Spring Training


Sunday, March 27
Arizona 0 at Texas 13
Surprise Stadium, Surprise
Temp: 86 at 1:06 first pitch

Baker’s Dozen Does In D’backs

Reality bites. Like a diamondback. Only it was Arizona who bit themselves in the foot Sunday. The ball club went with split squads, keeping big boys Carson Kelly, Ketel Marte, Josh Rojas, Nick Ahmed and David Peralta home at Salt River Field at Talking Stick to dispose of their facility-mates, the Colorado Rockies, 5-2. That left Jack McCarthy, Cooper Hummel, Pavin Smith & Co. on this side of Phoenix to ward off the Rangers Half-Billion-Dollar Duo, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, with Adolis Garcia on deck to drive them in. It didn’t go well. Texas’ “A” team led Arizona’s “B” team, 6-0, after six innings. Cue the wholesale changes resulting in Texas’ “B” team going against Arizona’s “C” team and, well … the Rangers racked up seven runs in the eighth inning, aided largely by Julio Frias walking four straight batters to force in two runs.

A.J. Alexy looked sharp in the win, setting down all nine batters he faced, striking out two in three innings of work. Indeed the D’Backs didn’t collect a hit until Braden Bishop led off the sixth with a single to right. After Jake Hager flied out to right, Jose Herrera singled to left but McCarthy struck out and Hummel flied out to deep left center. Arizona only managed two more hits — a Smith single in the seventh and a triple off the big bat of Matt Davidson in the ninth. The hulking first baseman hit a towering drive that gravity eventually convinced to return to Earth. The ball hit the top of the center field wall with so much force it rebounded halfway to the infield, I swear on a stack of World Series scorecards. It was by far the loudest hit of the four the D’Backs managed against the Rangers’ 13.

Ballpark Buzz … Rangers catcher Jose Trevino had a 3-for-3 day that warrants explicit second guessing. In his first at bat in the third, Trevino hit a rocket to third baseman Drew Ellis. Bent low in his crouch, Ellis pivoted 23 degrees counterclockwise and dropped his glove four inches, all in two nanoseconds. He froze, waiting for the smack of ball hitting leather. Didn’t happen. The ball sped past underneath his glove. A tough scorekeeper might have given Ellis an error because the ball almost hit him. He does after all have a glove, besides being paid $570,000 per year to make said play or at least knock it down where he then — a perk of the hot corner — has three full seconds to pick it up and throw to first. There was an error on the play but it went to the left fielder Jake Hager for failing to corral the ball, then falling down minus the banana peel, allowing Trevino to reach second. It was pretty much a “wait for the ball to stop rolling” kind of play. In the fifth, Trevino got almost all of a Caleb Baragar offering, sending the ball to deep center where Jake McCarthy had enough time to pitch a tent, gather firewood and adjust the Coleman stove … before dropping the ball. Trevino’s third at bat was a legitimate line drive double down the left field line. After watching the Brewers’ Pedro Severino mash last week, I’m convinced line-drive doubles are in the DNA of barrel-chested catchers. … Stowers’ home run was a blast down the left field line that topped the pole by 3-to-4 feet and went about 385. It’s 350 down the line. … Adolis Garcia didn’t disappoint. He went 2-for-3 including a first-inning double hit on a rope to the gap in left. In the fourth, he hit a sharp one-hopper up the middle for a single. … Texas Leaguers R Us. Chalk up two for the Rangers today. In the fifth, Nick Solak dunked one to right that scored two and an inning later, Matt Carpenter turned the trick again, dropping one into center for a ribbie. … In the eighth inning, I thought the D’Backs’ batboy was fooling around with a bat next to the on-deck circle. Ryan BlissHe started swinging it and I did a double take as he approached the plate. The public address announcer said, “Number 6, David Peralta.” The scoreboard immediately went to the Oops!-Default Arizona Logo. The batter wore number 6 but it wasn’t Peralta. Nope, meet Ryan Bliss. MLB lists him at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds. Please. Knock off three inches and 20 pounds. But the 22-year-old can indeed play. He worked a walk and made a snappy throw from short for an out in the bottom of the frame. As I write this, the D’Backs just inked Marte to a 5-year, $76M extension. Perhaps watching Bliss today was a wake-up call for Arizona brass to get Marte’s name on the dotted line? Sign him. Now.

Spring Training


Chicago White Sox 6 at Texas Rangers 7 … Surprise Stadium, Surprise … Temp: 72, Sunny

Swihart Swat Sends’em Home

The Rangers’ Blake Swihart snapped a 6-6 tie with gusto, depositing Bryan Mitchell’s first pitch of the bottom of the ninth onto the grass beyond, a.k.a. spring training lingo for the cheap seats. It was the fifth long ball for both teams in a homer-happy slugfest, with the Rangers prevailing 7-6. Mitchell (0-1) took the loss while the Rangers Ian Gibaut (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth to pick up the win.

The Rangers opened the scoring in the home half of the first when a Todd Frazier sac fly plated Shin-Soo Choo, on board after singling. The Chisox Eloy Jiminez, he of 31 jacks last year, launched one in the top of the 2nd over the 359′ sign in right. The blast scored Daniel Palka, who’d singled to open the inning, and briefly put the Chisox up 2-1. In the bottom of the 2nd, Rangers catcher Nick Ciuffo doubled home Rougned Odor who’d walked leading off the inning, to tie the game at 2.

Luis Roberts’ solo shot — a clothesline drive  — over the yellow Dickey’s sign in center  field in the top of the fourth put the Chisox on top 3-2 and that’s the way it stayed until the bottom of the seventh. Chisox pitchers had been sailing along, with Tanner Banks, Adalberto Mejia, Carson Fulmer and Tyler Johnson retiring 12 straight Texas batters before 6’5” Ronald Guzman hit one on the screws, lining it out of the park to dead-center. After Blake Swihart popped out to third, Eli White whalloped one over the left field wall to the top of the grass, giving the Rangers a 4-3 lead.

That got the Chisox woke. Ramon Torres and Andrew Vaughn opened the top of the eighth with singles and following a Zach Collins strike out, Jacob Brugman basically broke the baseball. The blow was a prodigious, rain-making blast that fell just short of the white tent 40 feet beyond the right field fence (379 ft). It landed about 10 feet before the bar. I pegged it at about 420 feet. Chisox up 6-4.

The Rangers had runs to rope. They corralled the two they needed quickly. Adolis Garcia singled to open the bottom of the eighth and scored two batters later when Leody Taveras doubled him home. Following a Nick Solak strikeout, Andy Ibanez hit a clutch, two-out RBI-single, driving home Garcia and tying the game at 6, setting the stage for Swihart’s bottom of the ninth heroics. 

Bunts, Bits & Bites … The win evened Texas’ Cactus mark at 4-4 while the loss dropped the Chisox to 4-3. The Rangers outhit the Chisox 10-9. The two teams played error-free ball. One humorous highlight had Ibanez in the seventh, launching a towering fly ball to left field where the Chisox Jiminez eyed it and began loping in underneath it. He came in a little hot, stopped, slipped and went down in a jumbled heap. Did I say towering? Every fan waited for the ball to land beside him. Except Jiminez had time to get back up and make the catch. Chalk one up for his concentration. … Yoan Moncada got off the schnide, going 2 for 3 to raise his Cactus average to .182. … All five dingers today were the first homers of the spring for all hitters. … Guzman bears a striking resemblance to former Rangers slugger Juan Gonzalez (1989-2004: 434 HR). The strapping 25-year-old looks like the real deal. … What kind of Odor will the Rangers have this year? With a robust 30 HRs and sub-Mendoza .205 BA from 2019, will Rougned continue to swing for the fences at the expense of his BA? He and new teammate Todd Frazier (2019: 21 HR, .251 BA) may commiserate on that. The .251 is a much-needed improvement for Frazier, as from 2016 thru 2018, Frazier hit 85 HR but his average never crawled above .225 (2016). … Drink of choice: Coors Light / Sprite shandy. Sat in Section 112: Second row behind Rangers dugout. … On the menu: $9.00 Jumbo dog. It was a buck-fifty more than Mesa, but unlike Mesa, the bun extended the entire dog. So the extra bread was indeed for extra bread.