Texas Rangers: Surprise

Notes: Michael Kirkman ready to step up

February, 11, 2013
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Michael Kirkman walked into the clubhouse in Surprise this morning determined that this spring was going to be different.

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Kirkman isn't a newcomer to the big league side of the Surprise Complex, but he's never been able to fully take advantage of the opportunities given him. At 26 years old, he knows he needs to take a step forward and prove he can be a quality reliever with staying power. Kirkman was 1-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 28 games (35 1/3 innings) for the Rangers in 2012. He was 5-1 with a 5.25 ERA in 48 innings with Triple-A Round Rock. He got better as the year progressed, but his spring struggles didn't allow him to seize an important job in the bullpen. Kirkman's goal this year is to become a late-inning performer in meaningful games. To do that, he needs a solid spring.

"I'm tired of getting here and having mediocre games almost every time out, maybe one good game and then a really bad one and it would be over," Kirkman said. "I want to get here and perform to my capability and get this camp over with and get the season started.

Kirkman said he's worked with pitching coach Mike Maddux on tightening his command (that includes shortening his arm behind him as he goes through his routine).

"I've really had a hard time in spring the past few years and I don't know if it's that the arm wasn't ready," Kirkman said. "It should be. I'm more ready this year than I have been in the past, physically. My arm should be right there. Totally, across the board, it feels more ready than it has in the past. Arm strength is better than it's been."

Other notes:

* Manager Ron Washington is in Surprise and came in with his pancake glove -- a flat glove used to help with fielding. He's ready to get going and will meet with his coaches some in the next few days to finalize all of the plans.

* Several hitters are already here, including Ian Kinsler, Mike Olt, Craig Gentry, Engel Beltre and others. They don't have to report until Friday, but most will get here before that date.

* Derek Holland was among a large group of pitchers heading out for a workout one day before they are all due to report.

* It's also cold out here. Players were bundled up as they went out to the back fields.

Welcome to spring training in Surprise

February, 10, 2013
SURPRISE, Ariz. – Greetings from the desert. From now until Opening Day, we’ll be updating you on what’s going on with the Texas Rangers as they prepare for the 2013 season. A few things to look for in the coming weeks:
  • Pitchers and catchers work out for the first time in a few days and the position players will follow shortly thereafter. Look for updates on a variety of players as they trickle in and get going.
  • As players rehab from injury this spring, you’ll get a frequent injury report to update you on their progress.
  • At the end of each day (once workouts begin in earnest), a post titled “Surprise Six” will recap the day for you with six key things that occurred. It’s a chance to catch up on the day in case you missed anything.
  • We’ll have some chats and videos to keep you updated as well and get you involved as the season begins to take shape.
  • Look for various notes throughout the days as manager Ron Washington discusses the key issues surrounding the team.

So be sure and join us from Arizona. Football season is over, folks. It’s time for baseball.

Brad Hawpe will begin spring at first base

February, 24, 2012
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brad Hawpe, the first baseman/outfielder the Rangers picked up this offseason, will begin spring training working exclusively at first base. He had Tommy John surgery on June 26 and is still recovering. The only thing he can't do is make long throws right now, so he'll start at first base.

"If we get the Brad Hawpe everybody remembers, we'll find a place for him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Hawpe arrived at camp in a cheerful mood. He feels like he's made good progress recovering from the surgery and feels good in the batting cages.

"Really, it's been a regular offseason for me," Hawpe said. "I've worked to build the arm strength and so the only difference was two-a-days instead of one with rehab in the mornings before my workout."

Hawpe knows he has an opportunity to make the club and is prepared to do whatever he's asked. He was signed as insurance with Mitch Moreland arriving at spring training coming off wrist surgery. But Moreland believes he's only a few days behind everyone else and if healthy, is expected to be the starting first baseman. Still, the Rangers have room on the bench and Hawpe is one player that is in the mix for that spot. Thanks in large part to the injury, Hawpe has struggled of late. But from 2006 to 2009 with Colorado, he was a reliable hitter who batted .288 in that span.

"My goal every year is to be an All-Star caliber player on a championship-caliber team," Hawpe said. "That's the bottom line. That's not going to change whether I'm on a multi-year deal or a nonguaranteed year. I'm still trying to be the same player."

Hawpe said if he can show he can play, then he believes they'll be a spot in the lineup for him when needed.

"That's the way the game works," Hawpe said. "For whatever positions you're playing, the best guy that can win the most games plays, everytime. It's not a competition in a clubhouse for that, it's just as a group for everybody to be the best and then somebody else makes decisions. There are plenty of at-bats to go around."

Hawpe has marveled at what the Rangers have done in such a short time, becoming one of the top teams in baseball.

"I think it's the most impressive team in the league right now," Hawpe said. "They are all coming back from a team that was just right there. Everybody is here, they've got some young guys that are still improving, the older guys aren't old, they are established, veteran players and are not on the decline. It sounds incredible. It's a great team."

New fan entrance for morning workouts

February, 22, 2012
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have a new entrance for fans coming to spring training to watch the workouts on the back fields.The first day fans can watch the club is Thursday, when the pitchers and catchers take the field for the first official workouts. It's open at 10 a.m. Here's the detailed information from the club:

The practice fields at the Rangers complex will open to the public each day at 10:00 a.m. MT. Fans are advised that there is a new public entrance to the Rangers practice fields. Fans should now enter the practice fields from the east side of the complex on Bullard Avenue through the gate located between Fields 1 and 2. Ample free parking is located across the street from the new entrance on Bullard Ave.

The new east side entrance to the practice fields will make it much more convenient for fans once the Cactus League games begin in March. Fans will be able to access both the practice fields and Surprise Stadium from the east side and have to park only once to do so. Previously, with the practice field entrances on the west side off Parkview, it was necessary to drive to the other side of the complex to gain access to Surprise Stadium. Please note that fans may no longer access the practice fields from the west side of the complex.

Workouts will continue on the back fields until the beginning of Cactus League play with Rangers intrasquad games scheduled for March 1 and 2 at 12 noon on Field 1. Once the games begin, the Rangers will take batting practice on the practice fields on most days. Access to the practice fields is free of charge.

The Rangers begin Cactus League play by hosting the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, March 4 at 12:05 p.m. MT. Tickets for all Rangers home games at Surprise Stadium are available at the Surprise Stadium box office, by calling 800-745-3000, or at texasrangers.com.

Welcome to Surprise, everyone

February, 21, 2012
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's the day before pitchers and catchers report, meaning spring training really is here. Was it that long ago that Game 7 of the World Series ended?

We'll be here throughout spring to update you on the club's progress and give you a sense of how they are preparing for the 2012 season. We'll have some chats, blog entries, stories and columns the next six weeks as we count down to Opening Day.

So join us here on the ESPNDallas.com Texas Rangers blog and be sure and listen to ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM, the Rangers' flagship station, for constant Ranger talk.

Some general info about Surprise

February, 20, 2012
We're just a few days before pitchers and catchers report and ESPN Dallas will begin daily updates from spring training this week (I arrive later today).

For those of you thinking of going to Surprise, Ariz., to see the Rangers at spring training, here is some basic information and some web sites to keep handy:

Tickets: You can purchase spring training tickets by going to the Rangers web site here or calling 1-800-745-3000 or going in person to the Surprise Stadium box office. Here are the hours and directions to the stadium box office.

Practice fields: Some of the best opportunities to see the players up close and attempt to get an autograph is before games are played, either during the next few weeks (games start March 4) or in the mornings before games are played while the club is working out. Expect increased security not only because of Yu Darvish, but because the Rangers are now the two-time defending AL champions and that means more folks want to come see them.

What to do in Surprise: There is more to Surprise than baseball, though that's the economic driver this time of year. And I'll remind you that with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in the AL West now, not to mention a host of other big league clubs, it's fun to travel around and see other facilities and other teams while you are in the Phoenix area.

But here's the official Surprise, Ariz., city web site with links to golf, parks, and other activities. There are more than 300 golf courses in the state and nearly 200 in the Phoenix area alone. So if you're a golfer, it's a great place for you. That also includes about a half-dozen courses in and around Surprise. Click here to find those.

Eating: In the first few years the Rangers and Royals shared Surprise Recreation Complex, there wasn't much in the way of food in Surprise. But every year, it seems the city is adding restaurants and now has just about something for every taste. Paradise Bakery is a popular lunch spot for sandwiches, salads and its proximity to the ballpark. But if you want Mexican, Italian, burgers, sushi and pizza -- Phoenix is actually known for its pizza (I recommend Grimaldi's in Glendale, though there are some good pizza places in Surprise too).

Walking/running: The weather really is nice for outdoor running and walking and there's a nice, large park right near the stadium too. It's got plenty of good playground equipment for kids to run around and play.

I'll share more with you once I get there and see what's new in and around Surprise.

Truck of goodies headed to Surprise

February, 15, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers loaded a huge 18-wheeler full of stuff and a crew began the 18-hour drive to Surprise, Ariz., on Tuesday.

So what were some of the things inside that truck? A look:

* 100 cases of baseballs. That breaks down to 1,800 dozen balls -- 1,000 dozen of the regular balls and another 800 dozen of the balls marked "practice." The practice balls don't cost as much to make and are, consequently, about $10 cheaper per dozen. That's nearly 22,000 baseballs at a price tag of $115,275. The club will likely bring back about 200 dozen and will then re-stock for the regular season.

"Some of our guys hit one of those balls out on one pitch and they're gone," Rangers equipment manager Richard "Hoggy" Price said. "And it depends on how many they give away too."

Many of those balls are already "rubbed," thanks to bullpen catcher Josh Frasier and a deal he has with a school in Rockwall. He hosts a party every Super Bowl Sunday and the group breaks in the baseballs while watching the game.

* 200 helmets

* Two dozen bats for each player on the team. Many of those aren't actually in the truck, but they'll be shipped to Arizona. The club gets a list of what kind of bat each player uses and then purchases the bats. The cost: About $100 per bat. For most players, like Michael Young, two dozens bats is enough to use the entire spring training. For others, like Josh Hamilton, it won't be. Not only does Hamilton break some of them, but he'll likely lose a few in the crowd too.

"I used to see that as a bat flying into the stands, but now I see a 100 dollar bill flying," Price said. "Josh breaks more bats and goes through more of them than anybody."

* 20 cases of sunflower seeds. The club brings various kinds for the players and coaches.

* 50 cases of coffee. Price likes to be sure the team and the staff have the coffee they like. But he also prefers to shop and use the club's sponsors in Texas, where prices are cheaper, than shopping in Arizona.

* David Murphy said he's got a dollhouse and some other toys on the truck. It's stuff his wife packed for his kids, who will be going to spring training as well. That's not unusual. Many players will have their families with them since it's such a long stay in Surprise. So toys will make the journey west.

Price said he remembers getting the largest U-Haul truck he could in the late 1970s and driving to Florida with everything he could imagine. It would take nearly three days.

"Now, we've got a facility that's used year round, so you don't need quite as much," Price said. "That's nice."

The truck will be fully unloaded by Friday and everything set up quickly thereafter. By the time activity heats up next week, all the food and equipment will be ready to go.

Darren O'Day pleased with sinking action

March, 22, 2011
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Darren O'Day was just happy to see some movement on his pitches in a Triple-A game on the backfields in Surprise (Kansas City side) on Tuesday.

O'Day, who has struggled this spring in Cactus League play, said the key is staying down with his delivery and not coming up too soon. He went two innings and gave up a run on three hits with three strikeouts in 34 pitches. He got one strikeout on a high fastball and two on sliders (including one on a 3-2 count for a swinging strike three).

After his first inning, pitching coach Mike Maddux had a brief talk with him about his delivery and O'Day made some minor adjustments.

"When the ball is flat and you make a mistake, you'll get hit," O'Day said. "But if your ball has movement and you make a mistake, you've got a better chance of getting away with it."

Yorvit Torrealba helps 'change' things up

March, 13, 2011
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- One thing Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba picked up during those offseason video sessions in front of the television at his house was which pitches his new hurlers had in their repertoire, but didn't really want to throw.

"Spring training is the perfect time to work on those pitches and try to gain confidence," Torrealba said. "For a lot of the younger ones, it was the changeup."

So Torrealba came in to Surprise and decided he was going to do whatever he could to force some of the young Rangers pitchers to throw that change in games.

He saw on video that Derek Holland wasn't afraid to throw his fastball and slider, but didn't do much with the change.

"It was his third best pitch," Torrealba said. "But it's a good pitch for him too. He's thrown it well in bullpens and now we're making him throw it in games.

Torrealba did the same thing with Tommy Hunter the other night, forcing him to throw the pitch in some different counts to get a feel for it. Hunter was working on the changeup more in his session with live hitters on Thursday too.

"We've got guys with good fastballs and good movement on their breaking pitches," Torrealba said. "When you can change speeds and give them the changeup, it really fools you."

Michael Kirkman said he was a little surprised a few days ago to see Torrealba call the pitch to the third batter he faced. Improving the changeup was something Kirkman wanted to do this spring along with getting his curve ball working.

"But I thought, 'Why not? Let's throw the change here,'" Kirkman said. "If he feels the confidence to call it, I need to have the confidence to throw it."

Torrealba hasn't had many pitchers shake him off, even as he gets used to what they are throwing and how to best sequence it in the game. Part of that comes from the fact that Torrealba has tried to talk to his pitchers and get to know them. And the pitchers, especially the young ones, know he has been in the major leagues for a while catching good pitching staffs.

"I've been impressed by these guys," Torrealba said. "They are working hard and pitching well. Everyone is getting ready for the season and staying focused."

That includes the catcher.

A quick fan guide to Surprise, Arizona

February, 14, 2011
Are you coming to Surprise, Ariz., for spring training? If so, here are some links and information you might find helpful as you plan your trip:

* Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday. From the end of this week through most of March, players will be working out on the back fields of Surprise. That includes the Major League club and the minors. Those sessions are free and it's a great chance to see some of your favorite players up close in a relaxed atmosphere.

* Trying to get autographs? The best time to do that is during those morning workouts. Sometimes they'll sign before they go to various stations, but many times you can have good luck getting them right after the workouts are completed as they start to gather and head back to the clubhouse.

* Where can you eat in Surprise? Back when the Rangers and Royals first opened the Surprise Complex there was really next to nothing in terms of food. It gets better every year (and when I get there, I'll update you more on that as new places pop up). Here is a link of restaurants that you can look at by type. I won't single out any particular restaurant on the blog (out of fairness), but if you email me at rdurrettjr@aol.com and are wondering about some specific types, I can help you.

* What is there to do in Surprise? Check out the official city link here and the chamber of commerce web site here. There are plenty of parks and some huge playgrounds for the kids after the activity at the park is over.

* Tickets to the games can be purchased here at the club's website. My recommendation would be to pick out some games and order those tickets now. Ticket sales were up 47 percent from last year as of last week, so don't wait around. For those that haven't been, the stadium and complex is one of the nicest in Arizona for spring training.

You can keep up with all the Rangers spring training action here at ESPNDallas.com and on 103.3 (FM) ESPN, the official home of the Rangers all season. You can also follow me on twitter @espn_durrett to check out various notes and video from spring training.



Adrian Beltre
.324 19 77 79
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182