Date: April 8th
Rangers’ Record: 1-3 (4th, 1.5 games behind HOU)
Tonight’s Opponent: Oakland Athletics
Tonight’s Starters: Kendall Graveman (1-0, 3.00) vs. Yu Darvish (0-0, 5.68)
It’s April 8th, which I have been informed is celebrated as Buddha’s birthday in Japan. That’s a pretty tenuous connection as far as a lede goes on Yu Darvish day, but between baseball and sirens and children’s Saturday morning soccer games, that’s about as clever as it’s going to get this evening.
The Rangers aren’t in last place anymore (Hi, down there, Anah-- *spit-takes an entire mouthful of coffee a full 180°, like a sprinkler* Seattle?!?) and with a win tonight, Texas could pull into a tie for third with Oakland. It’s not the short miseries you have to look out for in baseball, it’s the long ones.
1. The Rangers won last night, and Nomar Mazara, Alex Claudio, and Carlos Gomez made up the cerberus of the game. Here’s the story, if you missed it.
2. We don’t know anything more about Adrian Beltre’s ETA in the Rangers’ lineup, other than to say: he took live batting practice this morning, and has done some base running. He won’t be making any surprise appearances in Frisco tonight. We’ll see about tomorrow.
3. A.J. Griffin’s right palm is pretty scraped up after he dove to try to keep an errant Nomar Mazara throw from going into the camera well. He, uh… he whiffed on the catch (“I didn’t (save two runs), the pole did.” he admitted this morning). and ended up with scrapes on both knees and his hand.
“From the bullpen, they said they didn’t know how athletic I was,” Griffin joked. “But I told them it probably looked better from far away,”
You can probably tell from the nature of the quotes, Griffin doesn’t feel like it’s going to present much of a problem. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen tomorrow, but said he would have to talk to Doug Brocail to see what the course of action was.
Speaking of segues, here’s a video of Griffin, followed by a quote from Carlos Gomez on how important outfield communication is.
4. Actually, that’s about all we have from Gomez today. Pretty much everything else he said was reiterating what he said in our video from last night. I’ll paraphrase, if you’re reading this at work and can’t watch the video, here are today’s other quotes from Gomez:
“It was great. When you can start the game like that and save a run for your pitcher and your team. It’s like a shot of caffeine for everybody to wake up (…) After that (catch), I came to the dugout and everybody waited for me outside. That gets you going. So when I see the infielders turn their back I said ‘I gotta go’ and I heard the dugout and first base coach say ‘go go go!’. My job is to get on base and have a good at-bat. Sometimes when you see 6, 7, 8 pitches it’s a good at-bat no matter if you got an out or not. You give the people behind you a chance to see how good the stuff of the pitcher is that night. But everybody knows I’m an aggressive hitter and I do really good early in the count so if I see something early good to hit then (maybe) you’re going to see me 0 for 4 on four pitches, (but) in general, first pitch swinging, I’m hitting over .350 so why not.”
5. Yu Darvish was in that video, too, in case you missed it. Here’s what to watch for tonight:
- Darvish seems to have identified some mystery reason for his control issues in his last start, but he has thus far declined to tell us what it was, other than to say it wasn’t his mechanics.
- He has also indicated that he will be working more from the third-base side of the rubber than the first-base side, which is where he worked from last time out. Asked if he was worried that he was needlessly “tinkering” with it, he reminded us that he has pitched over 200 games working from the third-base side, so it’s not something that is new or unfamiliar to him.
6. Tanner Scheppers will start a rehab assignment on Sunday with Round Rock. Speaking of relievers in Round Rock…
7. Keone Kela has thrown twice for the Express. In the first game, he allowed a hit and a walk, but struck out two, and allowed nary a run. Last night, however, the Nashville Sounds handed Kela his first blown save: one inning, three hits, one run, and (again) two strikeouts.
So, let’s get down to today’s main story:
8. Why is Alex Claudio good? I mean, the guy’s fastball is just on the right side of Jered Weaver. How does he have such continued success in the big leagues? I could venture a guess, but it would just be “His parents invoked a powerful and ancient Puerto Rican blessing on him as a baby which blinds the eyes of all who oppose him.”
Jeff Banister’s answer makes more sense. I asked him the question point-blank, just as it’s phrased in the five words in bold up there. “Why is Alex Claudio good?”
“Nothing straight. Good separation (of speeds). He can work on both sides of the plate, and it’s a different arm angle. It’s not what you see every day.”
A succinct question gets a succinct answer, but I had a follow up: “So is some of his success just that he is in a group of bullpen guys that look so much different from him?”
“Umm… no. (five seconds of silence, which is just enough to make you feel uncomfortable if you’re the one asking the question). It’s a good question (*whew*) but you only face one pitcher at a time. It is-- the arm angle, it’s not what you see every day; it’s coming from a different slot, a different release point. Everything moves. He can move it away from you, he can move it into you. He can move it across the plate, and he can get you in that rocking chair; the back-and-forth. A little velo [Banister leans back in his chair] take a lot off [he leans forward]. A little velo, take a lot off [repeating rocking motion]. So you don’t see the same pitch over and over again. You can’t sit on one single pitch, so you can’t go through that elimination process that hitters do. That’s why he’s successful.”
“Now, if you have a power pitcher go through the entire lineup and then you brought in somebody to slow it down… your eyes have seen power, then all of a sudden it’s slow… But big-league hitters can adjust to that fairly quickly.”
So there you have it. 86mph is an effective enough speed for a fastball, assuming you can throw a changeup in the low-60s.
I’m not fully willing to write off the possibility of the ancient blessing though.
Today’s music recommendation is our first from a media member this season. Stefan Stevenson, who writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been listening to “Beautiful War” by Kings of Leon on repeat lately, he tells me. It’s from the album “Mechanical Bull”, which you can find by clicking any of these links below:
(Spotify, Apple Music, Website)
During the regular season, these recommendations occasionally come from Rangers players, broadcasters, or other people around the team (here’s a complete list). If there’s a player or person you’d like Levi to ask for a music recommendation, shoot him an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet here.
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