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Raising Arizona V. 2018 (Part III)

More notes from the backfields of Surprise

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

There’s a boarded up Luby’s next to my hotel. In a town with the demographics Surprise has, you gotta figure they just moved locations.

Today was a day for the arms. And they showed up! I’ve been mentioning how I’m looking for something electric. Something to jolt big life and big buzz into the backfields collective. Today, Mike Matuella lit the fuse. Big fella was electric at times. FB was 95-96 for much of his 4 inning appearance and the CB and CH both generated whiffs. He’s what a big league contributor looks like these days and the ever lasting concerns about his health will likely never fade, but this is straight mojo. We’ve spoken plenty about his 6’6” frame and his downhill plane, and don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to work on, but this is mid-rotation dream stuff and if he stays healthy and keeps improving, he’ll help win big league games for Texas. Here’s my chart for Match’s 3rd inning of work:

Tyreque Reed is a strong man. That is all. Just a reminder. He just flicks his wrists and the ball lands deep in the outfield or over the fence.

Jean Casanova threw today and he’s a project, but one worth the effort. In addition to having an absolutely fantastic name, he can throw in the mid-90s fairly easily, but he’s shaped like a greyhound (listed at 6’3”, 155lbs), so he has some trouble staying in that velocity range for more than an inning or two. The Illinois native turned 21 a few weeks ago and looks healthy and ready to compete beyond the AZL Rookie League he’s been in for the last couple of seasons.

I got a name for ya. Emerson Martinez. Emo made a cameo in Frisco’s bullpen in 2016, but was a starter last year for Down East. Today I saw why. His 4-seamer was 93-95 T96 and he threw a good SL and a good CH. He kept the ball down and there’s natural cut on the FB. I’m told he also throws a sinker in the low-90s, but I was zippy about the zip and cut on the 4S today. He got a whiff on a CH and ended 2 separate innings with swinging Ks on 85 and 86mph SLs. He’s got a starter’s repretoire and a starter’s build. He kinds looks like Ariel Jurado. And he looks like someone who’s gotten better each and every year and might be poised for a breakout season. He was very good today.

I also got a good look at lefty Jeffrey Springs. Darren Oliver, Colby Lewis and Michael Young have been omnipresent on the backfields this week, but they’re usually hanging back, shooting the shit and keeping one eye on the action. (Pudge joined them today as well). But once Springs took the mound it was as if an inaudible lefty siren went off in Olly’s head and he beelined for a bird’s eye view of Springs’ inning. Jeffrey features a heavy 90-92mph FB and a good SL and a potentially very good CH. And he’s left handed. And he competes. And he’s left handed.

Speaking of lefties, Cole Ragans was sauntering around today and spent a good amount of time sitting in a golf cart chatting with the Rangers’ rehab wizard, Keith Comstock. Keith is a remarkable guy and exactly the type of personality that’s needed in Arizona for the injured players. It’s easy to stay motivated and upbeat when all your friends and teammates are still in AZ. The sun is shining and the season is near. All good. But there are some seriously challenging days ahead. The surgery lies ahead, followed by nearly a year’s worth of slow and painful rehab. Over the next year and change, Cole and Keith will get to know each other better than either ever hoped they would. In a quiet complex, on quiet mornings and cool nights, they’ll be working to get Cole back. It’s a remarkable process and it began today in a golf cart on the backfields.

Speaking of injuries, (BLECH!) I had a chat with Kyle Cody about his. He was upbeat, but definitely bummed. It’s not likely he’ll be ready to pitch in games for a couple months. He said his CH was coming along really nicely and he felt good about it. I was looking forward to seeing him compete this season and I assume I will still get that chance. Word is his elbow ligaments are inflamed, but not torn, so that’s a silver lining. Big man will be ready to go once his body cooperates.

I’m still clinging to my belief that Wes Benjamin pitches in the big leagues someday. This is what he looks like:

I got a chance to watch Matt Whatley and Yohel Pozo catch today and both were good. Matt is very natural back there and seems to have all the leadership traits you look for. Also, he has a very good catcher’s butt. At the plate he looks like he’s going to be able to generate some pull-side power. He’s got one of those setups with the low hands and easy load and swing. Pozo popped a 2.13 time behind the plate and still got the runner. He bobbled the pitch after the runner took off for second base and appeared to be a bit angry with himself before uncorking an absolute seed to catch the would-be basestealer. It was a magnificent correction and highlighted his plus arm. I’m tellin’ ya’, the catcher cadre is deep and one of these dudes is bound to break out. Right?

We saw Jairo Beras pitch and he looked...prettttay, prettttay, prettttay good. The delivery is smoothed out (though still not exactly graceful) and the stuff was legit. FB was 95-96 T97 and he threw a couple really nice SLs in the 80-82 band. Threw a couple wonky FBs and some crappy SLs too, but overall it was an impressive, clean outing and definitely something to build on for the $4million dollar man.

I like this kid Cristian Inoa a little bit. 18 year-old middle-infielder with a little more pop in his bat than you’d think. He roped a deep triple off the RCF fence and showed some aptitude both at the plate and in the field. Good instincts here and some tools to build on.

Thursday will be my last day out here this year. It’s bittersweet because this is always a trip I look forward too, but I’ll be damned if Spring Training isn’t about 10 days too long. I think we’re all so very ready to watch some real baseball. We’re so very ready for Frisco’s Opening Day. We’re so very ready to watch the Rangers shock the world and win the World Series this season. We’re so very ready for it all. Give us all your baseballing, universe! We’re so very ready.

As Always, Enjoy Baseball!

Love Ya!


**here’s some bonus footage of Willie Rakes and Condor taking BP, because I love you: