. “We outperformed those expectations.”

Banister has often reminded the media, typically in a joshing manner, about how few gave his team a chance a year ago and through the first half of the season.

“We all agree with him,” pitcher Phil Klein said. “You can write [predictions] and make projections all you want and none of that matters.”

Besides Banister’s inspirational pep talk, third base coach Tony Beasley spoke to the group about his pending cancer battle. Other staff, including security, traveling secretary and nutritionist, also briefed the players on their roles.

“It’s a good way to refresh and get back in the swing of things,” Klein said. “It’s stuff you might have in the back of your mind but when Banny talks, it brings it to the forefront.”

Yu throws again

Yu Darvish threw from the half-mound for the second time in three days Wednesday. He threw his allotted 20 pitches, including a few cut fastballs and changeups. He’ll throw 25 pitches in his next session either Friday or Saturday.

“[He had] more life on the ball today,” Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail said.

The increased velocity perked Darvish’s interest, too, which Brocail noticed had him pulling up at the end of his delivery to take a peak at his pitches.

“On a few of them he anticipated because he knew he was throwing harder and he wanted to see what the pitch was doing,” Brocail said. “I told him to quit cheating because I did the same thing when I came back from Tommy John. He wants to see what’s happening because he knows by hearing and he knows by feel that he was throwing hard.”

Bottom line, Brocail said, his biggest concern — Darvish’s delivery showing rust — has not been an issue early in the right-hander’s comeback.

“His delivery allows him so much more than other guys’ deliveries do because it’s the exact same every pitch,” he said. “As a coach, that’s my biggest concern, is he going to be out of whack? No, Yu Darvish is not out of whack so it’s obviously going to come quicker … with a timetable.”

Venezuelan Villa

Call it the Venezuelan Villa of North Phoenix. The five-bedroom house where Elvis Andrus, Robinson Chirinos, Martin Perez and Rougned Odor live during spring training is not exactly a quick throw from the Surprise facility. The four teammates, all hailing from Venezuela, leave at 5:15 a.m. in two cars every morning to beat the morning rush hour. It takes them about 35 minutes with Andrus and Chirinos driving.

“It’s not that far actually,” Andrus said. “That’s what I drive from [North] Dallas.”

Chirinos found the property and the others signed off. Andrus, with his seniority, claimed the master bedroom. He pays a little more, too, but the foursome divided up the costs.

“It was either that or that hotel [right by the complex in Surprise],” Andrus said. “We figured new year, new start.”

It’s nice to get away from the facility, Andrus said, but the long commute and the relentless stop lights and traffic on Bell Road, the only major route to the complex, can turn a quick trip into a 30-minute hassle.

“Bell is the one that gets you,” he said. “If it wasn’t for all the lights we’d be here in about 15-20 minutes.”

Of course, Andrus is jamming tunes on the drive to get him and Odor pumped for the day’s practice. Meanwhile, Chirinos and Perez are more likely to be having an in-depth conversation on the drive to Surprise.

Scheppers surgery

Scheppers had surgery Wednesday in Arlington on his left knee.

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

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