We’re only a few days before spring training games begin. Man, this has gone fast. The Rangers and Royals start the schedule with games at 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Surprise Stadium.
Here are five observations and tidbits from the Rangers’ Saturday practice:
1. First true infield drills — For the first time this spring the Rangers infielders went through a true infielder drill, you know, the stuff that actually looks like baseball is being played. On the main field were the main starters, Adrian Beltre at third, Elvis Andrus and Hanser Alberto at shortstop, Rougned Odor at second base and Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland taking turns at first. Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar and the other infielders were doing the same on another field. One of the more interesting parts of the fielding drill included the outfielders. Shallow fly balls were hit to each position while the players worked on calling for it. It went smoothly, with no collisions or confusion and a lot of “I got it, I got it, I got it!”
2. Diet Pepsi Police — Someone swiped my bottle of diet Pepsi out of the media fridge on Friday. Jokes were made, fingers were pointed and someone even asked the local DFW representative of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant, to file an official grievance on my behalf. To whom? Not sure.
Anyhoo, while watching batting practice innocently Saturday morning Rangers’ head of security Blake Miller walked up with a uniformed (and armed) member of the Surprise Police Department. Both began asking me questions about filing theft charges. My gut reaction was to immediately suspect a setup but both Miller and the officer were stone faced. I mean, Oscar-worthy performances.
So quickly I began denying that I ever filed any sort of complaint and started to get incredulous when Rangers manager Jeff Banister strolled up asking what in the heck is going on. After a brief explanation he said “Was I not supposed to take that diet Pepsi?” and offered up his wrists for cuffing to the officer. By then, no one was keeping a straight face and laughter ensued. Grant had set me up.
Payback is coming.
3. How to protect Profar — Profar will play shortstop in a structured game, albeit an intrasquad game, on Monday for the first time in two years. Banister said the plan is to keep treating Profar like a regular player “until it’s necessary not to.”
The club will play it conservatively early in the spring schedule, Banister said, making sure Profar’s arm and shoulder (which has kept him off the field for two seasons) respond favorably after game action. He’s unlikely to play more than two consecutive games the first week or two of the spring. “We can’t control that environment. He may have to go deep in the hole and throw across the diamond so our plan and hope is that we’ve gotten him ready to do those things. Until that happens there’s a little bit of the unknown,” Banister said.
Monday’s intrasquad game will be the first time Banister has seen Profar play shortstop in person.
4. About that bullpen depth — You can never have enough pitching. Although it might turn out to be nothing serious, the fact that right-hander Luke Jackson is still out with lower back stiffness and headed back to Texas for a specialist exam is a good reminder that no matter how stocked an area is, you can never have enough. Sure, Jackson could wind up starting the season with Triple A Round Rock even if he’s completely healthy but he’ll at least be in the first wave of reserves when the time comes in 2016.
5. Flu no match for Kela — Right-hander Keone Kele was back in camp Saturday morning after missing a day with the flu. Still not 100 percent, but threw a bullpen session along with Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, Sam Freeman, Shawn Tolleson and Tom Wilhelmsen. Assistant general manager Thad Levine said Kela will ease back into the routine.