By: Jared Sandler
*Earlier today, Jeff Banister told the fellas on Shan & RJ that “You Can’t Beat Me,” might be the saying of 2016 for the Rangers. A little bit later he explained the genesis of that particular phrase.
Game Notes RANGERS 6 Royals 2
*Nomar Mazara is 6-for-6 this Spring if you include the team’s Monday intrasquad. He capped off his day with a 3R-HR. Results aside, the ball just sounds different off his bat than it does for most. He’s 20 years-old.
*Don’t be deceived by the box score when it comes to Ryan Rua’s day at the plate. It will read 0-for-2 with a GIDP, but he was robbed of an extra-base hit twice thanks to two really nice defensive plays by Royals 3B, Cheslor Cuthbert.
*Justin Ruggiano, who is likely battling with Ryan Rua for a roster spot, went 2-for-2 at the plate with a near HR to center. The bat is obviously a factor, but in order for Ruggiano to make the team he’ll need to prove he can play first base, something he’s never done. Ruggiano was in LF today, but will get opportunities at first later this Spring.
*Colby Lewis threw two scoreless frames after laboring through the first, but Nick Tepesch impressed me most among Rangers pitchers. He’s coming back from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery. There isn’t a long list of guys who have had that surgery and the results in their comebacks produce a mixed bag, but there are definitely success stories like Kenny Rogers and Josh Beckett, among others. Tepesch is a long shot to break camp with the Rangers, but he’s impressed people so far, even before his outing today.
*Yu Darvish threw 20 pitches off the mound today after throwing 15 on Monday. He was happier with this session than he was his last. Pitching coach, Doug Brocail, said he threw with a bit more energy.
*RHP Luke Jackson is shut down for two weeks after being diagnosed with a stress reaction in the lower lumbar region of his back. During this time he’ll do cardio despite not throwing.
*Adrian Beltre, who was originally in the lineup for the opener, will sit at least the first two games NOT because of injury. He simply wants to pace himself and when you are HOF-bound, you can do that sort of thing. Rangers aren’t concerned in any way and neither should you be.
*RHP A.J. Griffin has still yet to face live batters. The Rangers want him to continue to develop a strong mechanical foundation before they unleash him towards the next step. Griffin hasn’t pitched in two years, which is a big reason why they’re handling him the way they are.
One thing the Rangers have truly developed as they embark on their Spring Training challenge is a helluva lot of depth. Pick any position and you can name a handful of candidates to account for the “Armageddon” scenarios about which Jeff Banister talks. Forget the young guys, let’s just take a look at guys who have played in the Majors in the last two years…
C: Chirinos, Gimenez, McKenry, Wilson
1B: Moreland, Fielder, Davis, Ruggiano, Rua
2B: Odor, Alberto, Desmond, Ciriaco
SS: Andrus, Alberto, Desmond, Ciriaco
3B: Beltre, Alberto, Gallo, Rua, Ciriaco
LF: Desmond, Rua, Ruggiano, Davis, Jones, DeShields, Gallo, Hamilton, Stubbs
CF: DeShields, Jones, Ruggiano, Desmond, Stubbs
RF: Choo, Hamilton, Ruggiano, Rua, Stubbs
This list doesn’t even include guys like Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, or Jurickson Profar, or other guys in big-league camp like Patrick Kivlehan, or Drew Robinson.
Even if there are some guys on that list who you might not want on your big league team, the Rangers have not only prepared for “worst-case,” in some respects, but they’ve also establish a healthy competition for spots and have manifested a culture that encourages positional versatility.
The biggest position-player job competition is probably between Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Rua, with Ike Davis hanging out in the shadows. The winner will likely demonstrate a superior degree of defensive versatility.
Their are a couple handfuls of guys in camp who you could describe their defensive role as “utility.”
The depth doesn’t stop with the position players, either. Nine pitchers vying for a starting role started a game last year. That list doesn’t even include Yu Darvish, A.J. Griffin, or Nick Tepesch, nor does it include Cesar Ramos, who has eight career starts, but spent last year exclusively as a reliever.
Ramos also adds to the potential bullpen depth. For grits and giggles, let’s just say the Rangers roll with a seven-man bullpen to begin the season (Tolleson, Dyson, Diekman, Kela, Wilhelmsen, Barnette, and Faulkner). That still leaves them with Ramos, Freeman, Jackson, Tepesch, Guthrie, and Claudio, among other possible bullpen converts who add to the list of possibilities.
Do you ever want to dig that deep? No. But 2014 taught us that sometimes you have. The team wasn’t prepared then. They made steps last year–would they have won the division without Wandy?–and have now truly developed a roster of versatility and quality depth better prepared to withstand injury. Maybe the Jones family could take some notes…
Until tomorrow, Peace Be the Journey
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