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The Leadoff

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Here’s my latest edition of “Just Hangin” this one with today’s SP, A.J. Griffin.

Quote of the Day

“I think the arm strength is there but the shoulder put him on the shelf for two years so I’m not going to, after one month, go ‘Well, the shoulder is not an issue now!’…I’m still cautious on that.” -Rangers manager, Jeff Banister, on Jurickson Profar’s right shoulder, the one with which he throws.

Covering the Bases

*Rougned Odor had a successful round of batting practice and was given today off as he continues to recover from a strained right oblique.

*Yu Darvish threw a 20-pitch bullpen today. He’ll begin incorporating more of his repertoire over the next few weeks.

*Ken Rosenthal reported that the Rangers continue to show interest in Brewers C, Jonathan LuCroy. Not from Ken Rosenthal: I believe it and I also believe a whole host of other teams remain interested, too. Asking price in the off-season was Gallo and I doubt Milwaukee’s backed away from that stance just yet.

*LHP Jimmy Reyes suffered a bruised left elbow after getting drilled by a line drive pitching versus the Indians.

*Cole Hamels will throw in a B game tomorrow. Jeremy Guthrie will start in a Minor League game tomorrow.

Game Notes RANGERS 2 Indians 4

On the Bump

*A.J. Griffin did what he typically does. Get outs in the air. Throw strikes. Work quickly. Give up a solo home run or two. Today he gave up a solo home run to Yan Gomes but looked good otherwise. I still think he makes the most starts in the regular season out of the competitors for the final rotation spot, even if he doesn’t win it directly out of camp.

*Cesar Ramos struggled with his command, walking two in three innings. Both walks came in his first inning and he settled down in the second. He’s still in the running for a roster spot and might be considered for the rotation and/or the bullpen.

At the Dish

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*There really isn’t much to speak of for the main guys. Prince Fielder singled and also collected a sun-aided double that otherwise would have been a fly out.

*Pedro Ciriaco reached on three infield singles, one to second, third, and short. Not sure I remember seeing that before.

In the Field

*Ian Desmond was tested frequently in left field. On a day where outfielders appeared to have trouble with the sun, Desmond met each challenge, including a high-arching fly ball that sent him back to the wall off the bat of Mike Napoli early in the game. The irony behind Napoli hitting the ball to a new left fielder…

Minor League Game

*Chi Chi Gonzalez did not have a pretty line, allowing 6 runs on 5 hits (2 HR) in just 3.2 IP. Not a good step for Cheech as he continues to battle for a rotation spot.

The Walkoff

The ninth spot in the batting order is not supposed to be productive, nor is it supposed to cause issues for your pitchers. Neither was true for the Rangers last year.

Compared to the best hitters in baseball, the Rangers’ final batter in the lineup was horrible. Compared to other teams’ ninth hitters, they were outstanding. The Rangers ninth spot in the lineup ranked 4th in OPS (.658), 5th in HR (13), 6th in RBI (62), and 3rd in walks (45). Those numbers came from 32 different players who, at one point, received a plate appearance occupying the ninth slot. Pinch hitters make that number higher than you might guess. Only seven Rangers spent 10 or more games in the ninth spot, highlighted by Robinson Chirinos, who received 123 plate appearances in that spot.

The Rangers’ ability to stretch the lineup played a big role in their offensive success last year. Not only did it allow them to score runs in any inning, but it also forced opposing pitchers to throw more pitches. Only two teams saw more pitches per plate appearance from the final spot in the order than the 3.92 the Rangers saw.

On the other hand, the Rangers struggled to get presumably easy outs at the bottom of the order. Opposing teams’ ninth plate hitter possessed a .254 batting average versus Texas, second highest in baseball, while their .673 OPS was the third highest . Rangers pitchers also walked the ninth batter more frequently than all but one team, and hit them the most, too.

Maybe that’s the era of baseball, where more talent produces deeper lineups or maybe it is a lack of focus or respect issued by the guys on the mound. Both could be true. Then again, neither could be true, too, I guess.

The Rangers’ lineup last year and their projected nine this year represent the former of those two options. One reason for their success in 2015 and one reason they should be successful in 2016 is because of a deep lineup that makes pitches work constantly. Forcing pitchers to keep their foot on the physical and mental pedal wears them down sooner and helps the big dogs feast when their turn rolls around.

Hopefully the Rangers can continue to benefit from this, while not falling victim to it as well.

Until tomorrow, Peace Be the Journey

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