It's getting hot out here. Literally, metaphorically, hot. Literally, we clipped 85 today on the thermo-meeter. The Arizona sun is no joke and the arid landscape will make your lips look like the weathered skin on the back of your grandmother's neck. Chapstick with some SPF and a bucket hat from the clearance bin at the local Beall's saved the day for me. And the heat's not just comin' from the solar burst above us. Camp is winding down this week and cuts are being made. The front office is in action. They're sending some kids to the big league team, while sending others home, as in home...for good. It ain't always pleasant. It's a business. Some kids are finishing strong camps that altered the perception of them while others are finishing poor showings that also altered the perception of them. Me? I'm havin' a ball, but I'm here for fun. You come out here this time of year and see parents, friends, girlfriends and others who have some connection to a young player. When I hear, "oh, that's so-and-so's parents", or "yeah, that's Player X's pregnant girlfriend", I'm forced to remember these are real kids and man, it's just kind of a bummer when you think, "damn, I wonder if they know he's not going to make it?" I had a nice conversation yesterday with the parents of a player who has a very good chance of "making it". He's not a Top-Top prospect, but he's on most of the lists. They were curious as to his path and hopelessly optimistic. I couldn't help but feel happy for them. It's a plethora of paradoxes right now.
I was cruising through the stadium an hour or so before the 1 PM game (the minor leaguers had gone in for lunch) when I started to see tweets about Leury. I'd heard a little scuttlebutt on the backfields this morning and I'd asked Coach Welke, "Did Leury make the team?" The moment I finished the question, he smiled from ear to ear and while shaking my hand said "Leury is, is, is really interesting. Good to see you." Still smiling broadly, he let go of my hand and led some kids he knew toward the clubhouse saying "Let's get you guys some Rangers stuff". Back at the stadium, as the reality of Leury winning the utility job and Nick Tepesch being named the 5th starter became apparent, Gerry Fraley went popping past me doing his Rob Ryan impression (much less stomach, but similar mane and moxie) and declaring into his phone, "...it's Tepesch. T-E-P-E-S-C-H. Tepesch. He'll be the 5th starter." These kids were having, perhaps the best day of their lives. When Leury emerged from the right field fence to begin his walk to the dugout and his new spot on the Texas Rangers' bench, you could tell he was still floating. I'm not exaggerating by saying he smiled the entire way. Foul pole to dugout, in a pullover with an equipment bag over his shoulder, grinning like a virgin in a brothel. For a guy(me) who uses baseball as an outlet from the stress of day-to-day life, it was pretty awesome. Then you go to the backfields and the mingling players seem to be missing a few. It's a bummer. You start to hear some names. The names certainly aren't surprising, but it's definitely a bummer. It's a business, it's a business...it's a business.
Now to some of the on-field action.
-Caught what could be a peek at Hickory's lineup in action. The lineup,1-4, was what you thought it might be: Brinson CF, Williams LF, Mazara DH, Gallo 3B. Average height: big. Average ceiling: high.
-Lefty Andrew Faulkner struggled badly with his command and was pulled after not recording an out in the 2nd. On the other field, big Connor Sadzeck was getting into and out of trouble with some spotty command as well. Youth.
-We know he can hit, but the questions about Nick Williams' ability to run routes and throw accurately looked greatly exaggerated when he gunned down a runner trying to score from second on a shallow single. Hit the catcher on a line, in the air. He's got to do it about a bazillion more times for us to believe him, but it was, at least, a start. Helluva throw. Here's his oh-so-handsome swing:
Nick Williams! March 26, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
-Lewis Brinson does not have the same problem. Late in the game he went straight back on a ball hit on the screws and casually caught it over his shoulder while slowing down in front of the wall. It was the type of play that is much harder than he made it look.
-I tweeted it out, and I'll reiterate that Gallo looks fairly capable at 3rd. Sure, there's probably still better than a 50% chance he simply outgrows the position, and there were a couple of balls hit to the gap that a smaller, quicker 3B would have gotten, but he's not a butcher. And arm strength, sheesh man. He rushed his throws and subsequently two in a row were low, but it's a ++ cannon. It's definitely not a decision that needs to be made right this very minute.
-Speaking of Gallo, he's looked pretty frustrated at the plate the last couple of days. Even got a casual bat flip to himself after making the final out of an inning today. Struck out looking and struck out swinging. Got some video of the swinging K. He's a young player and Jason Cole and I were talking about how he'll get locked in for periods of time and, well, kinda locked-out for other periods. I'm cool with it. Later, when he develops a consistent approach, he's going to punish a bunch of baseballs. Here:
Joey Gallo! March 26, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
-I watched Elvis Andrus take BP because I wanted to watch someone I knew could hit .300 in the big leagues. He's good.
-Tickets to the big league game were actually a little pricier than I thought they would be. $8 for lawn, but the bulk of the joint is $27-$35 a piece. I guess they've only got about 40 days to make their $$, so just a heads up.
- The stadium does, it must be noted, sell "Bombers", which are giant 24oz. cans of beer. Also, gin, vodka, and tequila are readily available in the stadium. They are also available at your neighborhood Walgreens. I happen to think this is cool and I wish the 2,493,923 Walgreens/CVS locations in Texas had this same offer. Fingers crossed.
-Royce Bollinger. From Scottsdale, drafted out of Gonzaga in the 6th round last year. After watching him take batting practice for the last few days, I have no idea how he only hit 1 HR in 286 plate appearances for Spokane. I'm thinking he's going to hit quite a few more than that for...maybe Myrtle? Mayyyybeee Hickory? Who knows, but he's a good outfielder with a + arm and there's some sting in the lumber. We'll see if it translates to game-action, but it's got a bit of ummphh.
-Finally, here's a quick little clip of a few swings from Luis Marte and Gobbles Gallo. I like Marte as a shortstop. If he can hit a little, then the rich get richer.
Luis Marte and Joey Gallo! March 26, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
'Til we meet again, friends! Love Ya!