Spring Training Report….One Week Down

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

 By Dic Humphrey

It’s been about a week since the first full squad workout for the Rangers at this year’s spring training.  The exhibition games begin this weekend with games against Kansas City, the team with which the Rangers share the Surprise, Arizona training complex.  For the first week, the on the field baseball news has been limited to practice and a pair of inter-squad games.  As once said, “Practice!  We talking about PRACTICE?”
Perhaps the biggest story with the lack of on the field developments has been Josh Hamilton and an interview that was aired last Sunday on Channel 11.  Hamilton always seems to thrust himself into the spotlight, often to his detriment.  This is probably one of those times.  The high road would have been to be thankful for the effort the Rangers put into him for five years, assisting with his life style problems and making him successful on the field.  The Rangers enabled Hamilton to be gifted with a $125 million contract, certainly a large multiple of the lifetime earnings for normal citizens of the United States.
In the interview, he made derogatory comments particularly about the Dallas – Ft. Worth area not being a baseball town.  Wow!  A shade fewer than 3.5 million fans paid their way into the ballpark last season, and he disparages them.  Jamey Newberg re-tweeted the following Josh tweet from last summer:  “So thankful for all who voted 4 me & my teammates for the ASG.  Truly an honor.  We r so blessed 2 have the #bestfansinbaseball #Rangernation.”  Amazing what a difference seven months can make to a guy that solidified his financial future in that period.
Two dark horse candidates have emerged for the fifth starter spot on the Rangers’ roster.  Nick Tepesch and Cody Buckel, both non-roster invitees to camp, have looked good in early throwing sessions.  Tepesch, in perhaps an indication of his being ahead of the pack, was one of the four starting pitchers for the pair of inter-squad games this week.  He was 11-6, 3.67 last season at high A Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco.  Buckel was 10-8, 2.49 at the same two minor league stops.  They are for sure long shots to make the Rangers’ roster, but then again, so was Robbie Ross last year at this time.
With manager’s Ron Washington’s preference for veterans, the two leading candidates may actually be right-handers Kyle McClellan and Randy Wells, both veterans that are in camp as non-roster invitees.  McClellan is a five year veteran that has been mostly a reliever.  He has appeared in 261 games with the Cardinals since 2008, only 17 of which were starts, and his record is `9-23, 3.69 with six saves.  Wells is 28-32 over five seasons in which he appeared in 98 games, 86 of which were starting assignments.  Martin Perez, who was actually the Rangers’ fifth starter at season’s end last year, drew surprising praise from Washington for his one inning effort in Wednesday’s game.
The debate continues to rage over Jurickson Profar.  He was eligible to play for the Netherlands in this year’s World Baseball Classic, but this week decided to turn down the invitation despite severe pressure from Curacao to participate.  With Elvis Andrus playing for Venezuela, Profar will see significant playing time with the Rangers at shortstop, an excellent opportunity to show his wares.  Make no mistake about it; the Rangers were overjoyed with Profar’s decision.
At this point, it seems obvious that there is an element in the front office that wants to see Profar on the Major League roster.  Profar at this stage of his career needs regular playing time, so there is the question of playing time if he makes the team as a “super sub”.  Manager Ron Washington was reluctant to play the rookie late last year, and has always preferred veterans; so one question regarding Profar’s Major League status is Washington’s willingness to have him on the roster.  Another consideration, and one that is not to be taken lightly, is Profar’s contract status.  If he makes the Rangers out of spring training and stays on the Ranger roster for most if not all of the season establishing himself as a fixture along the way, he will be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. If however, he spends 50 or more days in the minor leagues, his free agency eligibility will not happen until after the 2019 season.
Adrian Beltre suffered what is described as a mild calf strain and was held out of this week’s inter-squad games. It was said to be a precautionary measure, but Beltre notified the Dominican Republic team that he would not be participating with them in the first round of pool play in the World Baseball Classic.  He does want to join the team if they advance to the next round of play, and if the injury heals as expected. Perhaps in response to Beltre’s injury, infield prospect received a late invitation this week from Team Dominican Republic, which he accepted.
Also on the injury front, Lance Berkman has sustained a “mild calf strain” and will not play this weekend against the Royals.
Yu Darvish threw to A. J. Pierzynski in Wednesday’s game.  However, he is expected to be paired with Geovany Soto during the regular season.  Darvish had a 2.35 ERA and .176 opponents’ batting average in games that he pitched last year with Soto behind the plate.  Darvish told ESPN Dallas’s Richard Durrett, “I think he (Soto) was a really important factor in my success last half of my season last year.”
Washington also told Durrett, “They seem to think the same and seem to be on the same page.  They have chemistry.”

NOTABLE:
– 102 Major League players are making at least $10 million this year.  (Free agent Kyle Lohse may ultimately join the group if he ever signs.)  The Yankees and Dodgers lead all teams with 10 of those players each.  The Phillies are next with eight, followed by the Red Sox with six and three teams with five – the Angels, Tigers and Cardinals.  Technically, the Rangers have five, as they have four and are contributing $10 million of Michael Young’s salary as part of his trade.
– Wednesday, the Rangers announced the signing of Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon, Engel Beltre and Josh Lindblom.  With those signings, all 40 players on the 40-man roster are signed for 2013.
– Baseball America unveiled their top 100 minor league prospects this week, and four were Rangers.  The Ranger rankings were Profar first, Mike Olt 22, Martin Perez 81 and Leonys Martin 97.  All four were on last year’s list.  Profar and Olt have improved their ranking from seventh and 43rd respectively.  Perez and Martin have dropped from 31st and 79th respectively.
– The starting pitchers for this weekend’s series with the Royals are Derek Holland Friday, Randy Wells on Saturday, and Matt Harrison on Sunday.

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