The Ranger Report With Dic Humphrey
Spring Training will be here before we know it, as it starts in about a month. Last weekend, the Rangers gave fans a preview with their annual Winter Carnival, which included a number of players being available to the media. Here are a few notes from the weekend:
WBC: The World Baseball Classic will be played this year. Matt Harrison announced this week that he will not be participating with Team USA. He texted ESPN Dallas’ Richard Durrett “It’s truly an honor to be asked to be a part of a team that represents our country, but at the same time I didn’t want to risk injury after throwing a career high in innings (last season).” Joe Nathan said last weekend that he had discussed his participation with Team USA manager Joe Torre. “We’ll see if the Rangers and me think it’s the best thing to do. Joe Torre called. I told him I’d give him an answer in a couple of weeks. It would be an honor to play in that again.” Adrian Beltre however, indicated that he will be enthusiastically participating as a member of Team Dominican Republic. “It’s really important (in the Dominican Republic). I talked to J. D. (Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels) and told him I was going to play. He didn’t say anything.”
DARVISH: Yu Darvish appeared at the Winter Carnival. The 16 game winner looks poised to be even better in 2013. He told reporters through a translator, “Compared to last year, I feel so much more at ease. I really felt that I’m part of the team now.” He admitted the hoopla over his signing last year was a distraction, and that this off season has been calmer and more organized. “This year, I was able to prepare and plan out what I wanted to do in the off season. I feel this off season, my preparation has been much better.”
Darvish pitched particularly well over his final eight starts of the year (5-1, 2.35 ERA), a period that correlated with the arrival of Geovany Soto from the Cubs, who caught most of Darvish’s starts at year-end. He was asked if he anticipated Soto catching most of his 2013 starts, but declined to answer. “That’s something you might want to ask Ron Washington.”
NEW COMERS: Catcher A. J. Pierzynski and reliever Joakim Soria also attended. Soria is coming off Tommy John surgery and is not expected to pitch in a game until late May. He has been a closer in the past, a role that is already filled on the Rangers by Joe Nathan. Nathan is signed through this year, and the Rangers hold a club option for 2014; but Soria hopes to be a closer again someday. He recorded 160 saves over five seasons at Kansas City prior to missing 2012 with the surgery and was twice an All-Star in that span. Soria is expected to be the primary eighth inning set-up reliever this year, but will be available to close if Nathan occasionally needs a night off in a save situation, and could become the closer next year if Nathan does not return. Nathan for one is glad that Soria is with the Rangers. “Very good guy. I’m very excited he’s coming here. I know he’s excited as well. Hopefully, he’ll get back sooner rather than later,” Nathan said.
Nathan is also happy to have Pierzynski in the fold. “He’s a great competitor.” Pierzynski brought his family to the festival and said they had made significant purchases for the kids at the Rangers’ store. Success breeds success, and Pierzynski is a Ranger largely because the team has been good in recent years and should be good again this year. “I told Wash (manager Ron Washington) that if he’ll let me catch 162, I’ll catch 162. I want to catch as many as I can.” Surprisingly, his old team the White Sox made virtually no effort to re-sign Pierzynski. “There never really seemed like an opportunity to go back there. There never was an offer.”
A WAGER: Ranger fans likely remember a September wager between Mike Adams, an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, and Joe Nathan, a native New Yorker that is a staunch Giants fan. The Cowboys won the first game of the NFL season making Nathan a loser in their wager, and Nathan paid up by wearing a Cowboys’ uniform prior to a Rangers’ home game, signing autographs for fans. (He looked really good in that uniform by the way!) Nathan indicated that they placed the same wager on the second meeting between the Cowboys and Giants, which the Giants won, and that Adams has not paid off his loss as yet. He is to wear a cheerleaders’ uniform publicly for the Cowboys loss.
THE AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST: Literally all the players were asked about the team’s year-end collapse last year and its effect on this season. “It was tough to take; to not play our best baseball when we needed to,” Nathan said. “You have to learn how to forget. You have to learn from that,” Beltre added. All were optimistic about this season despite the off season losses of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. “It’s (the race in the West) gonna be really good all the way to the end,” Beltre said. “I think overall it’s going to be a good race. No doubt we lost two big bats. It’s not easy to replace a bat like Hamilton. I’d love to have Michael (Young) back. We still have some good pieces left.” Darvish was philosophical about the departures, “Losing key players is something every team goes through.”
Despite the losses, the Rangers should again be a contender in the West, especially with a starting rotation that features three former All-Star pitchers that are still under 30. In less than a month, spring training camps will open, and Ranger fans can get a daily dose of Ranger news.