Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Thoughts on a Rangers-Brewers game
PHOENIX -- The Brewers' spring training ballpark technically owns a Phoenix address, but everyone refers to the neighborhood as Maryvale, part of West Phoenix developed in the 1950s and '60s. Phoenix divides itself into areas called urban villages, with Maryvale one of those 15 urban villages, although with Phoenix's grid layout, it's hard to know you driving from one village into another unless you happen to see the street sign.
Tickets to Brewers games are much less expensive than you'd find for the Giants, Cubs or Angels, but plenty of good seats were available. If you're just looking to watch a spring training game with a seat as close to the field as possible, I'd recommend checking out Maryvale. Plus, you can buy a souvenir beer or soda in a Seattle Pilots cup, which is worth the trip all by itself.
A few random thoughts on a game that featured an interesting pitching matchup between the Rangers' Martin Perez and the Brewers' Marco Estrada.
- Perez's final line didn't look so good -- five runs in five innings -- but he pitched well enough, keeping the ball down in the zone and flashing some plus sliders to go along with his very good changeup. He was perfect through three innings with an efficient 32 pitches before the Brewers scored four runs in the fifth with the help of a fly ball lost in the sun. The one guy Perez couldn't figure out was Carlos Gomez, who swatted a long three-run homer to left in the fifth and doubled hard down the third-base line in the fourth. Perez now lines up as the Rangers' No. 2 starter behind Yu Darvish and the big test will be if he can increase his workload from 167.2 innings last season to closer to 200.
- Estrada, facing a split-squad lineup of Shin-Soo Choo, Leonys Martin and minor leaguers, cruised through six scoreless innings, showing his usual strike-throwing ability. Estrada's pure stuff will always grade below average thanks to an 88-90 fastball, but he commands the strike zone and the little hesitation in his delivery -- he pauses briefly right as he brings his leg up and pushes towards home plate -- seems to work in his favor as its a bit of an unusual motion. He does pitch up in the zone, which leads to home runs, but on this day the Rangers minor leaguers hit a bunch of harmless fly balls. Estrada has a 3.75 ERA over the past two seasons while ranking behind only Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright in strikeout/walk ratio (250 innings minimum). He's part of a Brewers rotation that needs to improve. Matt Garza will help and reports were that Yovani Gallardo was throwing 94 in his last start, a good sign after his velocity dipped into the low 90s last season.
- Mark Reynolds hit a grand slam off Michael Kirkman that bounced off the top of the fence in center (it was upheld via replay), his first homer of the spring. After hitting .301 with eight home runs in April for the Indians, Reynolds eventually hit his way out of Cleveland, batting .202 the rest of the season between the Indians and Yankees. I'm doubtful he can help much but it appears the Brewers will go with a first-base platoon of Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, as Ron Roenicke goes with defense over Juan Francisco's bat (not that his bat is all that noteworthy). It's likely the Brewers end up with among the worst first-base production in the majors.
- Speaking of defense, Rickie Weeks dropped a foul pop. Weeks is still fighting Scooter Gennett for the second base job. That could end up as another platoon as Gennett bats left-handed.
- One area of concern for the Rangers is the bench. While Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar will play nearly every day in the infield, if one goes down with an injury the Rangers could have issues. Andy Parrino, Adam Rosales and Luis Sardinas are on the 40-man roster but none can hit. Brent Lillibridge and Josh Wilson are non-roster guys with major league experience who played in this game, but they can't hit either. The outfield depth includes Michael Choice, who will make the team as the fourth outfielder, and not much else. Engel Beltre was once a top-100 prospect but his bat is a question mark.
- Ronald Guzman is a lanky, 6-5 first baseman for the Rangers, signed for $3.45 million in 2011 as one of the top hitting prospects in Latin American. He's just 19 and played last year in Class A, although missed a lot of time with a broken hand. He showed off his smooth stroke with this home run in the ninth inning, his second in three games with the big boys, although he misplayed a potential double play at first base (dropping a throw from left fielder Brad Snyder that would have doubled off Weeks). A name to watch this year to see if he grows into his power potential.