Results tagged ‘ Justin Grimm ’
It’s hard to remember that Neil Ramirez even started that game last night. Even though he went five innings, he pitched less than a third of the game.
Seventeen innings in the books. First time in RoughRiders history. Most importantly, another win. The RoughRiders finished off the Hooks 4-2 in seventeen innings to improve to 9-4 on the season.
That’s six wins in-a-row now for the first-place RoughRiders. Frisco is a game ahead of Midland and 2.5 games better than the first place team in the North Division, the Arkansas Travelers (6-6).
The 9-4 mark is one of the best starts in team history. Last year the ‘Riders began 9-4 and finished just short of their second Texas League Championship. The 2012 ‘Riders lost the next three after going 9-4 to fall to 9-7.
The 9-4 start is also best start for the club since 2008 through 13 games. That team began 10-3 and ran their mark to 12-3 before losing. That 2008 squad put together the best record in the Texas League in the first half (43-27) and won the South Division in both halves. Their overall record of 84-56 is the second best record in team history.
The best final record for Frisco came in 2007 under now Rangers First Base Coach Dave Anderson. That team went 85-55. They also began 9-4 but only won once more (10-4) before falling again to 10-5.
Two more wins and this year’s team will have the second best start in the eleven years of the franchise. Four more will be a new record for the best start to the season in the first seventeen games–a fitting number considering the length of last night’s extra innings contest.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is so much to relish about Thursday night’s contest:
- The game took 4 hours and 43 minutes.
- The Hooks brought 63 batters to the plate. Seven times they got a hit. On five occasions they walked. Nineteen times they struck out (a new season high for Frisco). Once they reached on a hit-by-pitch.
- The ‘Riders sent 67 batters to the plate. Thirteen collected hits, three walked, one was hit by a pitch and one reached on an error. They struck out just nine times in 17 innings.
- The two teams combined for 480 pitches. Frisco threw 243 while Corpus Christi tossed 237–surprising, considering the ‘Riders outhit the Hooks 13 to 7.
- The four innings thrown by Ryan Rodebaugh tied a career high for him. He also pitched four innings in an extra inning game in 2011. That came in a 1-0 Hickory win over Savannah. Rodebaugh relieved major leaguer Justin Grimm, tossing four scoreless innings after Grimm had gone seven strong. Like last night, Rodebaugh did not get the win. The two teams combined for 16 hits in that game, and only one went for extra bases: the fifth double of the season for Jurickson Profar.
- The game was not ever close to the longest in the history of baseball, or even the Texas League. In fact it wasn’t even the longest game at Whataburger Field in recent memory. Corpus Christie hosted a 20-inning contest against the Wichita Wranglers (also a Hooks loss) on June 1, 2005. The game finished at 1:19 a.m. on June 2. Jackson and San Antonio played a 26-inning, 7 hour and 23 minute game over the course of three days in Texas League play July 14-16, 1988.
- The longest professional game in history was the famous clash between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. That one took 33 innings and spanned over two different days across multiple months in the summer of ’81.
- If you are interested in this kind of thing, I would highly recommend this book. It is fascinating. It also debunks the myths of multiple games that were once believed to last over 40 innings. The author writes that he has cataloged 540 games, at time of publication, that took more than 20 innings to complete, across all levels of baseball in all countries.
- The 29-year-old utility infielder picked up his first career win on the mound last night after throwing a scoreless sixteenth inning. It was his third career pitching performance in his 914th professional game.
- His first career outing on the mound came in 2012, in his 11th professional season and 870 games into his pro career. Frisco pitched Rodriguez and Val Majewski in a 9-run 11th inning on the way to a 14-5 11-inning defeat, oddly enough, also against Corpus Christi, the team he collected the win against last night.
- His first decision (a loss) and his first scoreless inning came during the same game (he pitched two innings), 901 games into his pro career, also last year. Frisco lost 2-1 against Midland in 13 innings.
- When Rodriguez entered the game last night, he was playing in his 12th professional season, for his 10th different franchise, in his 9th year of Double-AA baseball, in his fifth different season with the RoughRiders and after 3325 plate appearances and 2882 at bats in affiliated baseball.
- Rodriguez has more appearances as a pitcher (3) than home runs (2) and as many decisions (2) on the mound as he does long balls in his career. He hit his second career home run on Opening Night this season.
- The utility man has played every position except catcher in his career. With one more pitching performance, right field will become his next least played position. He has played only three games in right. He played their once for Frisco in 2009 and twice last year.
Enough head spinning. Enjoy the game tonight. Another 7:05 start from Corpus Christi. What will we see next? In light of that thought: today’s distraction of the day.
Game notes are coming soon. We will post them here when they are ready to go. UPDATE: Game notes are here!
Baseball term of the day: snake jazz – a breaking ball
First there was “The Case of the Poorly Timed Tattoo” and now there’s a much more serious Rangers injury to be concerned about. In the sixth inning of yesterday’s 7-6 loss to the Mariners, former RoughRiders pitcher Martin Perez was struck just above the left wrist by a Brad Miller line drive and after the game it was revealed that he suffered a fracture of the left ulna bone. It will be at least four weeks until he can begin a throwing program and most indications are that he will be on the shelf until May at the earliest.
What makes this so unfortunate is that Perez was the clear leader in the clubhouse for the fifth spot in Texas’ rotation, a position that failed to produce any wins down the home stretch of the 2012 season. The former RoughRider was having a strong spring training while the other competitors were either: a) struggling; b) injured; or c) inexperienced. Perez, the Rangers’ top minor league pitcher who has been on prospect radars everywhere for the last few years, was looking to make that next step to become a reliable major league starter. That still may end up happening, but this is a big blow in the short term for the club.
The calls for veteran free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse were already out there to some degree and they’ve only gotten even louder since Sunday afternoon. The Rangers will have to decide how big of a setback this is and if they want to put themselves into a position they were in last year with Roy Oswalt. Texas was practically forced to sign Oswalt after some injuries to their pitching staff, but had to stash the former all-star in the bullpen because of ineffectiveness which didn’t sit well with ol’ Roy.
It’s not completely an apples-to-apples comparison, as there would be some differences and some similarities if they were to sign Lohse. The former Cardinals righty is 34, the same age as Oswalt when he signed with Texas a few months into the 2012 season. He has been better than Oswalt in recent years (including a stellar season last year) but has a career track record of mediocrity; he’s almost the opposite of Oswalt’s in that sense. The primary reason Lohse has not signed yet is because he and agent Scott Boras likely want more money and more years than the market has been interested in giving him (as well as the forfeiture of a first round draft pick and the signing bonus pool money that goes along with it), whereas Oswalt simply wasn’t interested in pitching a full season, Roger Clemens-style.
What makes this a tricky situation is the expected return of Colby Lewis as soon as May, when Perez would likely be back. The question the Rangers need to answer is whether they feel they can last the first six weeks of the season with a big question mark in that fifth rotation spot (whether it is Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm, Kyle McClellan, Nick Tepesch, etc.) or if they need to feel a little more certain with a veteran who finished seventh in the Cy Young voting last year. In a very competitive A.L. West, it’s a decision that will likely have big consequences.
Now, on to today’s links, with the two most important off-the-field stories leading off:
In trying to keep Jon Daniels in town, Rangers must be careful not to squeeze out Nolan Ryan - If you missed it, the Rangers announced the promotion of Jon Daniels to president/GM on late Friday afternoon, normally a release time for when businesses want to sweep under the rug to avoid maximum attention. (I’m not trying to say that that’s what the Rangers were trying to do in this case, just pointing out a common practice.) Nolan Ryan, now no longer team president, will continue as CEO and Daniels will report to him. Kevin Sherrington explains the tight-rope walk that Rangers ownership must embark upon to satisfy all wings of their baseball operation and maintain success both on and off the field. A good read.
Nolan Ryan could leave Rangers by the end of spring training, sources say – Randy Galloway has sources who say that Nolan Ryan’s departure from the Rangers is imminent, based on changing roles over who gets final say baseball-wise. Another interesting read on a subject that threatens to take over the narrative of the next month. (note: for this story you need a subscription, but you can easily read the text around the “sign in” pop-up.
Perez injury leaves Texas Rangers’ rotation with questions that Kyle Lohse could answer (subscription required) – Gerry Fraley gives us his thoughts on the rotation quandary created by Perez’ injury.
Justin Grimm all but eliminates himself from Texas Rangers rotation after another ugly outing - Fraley reports on Grimm’s latest rough big league appearance.
Tough day for 5th-spot contenders – Ron Matejko of ESPNDallas.com notes that it was a rough Sunday for two of the Rangers’ top rotation candidates.
Martin Perez out at least two months with broken forearm – Jeff Wilson’s report on the injury of the day.
Tepesch making early impression – Drew Davison’s notes column brings up Tepesch as a possibility for the fifth spot as well as David Murphy’s thoughts on PED penalties.
Murphy eager to step into everyday role – Anthony Andro writes that Murphy expects big things now that he knows his role as an everyday player going into a season. A big year would certainly help his bottom line come the hot stove season, as he is a free agent after 2013.
Nathan makes scoreless debut in Rangers’ loss – Lost in all of the Martin Perez/Nolan Ryan news was that Joe Nathan looked pretty good in his first spring outing.
Grimm remains determined for Opening Day role – Despite poor results this spring, William Boor of MLB.com writes that Justin Grimm is confident he can turn things around and be a contributor to the big league club.
Nathan, E. Beltre primed for spring action – Boor’s notebook has more on the return of Nathan and Engel Beltre, who is back from a left shoulder injury.
Before we get to today’s links, a quick happy birthday shout-out to my brother, Kevin, who’s now only one year away from being eligible to sign an international free agent baseball contract. He’s not the next Jairo Beras, but he is much more talented ninth grade baseball player than I was back in the day. (Also, despite the photo, neither he nor I are Mets fans. Maybe he is a little, but I’m smart enough not to subject myself to that level of misery.) Happy birthday bro!
The Rangers got walloped by the Rockies 9-1 yesterday. Here are today’s links:
Martin Perez impressive in start - As the headline indicates, Ron Matejko was one of many who came away with positive things to say about the former RoughRiders’ official Cactus League debut.
Perez, Grimm motivated to make impression for Texas – Lyle Spencer of MLB.com talks to the two candidates who pitched in yesterday’s Rockies game. Grimm will have an uphill climb after a difficult outing, especially in the face of Perez’s brilliance.
Loquacious Andrus has audience in Texas prospects – T.R. Sullivan has Elvis Andrus taking on a greater leadership/mentor role this spring out in Surprise.
Rangers optimistic Lewis could return in May – Sullivan’s notebook has an update on Colby Lewis’ improved outlook as well as the forecast for Lance Berkman, Jason Frasor and Joe Nathan.
Texas Rangers have reason to keep sidearming Coty Woods on roster, but will he be ready? – Gerry Fraley talks to Rule 5 pickup (and former Tulsa Driller) Coty Woods about his spring and his prospects of sticking with the big club.
Texas Rangers fans start campaign to bring silence to ballpark when Josh Hamilton hits – It will never happen, given the difficulty of getting 50,000 people all on the same page, but it’s an interesting idea.
Young will be in DFW fans’ hearts – Former Ranger Michael Young reflects on his time in Texas and gives his thoughts on how DFW fans should view Hamilton.
Enjoy Andrus while he’s still in Texas – Matt Mosley says appreciate Andrus because it’s not likely to last after 2014.
Martin Perez makes strong spring debut – Drew Davison gives his take on Perez’s outing yesterday (subscription required for most Star-Telegram stories).
Lance Berkman isn’t the retiring kind – Randy Galloway has a story on the Big Puma.
The Rangers began their exhibition slate over the weekend with a tie and a pair of losses against the Royals. Today they’ll get some fresh competition when they venture over to Scottsdale for a date with the Rockies. Here’s a smattering of stories from the weekend that was in Rangers-land:
Perez fired up for chance at rotation spot – Former RoughRider Martin Perez gets the starting nod today for Texas and has as good an opportunity as anyone for the fifth spot in the rotation. T.R. Sullivan gets the thoughts of an excitable Perez.
Harrison battles command in windy conditions – Sullivan writes that Matt Harrison’s first spring outing was a little ragged in less-than-ideal weather.
Tepesch impresses in spring debut vs. hometown team – While he had a few rough days as a RoughRider, there was no doubt last season that Nick Tepesch profiles as a big league starting pitcher. He showed that yesterday with two scoreless innings against the Royals.
Tepesch impresses in debut – ESPNDallas.com’s Ron Matejko has more on Tepesch’s outing yesterday.
McClellan suffers setback – Matejko also has an update on Kyle McClellan, who re-injured his shoulder in bullpen session Sunday morning.
Nolan Ryan’s focus is pitching (of course) – Richard Durrett has Nolan Ryan talking about the club’s pitching situation, including the candidates for the number five spot in the rotation.
After subpar season, Rangers’ Kinsler vows new approach in 2013 (subscribers only) – Evan Grant writes that Ian Kinsler believes he can improve from his down 2012 season.
Texas Rangers have the Kansas City Royals blues – Grant runs down the essentials from yesterday’s 7-5 loss to KC.
Rangers conflicted by Profar’s talent, Andrus’ prime – The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Randy Galloway writes about the dilemma that figures to plague the Rangers for the next two seasons with Jurickson Profar essentially ready for a full-time role at a position where there is zero need for Texas.
Rangers have second hitting coach with ‘old and gray’ Berkman – Dave Magadan’s not the only new hitting coach for Texas, writes Jeff Wilson.
Kyle McClellan still slowed by back soreness – Drew Davison has the Star-Telegram’s notebook with Justin Grimm reminiscing about his stint with the big club last season.
The Rangers avoided the snow that did this to the Match Play Championship out in Arizona yesterday as “Team Jackie Moore,” comprised of mostly Rangers regulars, defeated “Team Bobby Jones” 10-4 in the second intrasquad scrimmage of spring training. The Rangers media relations folks distributed a box score indicating that 2012 RoughRider Cody Buckel pitched an inning for the winning side, but I swear that’s him in the photo above instigating a snowball fight. Anyway, here are today’s spring links (or “splinks,” if you will):
Martin Perez determined to win fifth spot – Richard Durrett has a feature on former ‘Riders pitcher Martin Perez, who’s been the Rangers’ young stud pitching prospect for about 15 years now. Perez thinks that this will be the year he arrives for good after foundering with the big club in 2012. He got off to a good start in Tuesday’s intrasquad game, throwing all nine of his pitches for strikes.
Relief candidates show off stuff - Durrett also cleans out the notebook with a closer look at pitchers trying to make Texas’ bullpen, including 2012 ‘Rider Joseph Ortiz, who earned an Eddie Guardado comparison.
Rangers’ Berkman says calf strain is no issue – Fox Sports Southwest (via the AP) has Lance Berkman essentially saying, “nothing to see here,” regarding his right calf strain. It has to be at least a little concerning for the Rangers considering they are paying him $11 million this season and he played just 32 games last year because of two knee surgeries and a left calf strain.
Lance Berkman lands on injury report – Drew Davison talks to Berkman about his injury but also notes that Leury Garcia may be a WBC candidate for the Dominican Republic because of his versatility.
Five candidates vying for last spot in Rangers rotation – Jeff Wilson breaks down the competition for the number five starting spot between Perez, Randy Wells, Kyle McClellan, Justin Grimm and Robbie Ross.
And, just for the sake of comparison:
With calendar year wrapping up, we’re taking one last look at the 2012 season, specifically the top performers in the Rangers organization. MiLB.com’s Rangers Organization All-Star Team provided a good jumping off point and yesterday we took a look at the infield with an eye upon the outfield and pitching today.
Joey Butler, Round Rock (137 G, .290-20-78, 28 2B, 3B, 93 R, 6-10 SB, .392 OBP, .473 SLG, .865 OPS)
Julio Borbon, Round Rock (126 G, .304-10-56, 23 2B, 8 3B, 78 R, 20-28 SB, .349 OBP, .433 SLG, .783 OPS)
Engel Beltre, Frisco (133 G, .261-13-55, 17 2B, 17 3B, 80 R, 36-46 SB, .307 OBP, .420 SLG, .727 OPS)
Lewis Brinson, AZL Rangers (54 G, .283-7-42, 22 2B, 7 3B, 54 R, 14-16 SB, .345 OBP, .523 SLG, .868 OPS)
The Rangers have a decent number of outfield prospects in their farm system and some very exciting ones who spent 2012 in the lower levels. Unfortunately, some of those exciting prospects did not have very good years offensively. The super-athletic Jordan Akins (Hickory) couldn’t crack the Mendoza Line in his first year with a full-season club while former first rounder Jake Skole struggled mightily in the Carolina League before serving a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
However, there were some notable seasons among outfielders down on the farm. While perhaps a little too old to wear the “prospect” label, Butler turned in a fine season for the Express, providing a consistent, middle-of-the-order threat. Whether or not he profiles to make a big league team at any point, he should have a long career in professional baseball given his ability to produce at the Triple-A level. I could have really included the entire Round Rock outfield on this list, as Borbon’s numbers were nearly as impressive Butler’s and Leonys Martin (55 G, .359-12-42, 1.033 OPS) was a stud in his limited time in Triple-A. While both certainly have credible cases to be made, ultimately I decided that there were other players who deserved the recognition maybe just a bit more.
My pick of Beltre was likely influenced by having the opportunity to see him everyday with the RoughRiders this past season. The former Red Sox signee entered this past season looking to wipe the slate clean from a disastrous 2011 campaign that tarnished his prospect status. The Dominican delivered, setting career-highs in home runs, triples and steals. His 17 three-baggers were the second-most in Minor League Baseball and he played an astonishingly good center field. Speaking from a purely defensive standpoint, I am convinced that he could step into the big leagues today and be a top 15 center fielder.
Based on his 2012 season, the Rangers certainly have to be happy with selecting Brinson with their first round draft pick this past June. The 18-year-old Floridian did not get the same level of attention that AZL Rangers teammate Joey Gallo received for his desert power surge, but that was through no fault of his own. Brinson led the AZL with 36 extra-base hits, 54 runs scored and 124 total bases while finishing one shy of the league lead in both hits and RBI. The potential of Brinson and many of his teammates from this past season should keep Rangers fans excited for the future.
RIGHT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
MiLB.com’s pick: Barret Loux, Frisco (25 GS, 14-1, 3.47 ERA, 127 IP, 120 H, 100 K, 41 BB, 1.27 WHIP, .251 BAA)
My pick: Cody Buckel, Myrtle Beach/Frisco (26 G, 23 GS, 10-8, 2.49 ERA, 144.2 IP, 105 H, 159 K, 48 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .206 BAA)
Loux’s record is gaudy, but a closer look into his and Buckel’s numbers make the Californian the decisive choice from my perspective. Loux wowed everyone (the Diamondbacks included, methinks) by winning each of his first ten starts of the season before going 4-1 in his final 15 outings. His command of four pitches and ability to adjust from start-to-start and during starts were something to behold. Traded to the Cubs in November as Jake Brigham’s replacement in the Geovany Soto deal, Loux fits the profile of a 4 or 5 starter in a big league rotation. While Loux was very good at the start of the season for Frisco, Buckel was transcendent for the Pelicans. The undersized righty had more starts (13) than runs allowed (12) in the Carolina League and, after an adjustment period in Double-A, was at his best in the Texas League as the season wrapped up. Buckel learned to pound the strike zone with his zippy 92-94 mph fastball and then tortured hitters with his multitude of off-speed offerings (including a “shuuto,” or “reverse-slider”). Buckel should be a regular big league contributor (either with the Rangers or another team depending on how the trade winds are blowing) before the end of the 2014 season. Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards also were worthy of consideration for this spot.
LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
MiLB.com’s pick: Chad Bell, Myrtle Beach/Frisco/Round Rock (31 G, 21 GS, 8-7, 3.48 ERA, 2 SV, 142.1 IP, 123 H, 110 K, 54 BB, 1.24 WHIP, .236 BAA)
My pick: Bell
The paucity of lefty starters in the Rangers’ system almost gives this award to Bell by default, but he is still a worthy recipient. He probably should have begun the year: a) in Frisco; and b) as a starter all along. But he started 2012 in a multi-inning relief role for Myrtle Beach before joining the RoughRiders at the end of April. He got off to a rocky start in the Texas League, allowing a home run in his first outing before settling down and going 23 straight innings over seven outings without allowing another earned run. By mid-May, he was starting and on June 11 he received the biggest boost of his season and perhaps his professional career. With Rangers Special Assistant and pitching legend Greg Maddux in attendance, Bell allowed just one hit and one walk with six strikeouts over 6.2 scoreless innings in a win over Midland. Maddux said after the game that it was one of the most impressive starts by a Minor Leaguer he had ever witnessed. Bell was in Round Rock by the end of the month and, though the PCL proved to be more treacherous, continued to string together solid performances.
MiLB.com’s pick: Ben Rowen, Myrtle Beach (38 G, 5-0, 1.57 ERA, 19-20 SV, 57.1 IP, 52 K, 3 BB, 0.77 WHIP, .201 BAA)
My pick: Rowen
Winner of a “MiLBY Award” for the best reliever in all of Minor League Baseball, the submariner Rowen is obviously the best choice here. The former 22nd round draft pick kept his pitches consistently down, inducing a 2.9 GO/AO ratio and allowing just two home runs all season. His ludicrously low number of walks (three) is perhaps his most impressive statistic, given the unpredictablility of submarine-style pitchers in general. Other excellent relievers from this past season included Phil Klein (Spokane/Myrtle Beach), Jimmy Reyes (Myrtle), Nicholas McBride (Spokane/Myrtle Beach), Zach Osborne (for his Myrtle work), Ross Wolf (Frisco/Round Rock), Joseph Ortiz (Frisco/Round Rock) and Yoshinori Tateyama (Round Rock).
- Alex V.
In part two of my discussion with RoughRiders manager Steve Buechele, we talk about Jurickson Profar, Chris McGuiness and his own future in the game.
Alex Vispoli: This past season you had the distinct pleasure of sending four guys directly to the big leagues, by passing Triple-A. In your opinion, taking a look at those four guys (Justin Grimm, Wilmer Font, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar), what do you think their ceilings are, how good can they get?
Steve Buechele: I don’t know, but I think they can all become great players. To tab every one of them as a great player, well what happens down the road you just never know. [Profar], he’s had so much talk about him and hype put on his shoulders, and the same with Mike Olt; I think they’re both going to be absolutely great Major Leaguers for a long time. I think Wilmer Font has a chance to very very good. And I think Justin Grimm, getting a taste and seeing what it’s like, I think he’ll be very good. And I could say that about a lot of other guys who were on our team this year. I think the fans and people around the Metroplex are going to find out that a pretty good number of kids who were on that team this year are going to be wearing a Rangers uniform. If not a Rangers uniform, they’ll be wearing a big league uniform pretty soon.
AV: Chris McGuiness was named the co-Player of the Week – along with Houston’s Jon Singleton – for the first week of action in the Arizona Fall League. I was pretty surprised by McGuiness’ season in that he was so productive. He started off slowly but hit for a .268 average with 23 home runs and it seemed like he raised his game to another level when Olt – who had been hitting in front of him for most of the season – went up to the big leagues. Here he is carrying the label of an “elite prospect” by going out to Arizona and by having the season that he had. He is known for being a pretty good defensive player as well. Is he someone who surprised you a little bit considering that he missed most of 2011 with injury and when he did play the results were not great?
SB: I don’t think he surprised me. I think what was key for him was that it was one of the first seasons where he went the full season injury-free. He’s always had little nicks and knacks and injuries that have knocked him out here and there. This year, for the most part, he was injury-free and played every day. And he was a kid who you saw him just develop and grow into a much more confident run producer and a much more confident hitter. I think maybe when Mike [Olt] got brought up, and I think even before that, you saw him develop and become a much more confident hitter as the season went on, certainly after the first half. Early in the year he had so many opportunities to knock in runs and I think became frustrated with it. It was just nice to see a kid at the Double-A level understand what it takes and what kind of hitter he needs to become to be a run producer. It was just great to see him do that. And he’s a great kid; to see that he was named “Player of the Week,” that’s not a surprise to me at all.
AV: With Profar, there’s so much hype around him and he had such a good season at 19 years old in Double-A, the youngest player in Double-A this year. You probably don’t know the answer to this and Jon Daniels might not know the answer either, but how do the Rangers work him in to get a more regular role than what he had in the last month of the regular season, considering the two positions that he can play are pretty well spoken for at the moment?
SB: I don’t know, that’s not my call. Do I think he’s a great utility player at the big league level if in fact they go with [Elvis] Andrus and [Ian] Kinsler [at shortstop and second base]? Yeah, no doubt he is. He would serve that role perfectly. Could he play every day in the big leagues? And my answer to that is yes too. He’s only 19 years old and you can’t overlook that. With Pro, what makes him so good is that he adjusts so quickly for a 19-year-old kid. The adjustments he makes and as smart as he is, it’s well beyond his years. I’ve said this a hundred times and you’ve heard it: very often you find kids that are afraid to fail. And he’s one of the rare players that you see who is not afraid to be great. I would be shocked if the Rangers don’t find some kind of role for him starting next season.
AV: I know you follow the Rangers very closely, I’m sure you were watching after our season ended. But from your vantage point, what happened to that team over the last two weeks of the season and that one playoff game?
SB: You know what, I don’t know. I’m not there, I watch it obviously just like everybody else. I don’t know. You hear their excuses and if you want to make excuses, to me it is kind of the result of what’s gone on the last two years. The grind, the long years, players becoming tired, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer as to what happened. I think at the end of the season it looked like a very sluggish team to me, the energy level wasn’t there. What are the reasons for it? I’m not going to sit here and try to make any kind of excuse for them, but if I had to give you an opinion I think it’s just a result of what’s gone on the last couple of years and I think they just ran out of gas.
AV: Yeah, an extra month of baseball for two straight years and I think almost everyone played in a career-high number of games which probably helped cause that.
AV:You have been mentioned as a guy that folks think has what it takes to be a Major League manager. Is that what you want eventually?
SB: Sure, I mean going back four years ago when I was asked to come back in the organization and be a part of it, managing was never on my radar screen. Coaching or getting back in some form was in my mind. But being a manager never was. I’ve enjoyed it and I love it. What other people say is what they say, I don’t care. I’m happy with what I’m doing and hopefully someday I’ll get a chance to be on a big league staff again.
AV: Is that something that you take an active role in trying to make it happen or is your philosophy “if it’s going to happen, just wait for it to happen”?
SB: I don’t know how active a role I can take in it. I think I’m pretty loyal to the Rangers. I’ve been a part of this organization for a long long long time going back to 1985 and always being a part of the organization, doing something for them in some extent and now I’m back in uniform. There are certain loyalties that I have to the Rangers and the hope on my end is that at some point, some time I’ll be able to wear that Rangers uniform again.
My thanks to Steve Buechele for taking the time to talk with us. Look out for more interviews with members of the 2012 RoughRiders throughout the off-season.
Recently, I had the chance to speak with RoughRiders manager and former Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele. We talked about the off-season, the playoffs and some of his players on the 2012 RoughRiders. This is part one of our conversation with part two coming tomorrow.
Alex Vispoli: First of all, how has the off-season been treating you?
Steve Buechele: It’s always nice when you get away from the field and spend some time with the family and just do family stuff. That’s what makes the off-season so special.
AV: It’s been about a month and a half since the season ended. Are you still enjoying your time off or have you gotten to the point where you’re itching to get back to the game?
SB: Oh no, I’m happy to be away. I think everybody looks forward to getting back to the game but you know, that there are still months to go and the time that you have to spend with your family and be away, it’s very precious. Once you get back into baseball, that’s what takes up all your time. I’m sure after the holidays and after Christmas when spring training comes close that’s when [we’ll all be looking forward to getting back to it]. It’s kind of like the swallows going back to Capistrano; you know you’re supposed to be somewhere, you get that itch and you want to get going.
AV: When does it all start up again for you? The season begins in April, the Minor Leagues’ spring training begins in March; are you out there in Arizona come February?
SB: Yeah, the Rangers bring the Double-A and Triple-A staffs to big league camp. [At the moment, the Rangers have not announced their spring training schedule, but pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona on February 22 this past year.]
AV: The way the 2012 season ended, going back to the Cardinals series, was there something missing from the performance or did Springfield just out-execute you guys? How do you look back on that series?
SB: You know, when I look back at it we had a chance in Game 2 [in Springfield] with a four-run lead] and I think if you had to go back and do it all over again it’s one of those things where I wouldn’t do any thing differently. I would have felt absolutely awesome knowing that I’ve got Grimm and Wolf coming in to get the last four outs. But it’s the playoffs and it’s baseball and those kind of things happen. I think [the Cardinals] played good and I think we played good. They pitched well, we pitched well and they beat us. I don’t think we did anything to lose the series. I look back and I’m super-proud of my guys and the way we played. Obviously we all wished we could have won the championship but to get there with the group that we had was awesome.
AV: You can even see in this ridiculous Major League Baseball postseason the fact that momentum seems to carry such weight and it seems like it’s even more difficult to stop when you have it on your side. Especially when you’re at home like Springfield was in that Game 2.
SB: Well I think the momentum thing that you talk about, it probably applies more to that Corpus Christi series than anything else. To me, looking back, winning one game in Corpus Christi may have been one of our best accomplishments of the year. That’s a really tough place to play. The fans came out for the playoffs. Usually in the Minor Leagues stadiums are not full, they’re more toward the empty side. But Corpus Christi’s ballpark was full, they had the rally towels and just the atmosphere that was there in that game… You’re thinking you’ve got to play three of them there and we’re going to have a tough time getting through this. But to win that series [in three games] I think was a huge accomplishment for us.
AV: When you look back at the last game of the year, do you think about what could have been based on that controversial call that happened, down 2-0 in the eighth inning with Leury Garcia getting called out on the close play at first base and then Chris McGuiness then hitting the home run on the very next pitch?
SB: Yeah you can think about it. But you know what? Had Leury Garcia been called safe, they probably would have pitched McGuiness a little bit differently too. Those are the things in baseball that, the way they happen and what ends up happening, you look at it in a very general way and think, “Oh gosh, that would have been a two-run homer.” I guarantee you had Leury been called safe and been on first base they would have been careful to Chris McGuiness. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have hit a home run, but I don’t look at as if that home run would have definitely happened to tie the game up.
AV: Looking at the season as a whole, you really seemed to enjoy this season and this group. You spoke about it with me on plenty of occasions. In your mind, what made the group of players as special as it was?
SB:I think it was such a new group and such a fresh group, a bunch of guys coming up from A-ball and making that jump. It was a group of kids that was just raw for our level and learning and talented obviously, a very talented group. But you just don’t know how the kids are going to adapt to moving up a level and facing that challenge. Once you get to Double-A it’s a whole different ballgame as a lot of our kids found out. I think what made it special for me was that it was just a great group of kids that came to the park everyday ready to play, wanting to learn. And for the most part, they played their tails off and they played the game the right way. They took their lumps, a lot of those kids, but I think they all got better and they understand what it’s going to take to move on.
AV: Talking to people inside and outside the organization and there seems to be an intentional strategy of getting good clubhouse guys who are obviously talented as well. You saw how important that chemistry is at the big league level, the way the players interacted during the Rangers’ two World Series runs. Do you think that element on this year’s ’Riders team is more of a coincidence or was this part of the plan with this particular group just now reaching this point on the Minor League ladder?
SB: I’m not sure, Alex. I think when you draft and sign kids, to me, number one above ability is the makeup of the kid. I think a lot of times that gets thrown in the background a little bit because of a kid’s ability and his talents and his skill level. They wow you so much that, you know what, maybe you take a chance on the makeup of what kind of kid he is. To me, that becomes first and foremost is what kind of kid he is. How does he approach the game? What does he do when he’s on the field? How does he come to the ballpark everyday? Is he ready to go? How does he prepare? Those are more important to me sometimes than a kid’s physical abilities. And this was just a group of young kids that was raw, as I said, they had great talent. But for the most part those guys came to the ballpark every day and they were ready to play. What they did in the first half was, to me, very exceptional.
Coming tomorrow: We discuss Jurickson Profar’s future, what happened to the Rangers at the end of the season and his future in the game.