The Texas Rangers’ spring training facility is looking more like an Olympics training ground this year. Not only did Jeff Banister have an NBA regulation basketball goal installed (including accurate free-throw line and paint), there’s another sport the players can work into their already baseball-filled schedules.
Prince Fielder brought boxing equipment to Surprise and he’s been teaching some of his teammates how to box. OK, he didn’t bring a ring, but the next best things: a heavy bag and a speed bag.
“It’s a fun way of doing some cardio,” said Fielder, who singled in the third inning Monday of the Rangers’ 6-5 victory over the Giants at Surprise Stadium. “I’ve built up an endurance for it, but it’s a good workout for sure.”
Fielder started using the boxing equipment two years ago during the off-season as another way of working out. It’s not just about throwing punches, Fielder said, “boxing is always about footwork.”
“It’s a fun way of burning some calories and using your core, better than a treadmill,” he said.
A lot of guys are like [over confident at first] and then you see them punch and you’re like, ‘Wow I’m glad you’ve never been in a fight.’
Prince Fielder on some of his teammates’ boxing prowess
He’s teaching Mitch Moreland how to use it. Keone Kela, who has dabbled in mixed martial arts since childhood, already looks like Rocky Balboa working the speed bag. Moreland had never boxed and confided in Fielder from the start. Which is good, Fielder said, because many arrogantly think they’ll pick it up immediately.
“He’s getting it right away,” he said. “A lot of guys are like [overconfident at first] and then you see them punch and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m glad you’ve never been in a fight.’ ”
Kela said Fielder’s son, Jayden, is the best of the bunch at working the speed bag.
“I try to stay away from [the heavy bag] because the organization probably doesn’t want me beating up a bag as much with my hands,” Kela said. “But the speed bag is kind of a meditative type of thing. Finding the cadence that works for me to keep the bag going. I have fun doing it and it takes the monotony out and gives us a chance to get another sport in there.”
Griffin feels good
Starter Right-hander A.J. Griffin, who hopes to show the Rangers he’s ready for a spot in the rotation, was finally on the mound again Sunday afternoon. He threw a perfect inning (12 pitches, eight strikes), his first action of the spring and his first in a major league game since 2013. He had Tommy John surgery that wiped out 2014 and shortened his return in the minors last season.
“I was pretty excited out there. I hadn’t pitched in a game like that in a while, with the whole shebang,” he said.
A.J. Griffin’s last appearance in a major league game was Sept. 24, 2013, as a member of the Athletics. He took the mound for the Rangers on Sunday, throwing 12 pitches.
The Rangers have taken it slowly with Griffin this spring while pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach Brad Holman are helping him iron out some mechanical issues in his delivery.
“We ironed a lot of things out, working on having my head stay with the hand,” said Griffin, who went 21-11 with a 3.60 ERA over his two seasons with the A’s in 2012-13. “Things are working a lot better. I’m able to use my whole body rather than just throw all arm right now.
“The action on my pitches has gotten a lot better. It was good to get my beak wet ... but I feel pretty good now and I’m ready to roll so I’m excited to hear when I get to pitch again. I feel like I’d be ready for anything they ask me to do.”
Darvish back at it
Yu Darvish threw a 15-pitch bullpen session off the regular mound with his catcher positioned in the normal spot behind the plate for the first time this spring. The right-hander is scheduled to ramp up the pitch count to 20, then 25 on Wednesday and Friday from the regular mound and distance.
The players-only free-throw shooting tournament continued with first-round action again Monday morning. The results: Texas Longhorn Drew Stubbs d. Baylor Bear Shawn Tolleson; Adrian Beltre d. Elvis Andrus; Nomar Mazara d. Yohander Mendez; and Ryan Rua d. Phil Klein in sudden death.