Rangers Spring Training: Week 6

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, March 26th, 2016

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By Dic Humphrey           

The end of spring training is in sight. The Rangers will pull
up stakes in Arizona next week and make their way to Arlington for
Exhibition games next weekend (April 1 & 2) against the Indians. The
home opener follows on Monday, April 4 against Seattle.

ROSTER UPDATE:
Starting Rotation:
The competition for the fifth starter roster spot has boiled
down to four pitchers, none of whom have taken the ball and staked a
claim. Anthony Ranaudo has already been sent to AAA, leaving
youngsters Nick Martinez and Alex Gonzalez, and veterans A. J. Griffin
and Larry Guthrie as the final four.
None had distinguished themselves, but Gonzalez and Griffin
posted strong outings Thursday to take the lead.
Gonzalez pitched five scoreless innings against the Reds in the
afternoon. He finally struck out a batter this spring in the outing,
his first of the spring.
Griffin, who is battling back from Tommy John surgery and
shoulder issues that have kept him off the field since 2013, also
pitched five innings against Oakland in the evening portion of the
split squad doubleheader. He surrendered four hits, which included a
home run, and coaxed two ground ball double plays. Texas won both
games by scores of 12-5 in the afternoon and 12-1 in the evening.
Thursday’s performances were a welcome sight for Ranger
management, as they came on the heels of Colby Lewis getting shelled
for nine runs in a game earlier in the week.
As for the fifth starter spot, Martinez and Gonzalez are on the
40-man roster and have options. Griffin and Guthrie are signed to
minor league contracts with invites to spring training. The club will
have to make room on the 40-man roster if one of this pair wins the
job.
There is one school of thought that the team could well go with
one of the veterans to begin the season and give Martinez and Gonzalez
a chance to work their problems out at AAA.
Bullpen:
This area of the team continues to look VERY good. Andrew
Faulkner has pitched extremely well and appears to have wrapped up the
seventh spot in the pen.
Among the six that are considered locks, only closer Shawn
Tolleson has struggled.
Faulkner has appeared in seven games, completing 10 innings. He
has struck out seven and allowed just one earned run for a 0.90 ERA.
He hasn’t been officially named to make the team, but that looks like
a formality at this point.
Catching:
Robinson Chirinos is set as the starter, but Chris Gimenez is
perhaps playing himself out of the backup spot. Gimenez is hitting
just .160 and has not distinguished himself behind the plate, as
opponents have stolen bases at will. There are however no
suggestions that a trade is imminent. Jonathan Lucroy is still
with the Brewers, and he has even expressed surprise that he hasn’t
been traded.
San Diego’s Derek Norris has been mentioned as a trade target,
but a new name arose this week – Detroit’s Bryan Holaday. He’s number
three in the Tigers’ pecking order of catchers and is out of options.
Consequently, the Tigers will have to run him through waivers to send
him to the minors. It’s not likely that he’ll go unclaimed, as the
Rangers are not the only team looking to shore up their catching
situation.
Holaday is a solid receiver and has ties in the area, as he
graduated from W. T. White High School. With his option situation, a
trade next week is highly likely.
Outfield:
Ian Desmond made his center field debut this week. The Rangers
feel that Desmond is such a good athlete that he can handle center
field despite having virtually no outfield experience in his
professional career, and he did not disappoint. He made an
outstanding catch and recorded two outfield assists, throwing out a
runner trying to score from second on a single and doubling off a
runner after the fine catch.
The Rangers’ comfort level with Desmond in centerfield affects
the fourth and perhaps fifth outfield roster spots. Texas wants a
quality back up for Delino DeShields, Jr. in centerfield. If Desmond
can handle centerfield, Texas will have the freedom to find a more
offensively oriented player as an extra outfielder.
OTHER NEWS:
The Yu Darvish recovery continues to look terrific. He has been
limited to 30 pitches off a mound in each throwing session and has
thrown the ball extremely well. Speculation continues that he will be
back on the mound sooner than the projected return date of around May
15.
Josh Hamilton pronounced himself pain free as he progresses from
his knee soreness that is being traded with stem cell injections.
“It’s the best it has felt in five years,” he told beat writers in
Arizona. He has resumed some baseball activities this week. He did
note that the knee was pain free after cortisone shot in January, but
the pain returned by the time he arrived in spring training. He
admitted he probably did too much too soon to bring the pain back.
Consequently, the Rangers don’t plan to push the time table for his
return of around May 1. He’ll travel with the team to Arlington next
week, but return to training camp in Surprise, Arizona after the
season begins to continue his rehabilitation.
The Rangers have announced their starting rotation for the first
four games. Cole Hamels will start on opening day. The only surprise
here is why manager Jeff Banister waited so long to tab Hamels.
Surely, it was a foregone conclusion from the beginning of spring
training. Martin Perez will start game two against Seattle on April
5, the first night game of the year. Colby Lewis is slated for game
three, the day game finale of the opening three game series. Derek
Holland will then start game four against the Angels in Anaheim on
Thursday, Aril 7, the first road game of the season.

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