If only spring training baseball reports were as concise as doctors’ surgery notes …
Down in Florida on Tuesday morning, esteemed surgeon James Andrews carefully stitched the Texas Rangers’ future back together. Yu Darvish’s reconstructed pitching elbow was reported to be doing fine.
Yovani Gallardo, meanwhile, one of the hoped-for surrogates to replace Darvish at the top of the Rangers’ rotation, had one of those routine spring days.
“Yovani gave up the one run,” manager Jeff Banister assessed. “He had a couple of pitches up, but the rest of them were down where he wanted them. The fastball and changeup were in play, and I thought his breaking ball was sharp at times. We were pleased with his performance.”
They tend not to give letter grades at spring training. Too many pitchers working on too many different pages from the textbook.
Training in the Arizona air further complicates things, as evidenced by Tuesday’s exhibition score — an 11-11 runfest with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which featured 28 hits and seven errors.
Pitchers aren’t allowed to use seat belts.
The Rangers needed a four-inning outing like they got from Fort Worth native Gallardo, however. He fussed early, he explained, with his front shoulder opening up too quickly on his delivery, which caused his slider to back up and left a couple of fastballs over the plate.
But a good pitcher knows how to find a way. Gallardo overcame Justin Turner’s double to the wall in the second inning, and though he never retired the side in order, he held Los Angeles to that lone run.
As Gallardo put it, “In that third and fourth inning, I was able to make the adjustments and make pitches.”
Adjustments clearly are in order at the team’s Surprise training complex. Darvish’s Tommy John surgery turned a spirited bout for the rotation’s No. 5 spot into a camp free-for-all for two starting roles.
Who’s going to fill Darvish’s large shoes?
That’s not necessarily the question, Gallardo answered Tuesday.
“It’s obviously a big hit to lose a guy like that.” Gallardo said. “Losing any guy would be.
“But that’s why it’s five guys. That’s why it’s a five-man rotation. Each one of us is going to have to step up and and show what we can do to help the team out.”
That only works, of course, if the guys at the front of the rotation are healthy and performing as expected. Lefty Martin Perez is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won’t pitch until the second half of the season. Derek Holland has a sore shoulder and his spring progress has been delayed.
Gallardo has been at the top of a major league rotation before. He started for the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day five times, and he said Tuesday he’d be honored to get the chance with the Rangers.
But with Darvish now officially recovering from Tommy John surgery, Gallardo said there’s no additional pressure to duplicate what Darvish brought to the team.
“I think it’s just a matter of going out there and being yourself,” he said. “It’s obviously tough to lose Yu, but that’s one of the reasons there’s five guys in the rotation and not just one. There are other guys in this clubhouse, and we’re up for that challenge.”
Darvish went on the disabled list on Aug. 13 last season and may not pitch again until April 2016. The Rangers were 67-95 before that date last season and 20-22 after Darvish was shut down. Those numbers may or may not mean anything except to suggest that the club did not consider losing its Japanese ace last year as a reason to quit on the season.
“The rotation’s not one guy,” Gallardo repeated. “The guys in this clubhouse, they’ve pitched in the big leagues. They’re ready to step up.”
Just don’t expect any report cards yet. There’s still too much homework to stitch together.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697