Sunday, February 23, 2014
Some thoughts on Week 1: Cruz, injuries
By Richard Durrett
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It was just last Sunday that pitchers and catchers reported for the beginning of spring training. And it has been a crazy first week for the Texas Rangers. Some general thoughts on the first week:
* This has not been a good start. The No. 1 goal in spring training is to stay healthy and that has been an issue already. Catcher Geovany Soto had surgery Saturday to deal with a bone in his foot that was pushing against the flexor tendon, which helps the movement of the toes. Soto is expected to resume baseball activity in 10 days and to be full-go in three weeks. But that's assuming everything goes as planned. The Rangers believe he'll be ready for Opening Day.
Matt Harrison heads back to Dallas on Sunday so that Dr. Drew Dossett can take a look at his tight back. Harrison said Saturday that his back felt "100 percent," though he was at a loss to explain why. Maybe more tests and an exam by Dossett can answer that question. But even if everything is fine and Harrison is given the OK to start baseball activities again, he's going to be a week or 10 days behind. We'll see how that impacts his timetable and availability when the season opens.
Tanner Scheppers (back) and Neftali Feliz (tight shoulder) started the spring behind, but feel better and are throwing again. The club will be carefully monitoring their progress.
But all four of the players mentioned above are critical to the club and expected to have key roles. It was not the kind of start to the spring anybody with the organization wanted.
* It turns out that the multiyear deal Nelson Cruz wanted never materialized in the end. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweeted Saturday: "Execs from rival clubs say Nelson Cruz turned down multiple 2 and 3 yr offers before signing 1-yr deal with Orioles."
The Rangers kept in contact with Cruz's agent, Adam Katz, throughout the offseason, but sources said Cruz wanted to go where he could play some outfield and not be treated solely as a DH. He believes he'll get more playing time in the outfieled in Baltimore. It's clear the Rangers' best defensive outfield is what they currently have with Shin-Soo Choo in left, Leonys Martin in center and Alex Rios in right. Cruz would have to be the DH to get most of his at-bats in Texas. He'll DH in Baltimore too but should get more of a chance to play the outfield.
That's too bad because Cruz's right-handed bat at DH would have really helped this lineup. But with the way things are going, if the Rangers end up having to spend any more money (and they don't have much more they can spend after busting the budget this offseason), pitching seems like the bigger need.
But what a stunning end to Cruz's offseason. Teams value draft picks and players will have to adjust. This offseason is a lesson for players and agents next year.
If you had told me Cruz would sign for one year at $8 million, I would have bet you it was with the Rangers.
One more thing on Cruz: I'll be trying to draft him in my fantasy league. I think he'll do well in that stadium and will be extremely motivated.
* Cruz's signing means the Rangers will receive a supplemental first-round selection, somewhere around 33 -- though it could be a better pick depending on what else happens this offseason (see Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales). Draft picks are valuable commodities, so the Rangers at least get something with Cruz's departure. It will be interesting to see what happens to Morales, a Scott Boras client who could not have liked what he saw Cruz get Saturday.
* Colby Lewis is amazing. The guy had a hip surgery that's usually for guys who have retired and is now going to test it in new ways. No pitcher has put the kind of stress on the hip after this kind of surgery that Lewis will, but so far, things are going well. It's going to be intriguing to see how he does in Cactus League games.
* The emphasis on situational hitting is serious. That's not a surprise for anyone who saw this team's inability to consistently score in the key moments. But Tim Bogar and the coaching staff turned it into a fun competition that makes the end of workout days very lively. Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre have had fun with it. You can see some video here: http://instagram.com/p/kusKBcyadv/ and read about the games here.
* Shin-Soo Choo is impressive. He's smooth and consistent even in the batting cages.
* First impressions of bench coach Bogar: He's very organized and extremely knowledgeable. He has put together the spring-training plan and spends time at various fields helping with various drills when needed. Manager Ron Washington raves about him, which is also important.