Greetings and salutations for the fourth and final time this Spring. Not gonna lie, following a day of watching Gallo, Profar, and Brinson hitting on the backfields accompanied by a 20mph wind- today was always going to be a let down. Not to mention that my long-ago set travel arrangements had me leaving town just a couple hours before the Rangers-Cubs Futures Game. The last day is always a bummer, but today had me more content than in year's past. Don't get me wrong, I'm already on to the next generation and getting the chance to see Lulu Ortiz pitch today was a fantastic sendoff, and he did not disappoint. Two crisp innings featuring a 92-95mph FB, a delicious fading 85-87mph CH, and a slicing 86-88mph SL, and Lulu made quick work of the visiting professional travel club from Mexico.
The day began at 10am with game action on 3 of the 4 back fields. The baby Rangers were hitting in a intrasquad game started by Connor Sadzeck. He was pretty good again and was working on the CH. The FB and the CB are no bullshit big league pitches already. He was mixing in 2-seamers 92-94 and the mega-velo 4-seamers that were 96+. He can throw the CB for a strike or chase and seems to be gaining even more confidence with it as he grows as a pitcher. Still a big, big frame and at least one opposing scout said "I think they should just put him in the pen now. It's what he is and what he's going to be. Why not let him start getting comfortable with it. He's got a shot to be a complete badass out of there." Personally, I'm starting to lean that way too. Whatever Texas elects to do with him in the short term, it's clear there's a lot of talent in that arm.
Here he is getting the best of LeDarious Clark with a 75mph curveball:
And here is LeDarious getting the best of Sadzeck's 86mph changeup:
The first four pitchers on the 3 backfields games this morning were 6'5" Tom Wilhelmsen, 6'6" Victor Payano, 6'6" Connor Sadzeck, and 6'7" Phil Klein. When did NBA small forwards become pitchers? I'm hearing Payano is still headed for a rotation, possibly Frisco's. Kinda wish they'd just roll that dude into a pen position too, but that might be a byproduct of having watched some of his more painful starts for the RoughRiders. Klein was pretty good and I'm actually a fan of converting him to starting. He worked pretty quickly and was trying to move the FB around- successfully on occasion. He's gonna have to be able to really command the FB to jump into a starter's job someday, so expect that to be a pretty big focus for him this season. Wilhelmsen was throwing a lot of cutters? After looking up his usage charts, I guess that pitch I was seeing was a SL, but it didn't have much tilt at all, so I guess that's what he's got. Regardless, he's a damn big leaguer and was just back there to get his work in.
We had a couple of sightings today of notable names from recent drafts. The first was 22 year old, 2015 19th round pick, Xavier Turner. Do we have any idea why he was kicked off the team at Vanderbilt? I know that's normally the information I am supposed to go out and find for you, but frankly, he was outta sight outta mind for me. Anyway, he's a stocky build and I didn't get to see much of him so I have no idea what type of prospect he'll be, but the dude has lived in a shadow of mystery for the last year or so, so what's one more year out of the spotlight? Apropos of his Bruce Wayne background, here's a mere 10 seconds of Xavier:
The next name to emerge was 2014 5th rounder, Wes Benjamin. Since being drafted Wes has thrown exactly 1 inning. He'd had Tommy John in April of 2014, before the team picked him, so we pretty much knew he'd be out for a while, but it's been nearly 2 years. He was 89-90 with a 83mph SL and a good, low 70s bender. No idea how healthy he is, or if he's ready for a full-season, every 5th day, assignment, but I can tell you he is a real person and he is in fact, left handed.
I saw Cody Buckel pitch again. 91-92mph.
My man Curtis Terry keeps hitting the crap out of the ball and if you'd like to get a look at his size and first baseman-ness, peep these clips of him clubbing the pill.
Big fella doesn't mess around up there.
Speaking of "my men", Chris Garia homered against a lefty. He's a switch hitter and he did hit 8 homers last year, but I really wish he'd think about the fans and realize watching him trot around the bases is a bit like watching Joey draw a walk.
Speaking of Gallo, he popped into the game against the Mexican team and promptly singled. Borrrriiinnnggg!
Prolly should mention Ryan Strausborger has been hitting the ball well in the few days I've been in Surprise. He's not on the 40-man anymore, but he could be on someone's. That outfield situation in Round Rock is looking mighty mighty crowded.
...and that's about it. No, really. That's it. I'm home now. I'm back in Dallas and coming down off the usual high that comes from my annual reigniting of my baseball fires. This is the part where I tell you if you've never been to Spring Training, start planning your trip now. It's amazing. It's kid friendly, it's adult friendly, it's wallet friendly, and most of all it's baseball friendly. Wednesday morning on the backfields, I was chatting with a handful of fans who were planning on doing the "triple header". They were at the 10am games, they were headed to see Dutch take on the Cubs at 1 and they were staying for the Futures Game at 4:30. That's an obscene amount of baseball and to think, if you have that level of endurance, you could see all that ball for about $15, the cost of a ticket to the 1pm big league game. And the access will blow your mind. Once it became apparent Gallo, Brinson, and Profar were gonna play on the backfields yesterday, there were more than a few fans who rearranged their schedules to be there, standing 20' away from those guys and what a show they saw. Gallo's gonna be hitting megabombos on the telly for a long time and there's about 15 people who can honestly say they've stood field level and a couple dozen steps away from that magnanimous swing when he's unleashed his hellfire. It's just the best. Even the games in the stadium are fun, even though they're usually populated by "major leaguers". In short, go. Just go. You won't regret it.
I've loaded most of the saltier video clips into these reports, but there's still plenty of enjoyable clips left on my YouTube page if you're looking to waste even more of your afternoon. Or if you're just looking to get an idea of the overall vibe of the time and the place, here's clip that probably sums it up pretty well.
5 days, 12 Budweisers, 3 orders of boneless wings, dozens of fun informative conversations with scouts and front office dudes, 60 uploaded videos, 15 bottles of water, 0 unpleasant encounters with John Blake, 5,000 words, 1 Gobbles bombo, 1 Lew bombo, countless amazing chats with fans and players alike, 1 great dinner with a legendary sabermetrician, and 1 baseball fire sufficiently re-lit. Spring training is just the best!
See you next year, Surprise.
As Always, Enjoy Baseball!