Texas Rangers: 2013 WBC
"He thought I called the wrong Maddux," Torre said. Greg Maddux's brother, Mike, is the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers. "He said, 'Well, let me think about it.' He called me back the next day and said he'd love to."
Greg is busy helping his brother coach pitchers in Surprise, Ariz., with the Rangers. Greg's title is special assistant to the GM, but he helps the pitchers prepare for the season in spring training and then travels from time-to-time to the minor league clubs (and rejoins the big league club when needed) during the season.
Now, he'll get a chance to share his wisdom with a group of pitchers for the United States team in the World Baseball Classic, which starts in early March.
"I think that it's going to be a benefit for these pitchers to be exposed to this guy for a few weeks," Torre said. "I think it's going to be a great benefit for them because they certainly know who he is and what he is about. He's so dedicated. He finds a way to win. He was never 95 mph. It was about trying to outsmart you, out-finesse you, whatever it was. He had a great look in his eye."
Torre said he was asked recently if there was on player he would have liked to have managed and he said that Maddux was that player until late in the 2008 season, when Greg joined Torre in a Dodger uniform.
"I always admired what he did," Torre said. "He used to frustrate me watching it because it was against my teams. I always just admired how business-like he was and how grounded he was. When I got him over with the Dodgers he was every bit what you hoped he would be."
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Ogando said it was hard not to play in the World Baseball Classic, but he felt a full spring training with the club was critical for him.
"I have an opportunity to be a starter," Ogando said. "That's what I want. I want to work hard."
Ogando started in 2011 and was impressive enough out of the gate to earn an All-Star spot. He ended up 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 169 innings, but hit a wall in the second half and was moved to the bullpen. Ogando was a weapon in the postseason, only to hit a wall again in the World Series. Now, he has the task of showing he can accumulate a high-inning count and not get fatigued. He's worked on his strength this offseason and said he's lost five or six pounds (as an aside, Ogando looked trim and fit as he walked in today, for what that's worth).
But Ogando also realizes that his fastball -- a radar-gun breaker that is extremely tough to hit -- can't be his only way of getting opponents out. As pitching coach Mike Maddux likes to say (his brother, Greg, will tell you the same thing), it's a matter of having enough tools in the tool box and knowing when to use them. Ogando's fastball can act as a hammer. But he's adding some other tools too. He said he worked on his changeup this offseason, not to mention a two-seam fastball. Add that to his slider -- Ogando says he throws a soft and hard one (one at 81 or 82 mph, the other at 87 or 88 mph). When he was starting in 2011, he was basically throwing a fastball and slider.
Ogando said it's easier to go into the season as a starter and then, if needed, go back to the bullpen. Of course, he plans on staying in the rotation.
"I want to start," Ogando said. "I'm ready to do that."
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With all of that in mind, it makes sense for Profar to stay in camp. First, Elvis Andrus is playing in the WBC, so Profar could get some time at shortstop -- or other spots -- in Cactus League games while he's out, which certainly couldn't hurt his development or chances of making the club. Second, he can spend the whole spring around the coaches and front office folks that will make the key decisions on the roster.
But I'm sure the Dutch want Profar to play. His fans in Curacao surely do and I'm sure they're letting him know that. He's got friends that are playing and I'm sure he'd enjoy it. It's not as if playing in the WBC would be a negative, either. He'd get a chance to play against some top international competition and participate in meaningful games. There's nothing wrong with that. But the Dutch play in Taiwan for pool play March 2-5. He'd have to travel there and miss probably a week (maybe more) of spring training, just for the pool play. If they advance, it would mean more time.
It's tough to say no to your country in these types of competition. And while I could sit here and tell you I'm sure Profar will get many more chances to play in the WBC in his career, that's not a guarantee either. Still, I think he's better off getting a full spring training in and gaining that experience. He's clearly got the tools to play in the big leagues, but he is short on professional experience. Every spring training drill, game and workout helps him in his career path. That's especially true if he's going to dabble at some different positions. But understand that it's a tough decision for him to make.
What would you do if you were Profar?
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With Adrian Beltre firmly holding down third base and the club committed to seeing with Mitch Moreland can do, moving Olt to right field -- especially in light of what may or may not happen to Nelson Cruz in terms of a suspension -- makes sense.
The question that the Rangers will have to ask is whether it's beneficial for the club and Profar or Olt to have them in the big leagues even if they aren't starters. The key is getting them enough action.
"I know Wash has talked about giving the regulars a little more rest, and there may be a role carved out for one of these guys," Daniels said. "It may not be a seven-day-a-week starting job, but a chance to impact the team. We’ll be open to that."
Daniels added that he doesn't want to have them on the team if they aren't going to at least see some decent time. He noted that Leonys Martin was with the big club and barely played. But with few bench options as it stands now, manager Ron Washington could turn to the young players more often. And as Daniels points out, Washington intends to rest his regulars a little more in 2013.
So the Rangers will let things play out. It's a bit of a departure from what Daniels said in January when Lance Berkman was introduced. It seemed pretty clear then that Profar would end up in the minors because there wasn't an everyday role available. At this point, there still isn't one. But the organization appears more open to having him come off the bench, if it's the right situation. Nothing is set in stone, and for Profar or Olt to make the club they'd have to show some versatility so they can be plugged into different spots.
It should be very interesting to see how they do, see if MLB announces anything on Cruz before the season starts and if the front office is convinced that Profar and/or Olt would get enough playing time to warrant breaking with the club despite not having a starting spot.
If they prove to be the best of the bunch in camp and Washington is committed to playing them at least once or twice a week, I can see the temptation. Could it lead to even more playing time as things go along? Sure, if they earn it. But they have to be getting some sort of time initially and not just sitting for weeks at a time. I'm more apt to give them a chance to get more at-bats in Triple-A and play every day, even if it's for a few months. But we'll see. All of that will depend on exactly what the role might be and if the club deems that a few games a week in the big leagues is better than seven in the minors. With injuries and other things, it could become more than a few games a week, too. You never know. That's why you have to let spring play out and see what happens. (Let's not forget that if Profar starts in the minors and stays there for a little under two months, he won't accrue a year of service time and you'd have him under team control for a year longer.)
Would you keep Profar or Olt on the roster if they aren't starting or would you send them to Triple-A to give them every day at-bats?
Nathan was approached by U.S. manager Joe Torre, who wanted to gauge the veteran reliever’s interest.
“I asked if I could give them an answer in a couple of weeks and they said, ‘No problem,’” Nathan said. “We left it at that.”
Nathan, 38, had 37 saves in 64 1/3 innings with a 2.80 ERA in 2012. He had 78 strikeouts and 13 walks in his first season in Texas.
He played for the U.S. team in the first WBC in 2006, but did not play in 2009.
Nathan said he’s focused on making sure he’s fresh down the stretch of 2013, too.
“We want to make sure as we hit those later months that I’m as good as I can be for this club,” Nathan said. “If the WBC isn’t part of that equation, obviously I back out.”
Greg Maddux is the pitching coach for the U.S. team. He’s also a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels and has worked with pitchers throughout the Rangers organization the past year.
Daniels has said in the past that the club supports the WBC.
Maddux joins the staff managed by Joe Torre. The other coaches named on Monday: Larry Bowa (bench coach), Marcel Lachemann (bullpen/pitching coach), Dale Murphy (first base coach), Gerald Perry (hitting coach) and Willie Randolph (third base coach). Maddux, who won four NL Cy Young Awards and was an eight-time All-Star during his big league career, will oversee Team USA's pitching staff with Lachemann.
The WBC will take place in March. Maddux worked with Rangers pitchers in spring training and joined the club (and some of its minor-league affiliates) from time to time during the season to offer instruction.
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