A large part of the appeal of baseball’s spring training is the pace — or lack thereof.
The gentle thwack of batting practice on a back field. The muffled grunts of pitchers going through that always-taxing cover-first-base drill.
And then the games, which Major League Baseball is unafraid to still call exhibitions.
The NFL wouldn’t dare do that.
In Arizona, you can’t get to the beach, so you go to the ballpark. You bring your blanket, your bikini and you lounge on the outfield berm. If you’re a senior citizen, you doze off in your $15 seat.
In the Cactus League, the only thing prickly is the name.
During the regular season, baseball warns you to watch out for foul balls. At Salt River Fields on Saturday, where the Texas Rangers lost an 8-6 exhibition to the Colorado Rockies, the message on the big board said, “Remember your sunscreen.”
For the Rangers, it’s been a quiet camp, unless you count Prince Fielder’s early-camp snoring.
When the big news is Fielder being diagnosed with sleep apnea and that you’ve signed a career shortstop to play left field, you know it’s been a quiet six weeks.
Almost too quiet.
Allow me, therefore, a bit of a nitpick. Since they play, you know, nine innings during the regular season, wouldn’t it be a good idea here to start asking the regulars to play nine — at least once?
By my very unofficial research — I can’t read my own scorecards — it took until March 13 for a Rangers starter to play the entire game. And that was Jurickson Profar, who’s now shortstopping with the Triple A club. Rougned Odor went nine innings March 20, but he was the DH.
Including Saturday’s game, the closest thing to a regular player logging all nine innings in the field was Ryan Rua’s ironman stint at first base 12 days ago.
Whew. Hope he remembered the sunscreen.
This quibble is lodged because a year ago, of course, the Rangers began the season winning only eight of their first 24 games. If you start 8-16, somebody is going to ask how many rounds you sparred.
My first brush with spring training came in 1973. We drove 700 miles to Florida to see my favorite player, Rusty Staub, play for the New York Mets. When we arrived at our St. Petersburg motel, the sign on the marquee read, “Welcome, Mr. & Mrs. Gould and dogs.”
Rusty played nine innings for manager Yogi Berra the next day, by the way. Just sayin’.
The Rangers have been abundantly fortunate — feel free to knock on wood — this spring. Josh Hamilton’s balky knee was identified and plasma-injected early, and the club acted swiftly to replace him with free agent Ian Desmond, who has been the star of the camp.
Fielder’s sleep issue likewise was promptly resolved. Yu Darvish’s recovery from Tommy John surgery appears to be ahead of schedule.
With Opening Day just a little more than a week away, we media scoundrels have had to resort to conjecture about the pitching rotation’s No. 5 starter and who should be the backup center fielder.
Not exactly marquee stuff, with or without Mrs. Gould’s dogs.
Yes, it’s been a quiet camp, even for sunbathing, nap-inducing Arizona.