Yesterday, after his start in Maryvale against the Brewers, Chi Chi Gonzalez told us this: “I’m trying to slow down! Yeah, with my breath, trying to maintain my heart rate.”
Today, after his start in Surprise against the Cubs, Nick Martinez told us this: “I felt a little rushed through my mechanics today; I wasn’t quite in sync(…) I just wasn’t quite staying behind in my mechanics.”
This morning, between the two, Jeff Banister reiterated that the way he was evaluating the two right-handed starters (and the other contenders for the fifth starter role) was this: “Complete(ly) process (as opposed to results). The process is number one. Every Spring Training, we go through this, with what we see, and what we evaluate. The great thing about guys like Nick Martinez and Chi Chi and some of these guys that have been in our camp before: we have a bank of information, we’ve got a wealth of video. And we can go back and cross-reference ourselves on what we’ve seen, what we’ve written, what our reports tell us, and what we saw then, going back a number of years.
All of that to say: while Chi Chi Gonzalez got very good results yesterday, and Nick Martinez did not get very good results today, we still aren’t to the decision-making portion of Spring just yet. If Martinez’ situation is, as he says, simply a matter of slowing down and breathing… well, problem solved. “It’s my second outing, so I definitely have a *little* bit of time, but I’m going to have a sense of urgency to work on it, but I was able to identify what was wrong, and I’ll fix it.”
Banister reiterated this morning that he wasn’t rushing to make a decision, and these starts alone certainly weren’t going to make the decision for him. “One thing I hope I never do is say “I only utilize my memory’,” the manager began. “It’s a grave mistake that a lot of people make (to say) ‘I remember him doing this’, and ‘he’s made these great improvements’. However, when you go back and look at video, and you look at reports, they’re very similar.”
If you spend enough time putting a microphone in someone’s face every day, you begin to pick up on patterns. One that I’ve noticed in Jeff Banister is the rapid-fire of question after question when he starts talking about decision-making. He is decisive, but when he begins to speak this way, in the meter of the compulsively obsessed, this is also clear: he’s not over-simplifying the matter.
It often kicks in when he is describing making quick in-game defensive decisions, like the one Rougned Odor made earlier this week to throw home and save a run instead of forcing a play at first. But today, the prompt was the question of evaluating improvement in his fifth starter candidates. Banister kicked into full gear: “So the process is (to ask) ‘is the delivery cleaner? Sharper strikes? Are we executing in certain situations? Where’s the velo? Where’s the movement? Consistent movement? Can he control the movement? And are we hitting what we say we’re going to do in the game? We have a game plan. What are we working on today? When we go out, can we execute our game plan? So based on what we’ve done in the past, are we going a direction, or are we staying the same?’”
We still haven’t mentioned anything that happened in the game, and that’s because for most of the time I was writing all of that up there, it was kind of a disaster. Martinez appeared fortunate to only allow 2 runs in 2 innings, what with the 5 hits allowed. But a couple of well-executed pitches in tight spots, paired with some good defensive plays kept it close.
"I'm not going to argue with a guy after he tells you that (he's rushing)," Banister said after the game. "His curveball showed up for him today. The fastball was a little bit off the edge, but more than anything else, he made a nice athletic play for himself; helped himself out. I thought he was as sharp as we've seen him in any other outing."
The defensive play Banister is referring to was on a comebacker to the mound in the second inning that Martinez [How many outs are there? How many runs down are we? Who’s the runner? Who’s up next? Where’s my third baseman? Is my catcher ready to receive a throw? Can I get into a position to throw?] flipped home to Lucroy for a 1-2 fielder’s choice.
Tony Barnette, who was dominant in a sim game earlier this week, gave up a bleeder single and an error before allowing a hard single to load the bases and a harder home run to unload them. I stopped writing things down for awhile at this point, because the Rangers were losing so hard.
But then, down by a 9-5 score, the Rangers started hitting the ball very hard. They hit three home runs in the span of just four batters between the 7th and 8th innings (Drew Robinson, 2 runs / Jared Hoying, solo / Jason Martinson, solo to tie the game at 9.)
As it’s just Spring Training, once Hoying and Doug Bernier each watched strike three to end the ninth inning, well, that was the game. There’s no sense playing extra innings for a hollow Spring Training win that will get wiped off the board in three weeks. 9-9, the Rangers tied last year’s World Series champs, which means you should totally expect a World Series in Arlington in 2017. Yay!
OTHER BASEBALL STUFF
1. Additional game notes: Jonathan Lucroy was 2-for-4 in his final game before joining Team USA for the WBC. Likewise, Sam Dyson had a clean outing and will trade in the Ranger Blue for the Stars and Stripes for awhile. Adrian Beltre did not announce a decision today as to whether he will be playing for the Dominican Republic or not
Delino DeShields went 1-for-2 to continue a hot Cactus League campaign. He’s hitting .400
Anthony Bass pitched 2 scoreless innings, and Dario Alvarez pitched one. Both still have an outside shot to make the team; Bass as the long reliever, and Alvarez as the left-handed reliever.
2. Jake Diekman is going to miss at least the first half of the season. You knew that. I talked to Jake and his fiancée last week and got the whole story from their perspective. The video is here, and I think it’s worth watching. To learn more about ulcerative colitis and crohn’s disease, visit ccfa.org. To get one of the limited-time-only “Gut it Out” shirts, click here.
3. Tyson Ross spoke today about how his injury comeback is going. He threw off a half-mound this weekend. “I came out of it feeling good and looking forward to the next step,” Ross said, before talking about his approach for his first bullpen session, which could come as early as this week: “I have to approach it as the first time on the mound as if it were the off-season so it’s about getting my work in, making sure my rhthym and tempo is down and getting a feel for the full-sized mound (…it’s the) first step of many and I have a big picture in mind, so it’s just a matter of getting my work in, coming out of it feeling good, recovering and moving on to the next step.
4. Jeremy Jeffress pitched yesterday in game action for the first time this Spring, after experiencing some shoulder stiffness early in camp “I feel pretty good where I’m at right now,” the reliever told us today. “I’m not rushing it anyway. I’m not trying to get to a certain point. After yesterday’s outing I feel like I’m back to 100 percent and ready to continue to go forward.”
Jeffress had a quick outing yesterday, showing no signs of any rust. “I don’t play around when I get up there. I’m going to go at it, give it my all always. I felt pretty good. I’m back to where I need to be.”
5. Andrew Cashner also spoke (we got all the elusive guys today). Cashner had some upper bicep soreness early in the week, but he too is feeling better. “I think I just had a lot of inflammation but I feel a lot better now and played catch the last two days and haven’t had any problems so-- barring anything new, I don’t think I’ll have any issues.
I think it’s just more of erring on the side of caution. If it was something serious I think I would have gone right away to see Meister but we waited to this weekend and he doesn’t seem concerned at all. I’ve had no pain three days in a row so it’s been good.”
Are we good? It seems like we’re good.
6. Jonathan Lucroy spoke at length today about what it means to him to represent the USA in the World Baseball Classic. Here are a few select quotes:
It’s a pretty unbelievable feeling taking the field with “USA” across your chest. It’s something that I’ll never really forget, it gives you goosebumps doing it. I’m looking forward to doing it again this year. Coming up in another week I think we have the first game against Colombia. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a great honor; it’s a privilege.”
The crowds will be bigger for these games than for the Cactus League matchups (today’s 11,000+ matchup against the Cubs notwithstanding. Lucroy is ready for that: “You’re dropping straight from maybe a couple thousand people going straight into sold out. I think our game against the Dominican is already sold out. It’s going to be an insane environment. Those are the kind of environments you live to play for as a player, that playoff type environment like that, I know having been in several of them, it’s something that you can’t replicate anywhere else.”
For Lucroy, representing the U.S. is not just about baseball: “I did my first honor flight in 2014. I take being an American very serious, it’s a privilege and an honor to live in our country. There’s so many less fortunate people across the world in other countries. A lot of people here don’t realize how good we have it. I take it very serious and it’s a huge honor for me to be able to put on a Team USA uniform. It’s something I’m going to do my best to represent as best as I possibly can.
There’s a good chance that Lucroy will face off against some of his Rangers teammates. Has he prepared for that? Yeah, man. Lucroy is prepared for everything. “I told (Adrian Beltre) and (Rougned) Odor — Beltre’s first, though — I said, ‘Hey, you start leaning over the plate, I’m coming after you.’ Odor, I’m going to have to go after him, too. I’m not scared of that guy — I know he’s a little aggressive guy, but I’m not scared of him at all.”
Told of the quote later, Jeff Banister laughed “I may have to talk to him about that one,” he chuckled.
7. Pudge Rodriguez was in camp today to throw out the first pitch and do a little work with the catchers. He too spoke at length; the subject was primarily his upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame. There will be video coming late tonight or early tomorrow, but this is already perhaps the longest Gamer / Daily of the Spring (fitting, since the Rangers played their longest game of the Spring today) so we’ll save that for tomorrow.
8. And lastly... its my final day in Surprise this Spring. I'll still be keeping up with things from DFW and posting the Dailies (and, where I can watch/listen to them online, the games), but I won't be here. Fret not, I did get a lot of video from the new guys, and the Welcome Wagon series will pick back up sometime shortly after I complete the 1,025 mile drive back to Dallas.
You can follow Levi Weaver on Twitter at @ThreeTwoEephus, or for fewer puns and more straight-forward Baseball News updates, you can follow us at @BaseballTX, or download the app and get in-game updates and notifications by clicking on the logo below!
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