Texas Rangers: 2012 Spring Training
"As a utility guy you kind of don't want to stand out. You don't want to get noticed," said Baker, who went 1-for-2 on Monday. "Especially during the season when you're playing. If they don't notice you and you get a few hits, play well on defense and the team does well, then that's a bonus. You're just trying to give a guy a day off."
While at-bats and playing time are unpredictable for a utility player, Baker has seen regular time in the Rangers' lineup during the spring as he tries to earn a bench spot. He may be trying to stay under the radar, but his performance at the plate of late is hard not to notice.
Baker has been on a tear for nearly two weeks, making the most of the opportunity afforded him so far. He went into Monday's action second in the Cactus League with a .500 batting average and ranked among the top three in hits (15), OBP (.531) and runs (9).
An out during his third at-bat Sunday ended a streak of reaching base in eight consecutive plate appearances (seven hits, one walk).
Even during spring training, a performance like this will attract attention.
"You always want to see some success from your hard work and preparation you put in," Baker said. "At the same time, I view it as just getting ready for the season. When you are a bench guy and a utility guy you kind of relish spring training because you do get a chance to play every day."
The six-year MLB veteran has carved out a nice career because of his versatility, as he can play five positions: first, second, third, left field and right field. Baker wouldn't see much time at third if he makes the team, but would see time at the other positions.
During the last few years, Baker played mostly when there was a platoon against a lefty, although he has assaulted pitching from both sides so far this spring.
"It's just nice and refreshing to see a veteran utility guy perform the way Baker is performing," Washington said.
Baker also played shortstop and center field during spring training earlier in his career, leaving only catcher and pitcher left to add to his resume, although he does have his eyes set on eventually taking the mound.
"I still really want to pitch," said Baker, who carries four gloves with him. "It's one of those things that stinks because, obviously, if I pitch, the team is getting beat pretty good.
"I was kidding around last year in Chicago with our pitching coach about that situation," Baker said. "Then sure enough, I get traded and two weeks later the utility guy was on the mound."
Other game notes:
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Before each series, we're going to give you just a quick glance at a few things to watch. Let's start with Opening weekend:
* Still, the club has dropped 9 of its last 14 openers.
* This is the fifth time the Rangers have opened a season against the Chicago White Sox and all of them were in Arlington. The last was 2000, a win for the Rangers. Texas is 2-2 in openers against Chicago.
* Robin Ventura will make his debut and we'll see if he runs into Nolan Ryan before Friday's game. The two haven't spoken since Ventura charged the mound back in Aug., 1993 in a famous brawl. But it's not because there's any animosity between the two. They just haven't crossed paths. Ryan respected Ventura as a player and respects him now.
* Former Ranger John Danks is on the mound for the White Sox. He was taken 9th overall in the 2003 draft by Texas and later traded as part of the deal for Brandon McCarthy. Read his thoughts here.
* David Murphy will start on Opening Day. It's just the second time that's happened in his career. He started on March 31, 2008 in Seattle as a rookie an dwent 2-for-4 with an RBI. He hasn't started an opener in the last three years and is one of only two players with 120-plus games the past three seasons that didn't start in an opener in that span (Alberto Callaspo is the other).
* Mitch Moreland won't be in the lineup, but expect to see him this weekend. Manager Ron Washington wanted the right-handed bats in the lineup against the lefty Danks, but RHPs Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd pitch on Saturday and Sunday for Chicago.
Cruz was hit on the left elbow in Tuesday's exhibition game and did not play Wednesday. But he participated in Thursday's workout and should be ready.
Adams was hit in the left calf by a hard line drive right back to the mound. He had a bandage on it and a large bruise. The area was still a little swollen Thursday, but Adams was walking around fine.
"I'm fine, just a little sore," Adams said. "Once I start moving around and loosening up, it's fine. I'm not worried about it."
Adams said he's played catch (and did again on Thursday).
"The biggest thing is being able to cover first if needed," Adams said. "It's something I'll have to pitch through."
"I would like to get something done," said Kinsler, who added it was a "confusing process" when asked about the negotiations. "I would like to be a Ranger."
When asked if he was optimistic about a deal, Kinsler said (smiling and in a robotic-type voice): "I am neutral."
Kinsler has had to answer the same questions for weeks, since his agent came to Surprise, Ariz., and talked with the Rangers. The two sides have had several discussions as they try to hammer out an agreement before Opening Day. Kinsler doesn't want negotiations to carry over into the season, though he said if the two sides had the parameters of a deal done and that meant finalizing it might take a few days, he was fine with that.
"I'm in the same situation I've been in the last two weeks," Kinsler said. "I really don't want to talk about it after Opening Day. That's game time, really. I don't want to be driving home from the ballpark talking about contract discussions. It's just an added distraction to the season, whether it affects me on the field or not. There's no reason for it to be there."
Kinsler, 29, is slated to make $7 million this season and has a club option for $10 million in 2013. Still, both sides would like to work out a deal that keeps Kinsler here well into his 30s.
He said he felt good as he left the field and the plan is that he'll follow his usual between-starts routine with a bullpen in a few days as he prepares to pitch Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.
Brandon Snyder caught Feliz on Thursday as he threw to a few hitters (including Craig Gentry and Alberto Gonzalez) with pitching coach Mike Maddux, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins, hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and manager Ron Washington watching him.
Feliz was a bit behind thanks to his stiff right shoulder, so he's now built up his pitch count and should be ready to go for Tuesday.
"I feel strong," Feliz said. "I wanted to keep the ball down and I did that."
Washington said he was "impressed" with Feliz's work this spring and the effort he's put in on his secondary pitches. Feliz feels like he's improved with each outing on his curve and changeup. The 102 pitches were the most thrown by any Rangers pitcher in a start this spring.
After his final spring training start in Frisco on Wednesday, Yu Darvish addressed how he feels his pitching has developed heading into the beginning of the 2012 season with the Rangers through interpreter Joe Furukawa.
Nathan didn't pitch more than one inning last season for Minnesota, his first year back after missing 2010 due to Tommy John surgery. The last time Nathan pitched at least two innings was 2009, when he threw 53 pitches August 21 in a 5-4 win over Kansas City.
Washington said Nathan isn't limited in what he can do because he's fully recovered from surgery.
It's just a personal preference.
"I don't intend on him doing that very often," Washington said regarding going beyond Nathan's one-inning limit. "I don't have a formula on it but I don't plan on him throwing two innings, that's for sure. There may be a time he may have to get me extra outs, but that's not something planned."
Washington said there will be no difference between how he uses Nathan and how he used last season's younger closer, Neftali Feliz. He says the depth of his bullpen as another reason why Nathan should be one-and-done.
"We should have enough guys so he shouldn't have to go two innings," Washington said. "We got Mike Adams, Koji [Uehara], [Alexi] Ogando, [Scott] Feldman. He shouldn't have to go two innings."
Weather permitting, the Rangers expect starter Neftali Feliz to pitch a simulated game, 60-65 pitches, at the Ranger Ballpark this morning. The session should end around 9:30 a.m., and then Feliz will join his teammates at a banquet.
Feliz is scheduled to pitch Tuesday vs. Seattle.
Manager Ron Washington said the young starter's simulated game should be the finishing touches to make sure he's ready for the 2012 season.
"Yes because last time he did close to 90 [pitches] and we got him where we wanted to get him," said Washington, alluding to Feliz's last start of the spring. "I think he did a good job of making adjustments. He's coming along. The first inning, last time out, he had out there was rough. He got out of it with minimal damage, and then the next three innings he [looked] pretty good using his stuff."
Here's the rotation to start the season, with the opposing pitcher:
Friday-Saturday, Rangers vs. White Sox
- Friday: Colby Lewis vs. John Danks
- Saturday: Derek Holland vs. Jake Peavy
- Sunday: Matt Harrison vs. Gavin Floyd
|Steve Busby joins Galloway & Company on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM to discuss the state of the Rangers' rotation, realistic expectations for Yu Darvish and the rivalry between the Rangers and Angels. |
"Overall, I really felt good about my outing today," Darvish said through an interpreter. "Today was probably an outing where I tried to do different things."
The first inning started a little rough for Darvish because he got behind 3-0 to leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar. But after a few foul balls, Darvish got the strikeout. He next struck out Leury Garcia, and after a walk to Mike Olt, Davish retired Chris McGuiness on a flyout to left to end the inning.
"Sometimes we make it tougher by spotting them a 3-0 count, but it's a testament to your stuff, I'm never out of the at-bat," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "Guy came over here [with] a lot of hoopla and first couple of outings were rough, they were tough, man. It got better each time out. He said that's OK, that's fine, no big deal. Well, we're all expecting more, and at the end of the day, you look at him and it was no big deal."
Everyone who talks about the hyped right-hander said he's pitched enough in the spring and made the necessary adjustments to be ready for the 2012 season Monday night versus Seattle.
"Yes, I was able to accomplish everything and I feel very good about where I am right now," Darvish said.
Considering how good he's looked toward the end of spring training, the Rangers have a quality No. 4 starter who has the ability to move up the rotation.
"Outstanding, had good stuff today," manager Ron Washington said. "The two-seam [fastball] was running well. He used all his pitches, kept the ball down. He did a good job, a real good job. He did exactly what you're supposed to do when you come to spring training, and each time you take the ball get better, and he did. That's the progression for everybody in spring training."
The Rangers end spring training at 13-17-1 after having won their last six games and nine of their last 10. Texas didn't win three consecutive Cactus League games all spring.
Darvish pitches well: Right-hander Yu Darvish ended his spring with four shutout innings. He gave up two hits, walked two and struck out five. Darvish said after his start that he worked on his curveball and thought overall it was good. He said he accomplished everything he wanted to accomplish in the spring and is ready for his major league debut Monday versus Seattle.
No Cruz or Adams: Nelson Cruz was a scratch after getting hit on the elbow Tuesday night. He should be fine for Friday's home opener. Mike Adams also wasn't available after getting hit on the calf Tuesday. Manager Ron Washington said he's sore but ready for Friday.
Early runs set the tone: As for the game, Josh Hamilton drove in Ian Kinsler with a double to right center in the first for a 1-0 lead. Michael Young brought Hamilton in with a single for a 2-0 advantage. In the second, after a leadoff walk, David Murphy scored on a suicide squeeze by Craig Gentry for a 3-0 lead. It was all the Rangers would need.
Cruz suffered a bruised left elbow when he was hit by a pitch in the third inning of the 13-4 win over the Mexico City Diablos Rojos on Tuesday night.
Manager Ron Washington said Cruz is getting treatment and is a little sore but should be ready for Friday's season opener versus the Chicago White Sox.
"From the way it looked last night, he should be ready," Washington said.
Adams suffered a bruised left calf when he was hit by a line drive.
Washington said Adams is OK and should be ready to go Friday.
Both players were unavailable for Wednesday's exhibition finale at the Frisco RoughRiders.
Heilman, 33, pitched with Seattle before he was released Sunday.
This spring, Heilman allowed one run over four innings in four "A" games for the Mariners.
Last season, Heilman appeared in 32 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks and also pitched in the minors for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies.
Heilman is a nine-year veteran with a career mark of 35-46 with a 4.40 ERA. He's pitched for the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Arizona in his career.
Starting pitchers (5)
Relief pitchers (7)
Alberto Gonzalez (utility infielder)
Brandon Snyder (bench, also learning OF)
Michael Young (also the primary DH)
Harrison, who had a 1.69 ERA in 16 Cactus League innings, needed 20 pitches to get out of the first. He allowed two singles -- a chopper over the mound and a line drive up the middle -- and a run on a hard-hit sacrifice fly in the frame.
The only other hit that Harrison allowed in the Rangers’ win over the Mexico City Diablos Rojos was an RBI single in the fourth. Michael Young couldn’t make the play diving to his left, but it probably would have been an out if Gold Glover Adrian Beltre was at third base. The run was unearned because the baserunner reached when Double-A outfielder Engel Beltre dropped a routine fly ball to shallow right.
Harrison struck out five and didn’t allow any walks. He threw 69 pitches in four innings, 46 of which were strikes.
“I’m glad to finish on a good note before the season starts up,” said Harrison, who had a breakthrough season with a 14-9 record and 3.39 ERA in 2011. “I had a little bit of trouble in the first inning trying to find my command, but after that I was able to settle in and get some quick outs and get ahead of guys. Pretty comfortable with how the day went.”
Healthy Hamilton: Josh Hamilton showed no indications that his groin, which tightened up near the end of spring training, is still bothering him.
Hamilton hit a bullet to the right-center gap for a double in the first inning and looked good sprinting to second. He also had no problem tracking down a fly ball fairly deep in the gap in the top of the third. He finished 2-for-3 with two runs.
“I really wanted to try to steal third but decided I better not, just in case, you know,” said Hamilton, who is still getting treatment on the groin but called that a precautionary measure. “I didn’t want to push it. But everything feels good.”
Young keeps raking: Michael Young hit what should have had a home run in the first inning, blasting a shot that ricocheted off the concrete wall over the 404-foot sign in center field. The umpires ruled it an RBI double despite a brief protest by Rangers manager Ron Washington.
“If this was Friday, it’d matter,” Young said. “Not now.”
Young went 2-for-2 with another RBI double, a laser beam down the third-base line. The outing was a continuation of Young’s spectacular spring. He hit .423 in Cactus League games.
Painful outing for Adams: Right-handed set-up man Mike Adams faced only two batters, allowing a double and getting an ouch-inducing out.
Mexico City’s Oscar Robles hit a sharp grounder up the middle that ricocheted off Adams’ left calf to first baseman Mike Olt, who stepped on the bag to get the out. After consulting with Washington and head athletic trainer Jamie Reed, Adams walked off the field.
Kinsler goes deep again: Ian Kinsler homered for the sixth time in 14 games. He led off the bottom of the fourth by driving an 0-1 pitch an estimated 398 feet into the visitors’ bullpen past the left-center field fence. Kinsler also came a couple of feet away from homering to straightaway center field in the first inning.
Nathan strikes out side: Closer Joe Nathan’s first inning of work went as well as possible. He struck out the side in the fifth, needing only 11 pitches to get through the inning. Nathan threw seven fastballs, all clocked between 91 and 93 mph.
Nathan gave up a single and an unearned run in the next inning. He left with two outs after minor league third baseman Christian Valenzuela’s throwing error extended the inning and allowed the run to score.
An MRI revealed the extent of the injury, suffered Saturday night in the club's penultimate Catcus League game on Saturday night.
Cotts, 31, felt something as he threw a wild pitch to the final batter he faced in his lone inning of work in that game. He was one of just two remaining left-handed pitchers on the roster at that time. The next morning, Robbie Ross was named to the roster as the club's only left-handed reliever.
Cotts hasn't pitched in a major league game since 2009 because of injuries. He had Tommy John surgery that season, missing all of 2010. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip and got an infection from it. That required three more surgeries and he said earlier in camp that it was the hip, not Tommy John, that was keeping teams from calling him to give him a shot.
Cotts started in minor league camp this spring, but quickly impressed coaches in his bullpen sessions and intrasquad games and was moved to major league camp. He pitched consistently all spring.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.