Nearly one month has passed since Texas Rangers’ pitchers and catchers went through their first full-squad workout of spring training, and the Cactus League schedule is two weeks old.
Wednesday was the lone off day this spring, and it came two weeks before the Rangers break camp for the regular season March 30.
The Rangers have reached the halfway point, and baseball is going to get more serious the rest of the way. There are positions up for grabs, the biggest of which is the fifth spot in the rotation, but each bench spot could be open after entering camp with one available.
Of course, the Rangers have to decide how many bench players they will have, depending on the size of their bullpen.
Those decisions won’t be made until the last day of camp, and maybe not even then. While the heavy lifting is pending in regard to evaluations, that doesn’t mean the process hasn’t started.
These guys are getting after it on a regular basis. I think that bodes well both in the big leagues and the first line of defense as well.
General manager Jon Daniels
General manager Jon Daniels, who arrived in Arizona on Feb. 16, has been watching, listening and gathering information for a month. Here are his thoughts on camp so far.
What has impressed you most about the team this spring?
I love the chemistry combined with the competition. Whether you’re talking about the fifth starter spot or the position-player side in the outfield, it’s a competitive field, and yet these guys are pushing each other and pulling for each other. It’s a really good vibe.
That doesn’t happen unless you have depth of talent. We feel like we’re in a good spot, especially on the position-player side. These guys are getting after it on a regular basis. I think that bodes well both in the big leagues and the first line of defense as well.
It seems like the more people are around Ian Desmond, the more they like him. What’s your take on the new left fielder?
He’s as advertised. Mark DeRosa texted me and asked, ‘How was my eval? Am I a good agent?’ Usually when you hear about good makeup guys, it plays out. It’s kind of ‘you are who you are’ in this business. You basically live with each other for eight months. When you hear from other clubs how quality a guy is or how good of a teammate he is or how hard a worker he is, those things usually play out and they have.
How easily he seems to be taking to the position, we certainly thought that was the case, but it’s been even better.
Jon Daniels on Ian Desmond
The athleticism piece and how easily he seems to be taking to the position, we certainly thought that was the case, but it’s been even better. I think I said this guy was going to be a plus-defender. It’s coming really quickly to him, and that’s encouraging. He’s going to make a mistake out there at some point, obviously, and that’s OK. I’ve been encouraged by that piece.
Top prospects Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson have all shown well in camp. How do you tap the breaks on the excitement they are generating and convey to others outside the organization that it’s best for those guys to go to Triple A?
I just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that. I think it’s just a fact of life. You look around the club, and there isn’t really a spot open. Those things kind of take care of themselves.
I think the interesting thing is, depending on how the roster shakes out, if we have an issue during the season — an injury or something like that — you could really make a case for anybody. It would be who’s earned it at that point.
The thought of going with an eight-man bullpen and a three-man bench speaks to the versatility of the Rangers’ position players. Has acquiring players who play multiple position been a focus?
Versatility is a plus. It always has been, but it seems to be something this roster lends itself to. It’s not just that. Early in the season, before the starters are fully ready to go, another reliever can help protect them. It can also help Banny share the load a little bit in the bullpen.
51 Players who remain in big league camp
We’re not committed to going there yet, but it’s something we’re talking about.
Each day the coaches, scouts and officials meet to dissect games and evaluate player performance. There seems to be more analytics available than even last spring. How do you guys keep from getting too bogged down with information?
We just try to make common-sense decisions. We’re not trying to reinvent anything. We had two things at the beginning of camp. We put on the board the positions that are open for real competition. You don’t want to have four weeks of exhibition games where guys are playing four and five innings and then flip how you built the club. The other is on an individual basis what we want each player to focus on. Not one or two things, but not eight or nine things. That’s not fair to them. They’re competing for a job.
Staying true to those things.
You also want to be open-minded if a guy really takes a big step. In those cases, in our meetings we ask, ‘What else do we want to see from that player? What situations do we want to put him in? Do we want to see him at other positions? How does he fit? How much is he actually going to play if he makes the club? What’s best for him? What’s best for us?’