Texas Rangers Spring Training: My Top 10 CBS Contemplations
10. On the air manager Ron Washington is engaging, colorful and cordial. But microphones shut down and pens clicked to the off position, he’s as entertaining an interview as I’ve heard in my 27 years covering Metroplex sports. You’ll get his opinion. You’ll get the truth. And, oh yes, you’ll get a plethora of mother effers.
9. At Surprise Stadium behind home plate there is a plaque commemorating former owner Thomas O. Hicks. And, yes, if you stop to read it you’ll notice that someone – seemingly every day – has spit on it.
8. Leonys Martin is an immense physical specimen. For you old-timers, think Ruben Sierra. His skills are raw and unrefined. But his talent is limitless. He homered in Tuesday’s game in Scottsdale against the Diamondbacks. Afterward he was kind enough, brave enough to grant an interview in English, of which two things jumped out: 1. It was his 24th birthday; 2. His voice is shockingly high-pitched, making him the Mike Tyson of baseball. But the quicker he’s the starting center fielder, the better.
7. Speaking of center, Julio Borbon has been given two chances to keep the gig and both times tapped out. On Monday general manager Jon Daniels gave this surprising assessment of the position: “Our best defensive outfield is Josh in left, Nellie in right and Craig in center.” That’s Craig, as in Gentry. Really? “In my opinion he’s better in center than Josh.” Wow.
6. Living in the locker next to Yu Darvish is 24-year-old pitching prospect Justin Miller. For the first week of spring training he was the star of camp, mobbed by Japanese media with questions pertaining to Yu. Miller’s first thought when he saw his locker assignment? “Aw, shit,” he said. “But it’s been cool. I’m probably the most famous American with spiky hair in Japan.”
5. Elvis Andrus is off to a hot start, with five consecutive hits over two games. Off the field life is great for the 23-year-old shortstop. New contract in his bank account. New Porsche in his driveway. But back home in Venezuela he says things aren’t so hunky dory. Elvis has to hire bodyguards for him and his family, out of fear of kidnappers. God Bless America.
4. Depending on his performance this season on the mound, Derek Holland will either be A) A character; or B) Too goofy for his own good. In a 7-minute clubhouse interview on Tuesday Holland offered intimate details of his wedding plans, picked food out of his teeth (with his finger, no less), promised to shave off his mustache, received a “Wet Willie” from Michael Young, a cup check from the knob of Gentry’s bat, lovingly stroked Mitch Moreland’s beard and re-configured the wedgie in his pants. Holland is extremely talented (remember his Game 4 World Series gem), but few elite pitchers are so open, so wacky.
3. Not that Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes and Mike Gonzalez exactly dazzled last year, but so far the Rangers haven’t found their left-handed bullpen specialist. Michael Kirkman allowed five hits in 1/3rd of an inning in his spring debut.
2. Behind only the late Game 6 meltdown, the most gruesome image from the World Series was catcher Mike Napoli’s bent and disfigured ankle on an awkward slide into second base. If you’ve ever sprained your ankle, it’s difficult to watch. I cringe when the replay comes on, and often look away. Napoli said he’s better and in Tuesday’s game he slid into second and popped up without physical pain or psychological trauma. No thanks to his “fans,” which he said during the off-season texted and emailed him still shots and video of his hideous injury. “I lived it,” Napoli jokes, “I don’t need to see it.” Amazing that Napoli didn’t have to undergo surgery.
1. Yu Darvish will throw two innings or 35 pitches today in his debut down the road in Peoria against the Padres. No more, no less. I’m saying it’s the most anticipated spring training debut in Rangers’ history. Yep, more than Nolan Ryan. And more than Alex Rodriguez. In the clubhouse this week Yu has been protected by his interpreter, Joe Furukawa. No one-on-one interviews, but tons of bowing. Let’s hope Yu is equally untouchable on the mound.
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