Results tagged ‘ Matt Harrison ’
Baseball players thrive on rhythm and routine both on and off the diamond. The RoughRiders’ first home stand consisted of two rain-outs (including one on Opening Day), two doubleheaders and six games squished into a four-day span. Two of the games featured rehab appearances by big league hurler (and former RoughRider) Matt Harrison. The ‘Riders played three games in a 24-hour period from April 7-8. Simply put, neither rhythm nor routine were present during the first week of the season.
Fortunately, in a regular season that encompasses five months and 140 games, repetition is almost inevitable. The RoughRiders seem to have found at least a semblance of it in the Natural State on their first road trip of the season. The ‘Riders swept the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in three games, but their first game against the Arkansas Travelers was, as you may have guessed, rained out.
Regardless, back at the corner of Hicks & Diamond Drive, I too, have begun to settle into the ebb and flow of the baseball season. I couldn’t be happier, either. As Alex Vispoli’s Broadcasting & Media Relations Assistant, I am excited to help bring you RoughRiders baseball this summer. You can hear me on the air with Alex during every home game and on pregame/postgame coverage while the team is on the road. I look forward to the journey with the ‘Riders this season and I hope we can learn more about this team and the game of baseball together.
As Alex progressively introduced me to the staff at Dr Pepper Ballpark over the course of my first month in town, I consistently heard the phrase, “Welcome aboard.” My effort to reciprocate this friendly Texas welcome appears before your eyes now, regrettably late by one home stand and two blog posts. This is the 502nd post on the ‘Riders Insider Blog and I realize now I had a subconscious desire to publish the 500th. Alas, my dreams of attaining ‘Riders Insider immortality have been dashed (or at the very least, altered).
In an effort to amend my tardiness, I have included some worthwhile links. ‘Riders on the Record returns below as Alex Vispoli sits down on Opening Day with new ‘Riders skipper, Jason Wood. I also encourage you to listen to the first RoughRiders Roundtable of the season on the Dallas Sports Network with Alex, myself, and the usually uninformed Michael Tepid. Many thanks to Ted Price for his work on the production end.
I am genuinely thrilled to climb on the saddle with the RoughRiders in 2014. Here’s to a great ride.
This article originally appeared in the March 21 edition of SportsPage Weekly, which is a free publication available throughout the Metroplex. To view the article in the online edition, click here.
There are very few “sure things” in life, but when it comes to local sports and entertainment options, the Frisco RoughRiders are just about as close to a sure thing as you can get. Year after year, Dr Pepper Ballpark hosts exciting baseball action, premium prospects and fun for the whole family. Ask anyone who has ever been to a RoughRiders game and they’ll tell you how memorable the experience is.
It’s almost hard to believe, but the RoughRiders will soon begin their 12th season on April 3 at home against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals affiliate). In honor of a dozen years of Frisco baseball, we present the top 12 reasons to catch the RoughRiders in action this season at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
#12 – A winning tradition
Everybody loves a winner. And over the past decade the RoughRiders have been one of the most consistent winners in Minor League Baseball. In 2013, Frisco finished with a 70-70 record, its eighth consecutive season with a .500 or better mark on the ledger. The last time Frisco finished with a losing record was the only time in team history: back in 2005, when the team finished 58-82. The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years. The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten). Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.
#11 – History in the making
Baseball fans appreciate the sport’s history and tradition, and the Texas League plays an important role in the lineage of the game. The RoughRiders and their fans belong to a storied Texas League pedigree that dates back to 1888 (the American League was founded in 1901). A game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is more than just a chance to contribute to baseball’s history; it affords fans the opportunity to witness history as it happens. Notable Texas League alumni span the generations and include Major League Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Dizzy Dean, Joe Morgan and Whitey Herzog. It is a legacy furthered by many stars in the game today who also enjoyed success in the Texas League. Current Rangers Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus had All-Star seasons in the Texas League in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Outside the organization, an impressive crop of recent alumni continue to cultivate the Texas League brand as their big league careers flourish. The Texas League footprint extends across the Major League map and features young stars Mike Trout, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn, Jean Segura and numerous others.
#10 – Rehabbing Rangers
Players, coaches and fans dislike injuries, but they remain an inevitable component of any professional game. For a major league club, the inconvenience of an in-season malady is lessened—somewhat—when an affiliate team plays in the neighborhood. No one in Frisco hopes for a rehab assignment, but when a Rangers’ regular tweaks a calf or strains a wrist, Dr Pepper Ballpark provides a two-fold benefit for both the player and the fan. Players can stay in the Metroplex to nurse an injury and play in an atmosphere that approximates a big league ballgame. On the other hand, fans receive a unique opportunity to view their favorite Rangers in a more intimate setting and at an affordable cost. A total of 13 Rangers players donned a RoughRiders’ cap for a rehab assignment in 2013, including pitcher Matt Harrison, who unfortunately started as many games for Frisco (two) as he did for Texas. Rehab assignments rarely occur with much forewarning, but thanks to Derek Holland’s dog, Wrigley, the southpaw has likely already booked a stint with the RoughRiders in 2014. Make sure you’re in the stands when the Rangers’ rehabbers visit Dr Pepper Ballpark.
#9 – A new skipper
For the first time in five years, someone other than Steve Buechele will write out Frisco’s lineup card. With Buechele managing the Rangers’ Triple-A club this season, Jason Wood steps into the role for the RoughRiders in 2014. Wood, a five-year major leaguer and veteran of 18 professional seasons as a player, will begin his fourth season as a manager in the Texas farm system. The 44-year-old spent the previous three years as the skipper for Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. He led the Pelicans to the playoffs in all three campaigns and looks to get the ’Riders back to the postseason this year. While Wood is a fresh face in the dugout, the rest of his coaching staff will remain in place from the last two seasons. Jeff Andrews returns as the team’s pitching coach following a season in which Frisco’s hurlers collectively set numerous team records. This past offseason, Andrews was honored the co-recipient of the Rangers’ annual Bobby Jones Player Development Man of the Year award. Jason Hart will begin his third season as Frisco’s hitting coach and his instruction has been lauded for helping former RoughRiders Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, Leury Garcia, Chris McGuiness and Engel Beltre all reach the major leagues over the past two seasons.
#8 – Affordability
One of the charms of Minor League Baseball is getting a big league experience without paying a premium price. RoughRiders games are no different because the team strives to make sure everyone can afford to watch games at Dr Pepper Ballpark. It can be a major strain on the wallet to attend other professional sporting events. The average cost for a family of four to attend a Major League Baseball game is approximately $208; for an NFL game that number is $444, with the NBA checking in at $442 and the NHL at $355. That figure for a Minor League Baseball game? Just $61. With RoughRiders tickets starting at just $7 (less than the cost of a movie theater ticket), attending a game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is very much accessible. But say you’re interested in getting even more value at the ballpark. The RoughRiders offer affordable ticket plans that include all-you-can-eat food and drink, and even packages that include alcohol. These value-based ticket plans make attending games in Frisco possible without denting your bank account.
#7 – The other guys aren’t too shabby either
Tomorrow’s stars play today in the Texas League and 2014 is no exception. The RoughRiders will welcome a host of talent from around the circuit to Dr Pepper Ballpark this season, many of whom are ranked on the MLB.com Top 100 Prospects list. The Tulsa Drillers figure to field a strong pitching rotation bolstered by top 50 prospects Jon Gray (#14) and Eddie Butler (#41). Both pitchers bring high-octane velocity to the Drillers’ staff and can touch the upper 90s on the radar gun. Catcher Austin Hedges (#24) of the San Antonio Missions is rated as the second-highest prospect at his position by MLB.com. His strong arm and good footwork behind the plate will give would-be base stealers second thoughts. Kyle Zimmer (#25), the number five overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, is expected to start the season with the Northwest Arkansas. The Royals promoted Zimmer to Double-A late last season where he held a 1.93 ERA through four starts with the Naturals. Position players to watch for elsewhere in the Texas League include speedy leadoff hitter Delino DeShields (#66) of the Corpus Christi Hooks, Jorge Bonifacio (#91) of the Naturals and gifted batter Stephen Piscotty (#98) of the Springfield Cardinals. Every mentioned player has big league potential.
#6 – You won’t be the only one cheering
The vocal and expressive fan will find a home at Dr Pepper Ballpark. For nine consecutive seasons, the RoughRiders have led all 30 Double-A teams in total and average attendance. More than half-a-million fans routinely fill Dr Pepper Ballpark every season and the team averages better than 7,000 fans per game. Not only is that the best in Double-A, but it’s also higher than 17 Triple-A teams! On 21 occasions in 2013, the ’Riders drew crowds of more than 10,000. Frisco’s fan base is second to none and players say the crowds enhance the in-game environment more than anywhere else in the Texas League. Bring a sign, be loud and shout until your voice goes out. You won’t be cheering alone.
#5 – More than just peanuts and Cracker Jack
RoughRiders cuisine far outstrips traditional ballpark fare. Sure, fans can still fill up to the gills on foot-long hot dogs and brats from Smokie’s Sausage Shack, but Dr Pepper Ballpark serves something for any palate. The new Beer & Barbeque stand will cook in-house, smoked Texas barbeque favorites while Lone Star Pizza offers a wide range of personal style pies. Deep-fried Oreos grace the à la carte lineup for the first time this season, and for those in search of a healthy option, Greek yogurt is also available. Of course, many Frisco fan favorites will be back on the menu as well, from fresh-spun cotton candy and funnel cakes to snow cones and freshly squeezed lemonade. Of course, few things taste better on a hot Texas night than a cold serving of Dippin’ Dots. It’s never summer without great food, great drinks and RoughRiders baseball.
#4 – An arsenal of arms
For the best pitching this side of Yu Darvish and Arlington, Dr Pepper Ballpark is the place to be. The RoughRiders will rely on their mound men to bolster the franchise’s quest for an eighth playoff berth. Right-hander Luke Jackson is expected to lead the group in 2014. The fireballer started the previous season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and made his RoughRiders’ debut on August 4, 2013. He didn’t miss a beat in Double-A and finished the season with 134 combined strikeouts at both Myrtle Beach and Frisco and held the eighth-lowest ERA among all full season minor league pitchers (2.04). Those numbers were a big reason why the Rangers named Jackson the club’s 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Alex Claudio figures to take the reins from Jackson and the starters as a key piece in the RoughRiders’ bullpen in 2014. The deceptive Claudio fools batters with his changeup and was named the Rangers’ Minor League Reliever of the Year last season. Another burgeoning prospect, Alex Gonzalez, hopes to excite the Frisco faithful this year. Don’t call him Alex, though. Gonzalez prefers the nickname “Chi Chi,” given by a family member. Baseball America rates the 2013 first round draft pick as the number six prospect in the Rangers’ organization. Fans on the wild side will anticipate the return of eight-year veteran Kevin Pucetas as he unleashes his newly developed knuckleball pitch on the diamond this season. Other highly-ranked pitchers that are expected to see time in Frisco this season include Alec Asher, Nick Martinez and Jerad Eickhoff.
#3 – Rougned Odor
Because the makeup of minor league teams are up to the discretion of the parent club, you never know who will be on the Opening Day roster until very late in spring training. That is typically the case with the RoughRiders, but one player who looks very likely to be with the team on April 3 is second baseman Rougned Odor. The Venezuelan with the memorable name is the Rangers’ top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America and he showed why during a 30-game stint with Frisco at the end of the 2013 season. Odor was promoted to Double-A in early August and hit .306/.354/.530 with six home runs, eight doubles, two triples and 19 RBI. And he did all of that as just a 19-year-old, the youngest player in Double-A. (Projecting those numbers out over a 140-game season, he would have hit 28 homers with 37 doubles, nine triples and 89 RBI.) Now 20, Odor spent the first half of spring training in big league camp and hopes to use that experience to further propel his ascension to the major leagues. For the time being, however, the spunky infielder with the big bat is expected to ply his trade at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
#2 – Family-friendly entertainment
The RoughRiders are well-known for making trips to Dr Pepper Ballpark about more than just the game on the field. The atmosphere on game nights is a blast, even for folks who aren’t big baseball fans. The RoughRiders employ a full-time entertainment director whose sole job is to make sure that families have fun when visiting the ballpark. From spectacular fireworks shows following every Friday night home game to a collection of more than 180 hilarious on-field skits and promotions that rotate throughout the season, there is something fun for everyone who comes to a game. Dr Pepper Ballpark even features a pool in right field and two playgrounds (including one specifically designed for two-to-five-year-olds). And for a lot of fans, their favorite RoughRiders aren’t ones you might see in Arlington someday – they are Deuce and Daisy, the team’s loveable mascots.
#1 – The home of future Rangers
With Odor and a tremendous pitching staff leading the way, there should be another impressive assortment of talent on display at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season. This has been the norm in each of the RoughRiders’ first 11 seasons in Frisco, and with the Rangers’ relentless pursuit of building a winning organization from top-to-bottom, don’t look for that trend to change anytime soon. Since 2003, 107 former RoughRiders have reached the major leagues, almost one-third of all Frisco players. In 2013, ten former ’Riders made the big leagues, including Nick Tepesch, Beltre, Garcia and McGuiness. One look at the Rangers’ 40-man roster shows that half of its members played in Frisco. Elvis Andrus, Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Holland, Leonys Martin, Profar, Neftali Feliz, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez are just a few of the Texas stalwarts who once wore a RoughRiders uniform. Outside of the Rangers organization, All-Stars such as Ian Kinsler, Chris Davis, Adrian Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson all spent time in Frisco as well.
With the RoughRiders, fans get winning baseball, exciting prospects, delicious food, affordable family fun and the future of the Texas Rangers on display. It all shows that the Frisco RoughRiders continue to be a sure thing for families and sports fans across the Metroplex.
This week I’m taking in my first visit to Surprise, Arizona for Rangers Spring Training, and I’m bringing you with me. If you missed the recap of Day One of my trip, check it out right here.
From what I can gather, you go through a few different phases during Spring Training as a player,coach and executive.
1. There’s the initial burst of excitement over getting back to a baseball field and rediscovering your passion for the game you love. This period is great – until you grow weary of the numerous of meetings, practices, simulated situations and other minutia that, while important, is not why anyone signed up to be a part of this game. All during this time, you’re chomping at the bit to start playing something that at least resembles a game.
2. You eventually do move into this phase, but they’re not real games (granted, Spring Training games are not really like real games, but at least it’s somewhat close); they’re more like scrimmages that you play against the same people you’ve been practicing against for the last week or two.
3. Just when you get to the point where you’re mentally over the idea of facing the same opponent day after day, you start games against other organizations, which is a major refresher for the mind.
4. Then, you just get sick and tired of being in Arizona for up to two months and playing the role of “human sunny-side up egg” in the roasting desert sun. You want to get the season underway and start playing games that count (with real stats too).
The big leaguers are in the midst of Phase 3, while the minor leaguers have just gotten to Phase 2, which I watched begin in earnest on Monday morning at the Rangers’ Spring Training complex in Surprise. Along the way, I witnessed the start of a comeback, a rebirth, the long-term future and the bizarre before finishing the day with a Hall of Famer.
7:45 a.m. - As I alluded to at the end of yesterday’s post, I was not going to play the role of fool two days in a row (at least in this specific respect) and get microwaved by the southwest sun once again. Upon the recommendation of the helpful hotel lobby person, I headed over the nearby “99 ¢ Only Store” (because dollar stores are considered too bourgeoisie here) to purchase some sunscreen. Now, I was just as suspicious as you probably are reading this about buying 99-cent sunscreen. “Wouldn’t splashing a layer of water on your skin be at least equally effective?” Yeah, that ran through my head, but my faith in “Hypoderm Sunscreen” (Note to anyone who thought, “Why didn’t I think of an amazing name like that?”: it’s not a registered trademark, apparently) was rewarded. My burns from Sunday were reasonably contained and my skin did not start falling off at any point. And I feel like a true bargain hunter after spotting this attempt on eBay to charge some poor sap $12.99+shipping for three of these babies. The whole episode felt a little like hitting a three-point bank shot that you didn’t call.
8:15 a.m. - Things are still fairly quiet by the time I reach the complex, probably due to the fact that fans won’t be let into the facility until 10 a.m. There are a few hitters getting some early work in and some of the big leaguers are trickling in for the day. The Rangers clubhouse is divided into two sides: one for the major leaguers and one for the minor leaguers. The minor league clubhouse is a lot bigger, but more crowded because there are so many more players in that camp. I am a bit surprised at how nice the minor league clubhouse is, however. I wasn’t necessarily expecting Bull Durham or some high school level accommodations, but I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly equal in many respects to the big league side. The lockers are made of wood (like the major leaguers) and are certainly an acceptable size, the flood is nicely carpeted and it has a welcoming tone to it. It’s much better than many road stadium clubhouses (and some home ones too) I’ve seen in my baseball travels.
On this particular morning, I meet Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez in the clubhouse and we talk about his outing in the big league “A” game the day before. He allowed three of the four men he faced to reach base before being removed after hitting his 20-pitch limit. A pair of meekly-hit grounders were able to sneak through for hits, so he isn’t overly negative about his performance even though all three men came home to score later in the inning. As for his nickname (which he prefers to go by, by the way), Chi-Chi says it was given to him by his grandfather’s brother; he nicknamed Gonzalez’ two older sisters Nina and Nene, so Chi-Chi seemed to fit the bill for Alex.
9 a.m. - Pockets of minor league hitters are taking batting practice out on the back fields (the big leaguers practice on the two fields closest to the stadium/clubhouse). I stumble upon the BP group that folks who love prospects dream about: Joey Gallo, Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara. Like many, I’ve heard a lot about these players but have never seen them in person (Ronald Guzman and Jorge Alfaro are also among the super-prospects who are super-young and populated Hickory’s Avengers-like squad last season). Like many, I am impressed at first glance. I didn’t realize how big they all were. At 6’3″, Brinson is the shrimp of the group. The others are either 6’4″ or 6’5″ and aren’t just tall rods with pine tar on their batting gloves. They’re built like stallions and we may see one or two gallop to Frisco by the end of 2014 if things go well.
I have a nice conversation about Cody Buckel with rehab pitching coordinator Keith Comstock, who says that Buckel is throwing the ball as well as he ever has. Buckel, the Rangers’ 2012 Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year, suffered a bad case of the yips last season and spent most of the campaign rewiring himself mentally and mechanically. I hadn’t heard much about Cody since the end of the season and am excited to see him pitch later in the day.
9:30 a.m. - The pitchers meet as a group with new farm director Mike Daly right next to the tall observation structure pictured at the start of the blog entry and it’s not long before Daly is about to give another talk to the hitters. It’s recommended that I join the group if I want a cool history lesson. Daly proceeds to educate the players about notable players from the 1966 MLB draft. The first overall pick was Steve Chilcott by the Mets – a seven-year minor leaguer who never reached the show. The second pick did slightly better. His name is Reggie Jackson. Daly tells the group about Reggie’s career and his epic performances in the World Series before finishing up by talking about the sixth overall pick from that draft: none other than Tom Grieve. I later speak with Daly and we talk about his history lesson. He’s concerned about the relative lack of knowledge many young players have about players who came before them, so he makes it a point to relay some history during camp through his own lessons and visits from legends like Pudge Rodriguez and others. Hopefully Texas’ minor leaguers can avoid the fate of Josh Hart.
10 a.m. - After the meetings wrap up, it’s more practice time on the back fields. The four fields are filled with defensive drills, bunt plays and batting practice. I’ll see infield work before games throughout the season, but never 20-30 minutes’ worth with every pitcher also taking part in these simulated situations. These are the minor leagues, and the minors are all about development. We see that over the course of the season, but the foundation is laid right here.
11:30 a.m. - Most of the big leaguers have left the practice fields to get ready for that afternoon’s game against the Reds, but not everyone has headed back to the clubhouse. On the infield-only field, Greg Maddux is hitting ground balls back to Matt Harrison, Nick Tepesch and Tommy Hanson. So not only the minor league guys work on fielding, and what better mound defender to learn from than Maddux, who only racked up a record 18 Gold Gloves during his Hall of Fame career. With not a whole lot else going on, a crush of fans flock to get in prime autograph position for when the session is over (for Tepesch, obviously).
On my way back to the big league side, I have a short chat with Rangers manager Ron Washington who is about to drive his golf back to the clubhouse. I wish him luck this season at the end of our conversation, to which he responds, “Well thank you baby!” and drives off.
12 noon - I meet Brandon Boyd, who is one of the Rangers’ clubhouse managers and also a former RoughRiders employee. Brandon oversaw the ‘Riders clubhouse from 2005-09 before moving on to Arlington. He takes me into the big league clubhouse, where I catch up with several familiar faces: Mitch Moreland, a RoughRider in 2009 and a rehabber in 2012 & ’13; Ryan Feierbend, a 2013 ‘Rider who would throw a scoreless inning in relief of Yu Darvish later in the day; and Brett Nicholas, Frisco’s best offensive player in 2013. Nicholas has been with the big club for the spring, mostly as a catcher after spending nearly all of last year at first base. Most of the clubhouse is vacant, but that is probably because it is when media is allowed in for interviews (nobody likes the media, especially radio guys).
On my way back to the minor leaguers, I stop to talk to Harrison, who I met during his rehab stint with Frisco last summer. Harrison will pitch for the first time in Tuesday’s game and says he feels completely healthy for the first time in a very long time. He says 2013 was agonizing, but feels like he is in great shape and is ready to get back to what made him an All-Star in 2012.
12:15 p.m. - I return to the back fields to watch the three intersquad games being played (the start of Phase 2 of Spring Training). Basically, all of the players in camp are mixed into random teams and pitted against one another for games that would last approximately five innings. This is once of the coolest parts of the day. On Field 5 I see Jorge Alfaro lace a Kevin Pucetas knuckleball to right-center for a triple. Pucetas is reinventing himself as a knuckleball pitcher after toying with the pitch in Frisco last season. Despite the Alfaro three-bagger, the knucklers dance enough that Pucetas does not allow another baserunner.
When I turn to Field 4, I watch Alex Claudio end an inning with a pickoff at second base with Juremi Profar batting and later Jon Edwards hits 98 on the radar gun. It is tough to keep up with all three games at once, so I miss some action but thoroughly enjoy what I did see. And the players seem to enjoy playing in games for the first time since last season. The minor league guys will play intersquad games on Tuesday and Wednesday before squaring off against other organizations beginning Thursday.
Soon enough, it’s Buckel’s turn to pitch and I am not disappointed. Cody looks a lot like the 2012 Cody; the one who struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings and displayed impeccable control. Buckel gets a strikeout and ultimately retires three of the four men he faces. Afterwards, he tells me that it felt good to finally pitch in his first game action since a pair of early-August AZL contests. He says he didn’t attack the strike zone the way he has in recent bullpens, but chalks that up to the long delay in facing live batters.
As an aside, I don’t want to make Buckel’s outing out to be more than it was. It was a good step in the right direction after a nightmare 2013, not a guarantee that he will never struggle again on the mound in the minors. I hope that he can string outings like this together and get his career back to where it was, and then beyond. Monday was not a definitive answer to anything, but it certainly was encouraging to see.
2 p.m. - Following the intersquad games, I head back to Surprise Stadium, where the Rangers and Reds are well underway. But before I can enter the stadium through the team offices, I encounter an obstacle I just am not expecting: bees. Lots of them. A stone column that sits between the office and the stadium concourse apparently gathered an enormous mass of bees over the span of an hour. There was no hive there previously; they just all swarmed to that spot and just stayed. I’m told it’s probably not safe to walk past them and that pest control is on its way. I agree that missing an inning or so of a Spring Training game in exchange for avoiding hundreds of simultaneous bee stings is probably a fair trade. It isn’t long before a group of close to a dozen people (including Rangers special assistant and former pitcher Darren Oliver) join me to watch the extermination.
A photo essay of the kill:
2:15 p.m. - The Rangers and Reds are in the fifth inning by the time I get past the bees and into the stadium. Yu Darvish is finishing up his outing and both teams get ready to send in position players that 95% of the stadium has never heard of. Now 11 years old, Billy Parker Field at Surprise Stadium holds up very well and seems to be an enjoyable place to watch a game. There’s a big Monday crowd on hand; hopefully most of them do not leave with bee stings.
3:15 p.m. - Because I did not get the chance to see him on Sunday, I make a stop by the Rangers’ broadcast booth to see Eric
Nadel. I’ve met Eric a few times at Rangers games and he has always been kind to me. Rangers fans are lucky to have had him for so long and I wasn’t the only one who was very happy for his Hall of Fame election this past off-season. I don’t want to take too much of his and Matt Hicks’ time during the game, but I congratulate Eric on the honor during an inning break and then scoot out of the booth. In the radio booth right next door, fellow Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman is broadcasting for the Reds’ radio network. Eric calls Marty one of his career mentors.
3:40 p.m. - The Rangers wrap up an 8-2 win over Cincinnati as former RoughRiders Neftali Feliz and Nicholas form the game-ending battery. It’s Texas’ first win since Thursday against San Diego and the last game I’ll see at Surprise Stadium during my stay in Arizona. The team heads to Camelback Ranch in Glendale to play the White Sox on Tuesday and I’ll be there for at least some of it as I hit the home stretch of my stay in the desert.
As always thanks for reading,
The Frisco RoughRiders return home today on a two-game winning streak to begin the final month of the 2013 regular season and are looking to improve on their recent home struggles.
Frisco took to the road last week after having lost three games, including two straight shut outs, at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The ‘Riders continued to skid in their first three games in San Antonio against the Missions, going 38 consecutive scoreless innings and three straight shutout defeats. Odubel Herrera ended that streak, however, with an RBI double in the fourth inning on Friday. Frisco’s six-game losing streak ended Sunday when the ‘Riders scored seven unanswered runs against the Missions to avoid the sweep.
The ‘Riders then traveled to West Texas for three games against the RockHounds. After dropping game one in Midland, Frisco’s offense came alive on Tuesday, defeating the ‘Hounds 11-6. Rangers pitcher and RoughRiders alum Matt Harrison began his rehab Wednesday as the ‘Riders won 2-1 to take the series. This was Frisco’s first series win since the beginning of July.
The RoughRiders also announced today a list of roster moves as they ready themselves for this four-game home stand that will feature outings from Rangers rehabbers Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison. Carlos Pimentel has been promoted to Triple-A Round Rock and the RoughRiders received five players from the Advanced-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans: righthanded pitchers Jon Edwards, Luke Jackson, and Francisco Mendoza as well as infielders Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas. Four players have been transferred from Frisco to Myrtle Beach: Hanser Alberto, Odubel Herrera, Nick McBride and Kevin Pucetas.
These are the matchups we expect to see on the mound for the upcoming two series:
Saturday: RHP Colby Lewis (0-1, 8.31 ERA) vs RHP Juan Oramas (0-2, 4.58 ERA)
Sunday: LHP Matt Harrison (2-2, 3.24 ERA) vs RHP Keyvius Sampson (9-4, 2.43 ERA)
- $1 Dr Pepper Thursdays
- RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger
- Friday Night Post-game fireworks
- Smashburger SMASH inning
- Kids Run the Bases
- Raising Cane’s Grand Slam Sunday
Baseball term of the day: Death valley - a particularly deep outfield area in a ballpark. Because of the depth, it is more difficult to hit home runs.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
Rangers’ pitcher and former RoughRider Martin Perez will be returning to the ‘Riders tonight in Midland as he begins his rehab assignment. The left-handed pitcher is expected to throw four innings and is likely to make another rehab start during the team’s current road trip.
Perez’s left wrist was broken after he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Seattle Mariners infielder Brad Miller in a spring training game on March 3. Prior to the injury, Perez was in contention for a spot in the Rangers’ starting rotation. He entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the organization’s third-best prospect and ranked 81st on the publication’s list of top 100 prospects in the minors.
The 22-year-old Venezuelan pitched for the RoughRiders during parts of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons and made his major league debut last year for Texas. He pitched in 12 big league games (six starts), going 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA (23 ER/38.0 IP). In his three seasons with Frisco, Perez pitched in 46 games (44 starts) and went 10-13 with a 4.74 ERA (110 ER/209.0 IP) and 198 strikeouts.
A few players who have rehabbed in Frisco
Nelson Cruz: Nelly has made two rehab appearances with the RoughRiders. He has played a total of six games in Frisco in 2010 and 2011, with eleven at-bats both years. He has had a total of six hits and two RBIs in the ‘Riders uniform.
Josh Hamilton: Hamilton rehabbed in Frisco for one game in 2009 and two more in 2011. On May 18, 2011, Josh hit a two-run homer in his second at-bat, and helped the ‘Riders to a pair of wins over the Midland RockHounds.
Ian Kinsler: The former RoughRider returned to Frisco in 2009-’10 due to a strained left groin. While rehabbing with the ‘Riders, Ian played in eight games with four runs and six RBIs.
Naftali Feliz: Another former ‘Rider, Feliz returned to Frisco in 2011 and 2012 on rehab assignment with elbow soreness issues.
Some others who have been assigned to the RoughRiders include: Hank Blalock (’08), (’11), Matt Harrison (’09-10), Mark Lowe (’12), Kevin Mench (’03-04), Darren O’Day (’11), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (’09), Mark Teixeira (’04, ’07).
Baseball Term of the Day: Dent the Plate – to score a run.
There was no game for the Rangers yesterday but of course that does not mean things were slow in terms of news developments. The big story continues to be the Nolan Ryan situation and we can expect things to remain that way until the big man speaks publicly on the matter. So far, he has shown little interest in doing that for reasons only he knows.
I think I speak for most fans when I say that I hope that this reaches a conclusion that keeps Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels’ top lieutenants with the organization. That might be a pie-in-the-sky hope, but it’s no crime to dream of a happy ending in this case. Sometimes, however, the band does end up breaking up. It happened to the Beatles and it can happen here.
In my opinion, what the Rangers would like to avoid experiencing is what happened the Red Sox front office over the final years of the Theo Epstein era. Epstein is a bit like Daniels in how he rose through the game to become a big league general manager. Like Daniels, Epstein had a group of extremely talented people around him who eventually outgrew their roles (i.e., the Red Sox could not afford them or give ran out of ways to promote them) and moved on to other organizations. Think of Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod as examples. Their departures diluted the talent pool of the front office and as a result, the Red Sox stumbled through some mediocre drafts and disastrous free agency signings, leading to three straight seasons ending with no postseason in Boston. Maybe voices like Hoyer and McLeod, had they been a part of those decisions, could have asked questions that weren’t being asked or proposed different solutions.
The Rangers ownership wants to make sure the Thad Levines and A.J. Prellers of the organization stay put to keep Daniels’ “dream team” of assistants together. Daniels’ promotion to president clears the way for some future upward movement in the front office, making it more likely that the band stays together for a little longer and the Rangers continue their run of recent success.
So where does that leave Nolan Ryan? We don’t really know, though there is plenty of speculation. My belief is that we won’t know until Nolan himself determines how he would like to see this play out. Until then, let’s hope this iteration of the Beatles keeps on rocking together.
On the subject of who has the power in the Rangers’ organization – Evan Grant says that nothing much will change with the organization despite the title changes.
Daniels on Nolan Ryan: ‘I don’t want him to leave’ – Some quotes from the Rangers’ GM/president, who was on ESPN Radio 103.3 yesterday.
If the always-sensible Nolan Ryan wants to win, it’s Texas Rangers or bust – Highlights from Kevin Sherrington’s DMN column.
Daniels had ‘good conversation’ with Ryan over the weekend, says there’s ‘no issue’ between the two – More Daniels quotes from another radio interview, this time with KRLD.
Why Rangers haven’t made move for Lohse, others – Daniels also took some time yesterday to touch on the potential acquisition of a new starting pitcher.
Team USA gets strong debut from Holland – There was a Ranger in action yesterday, as Derek Holland threw three innings for Team USA in a WBC tuneup vs. the White Sox.
Rangers’ top prospects can benefit from WBC absences – Jeff Wilson has Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar looking to take advantage of their extended playing time with the big club while the WBC is in progress.
Rangers don’t need to panic and press the No. 5 button – Gil Lebreton says Texas can afford to be patient in finding a fifth starter.
Harrison hopes offseason pays off in ’13 – Matt Harrison says he’s not content with coasting off his first all-star season despite earning a big contract, writes Anthony Andro.
Inbox: Could injuries bring Lohse into picture? – T.R. Sullivan answers fan questions in this week’s mailbag column.
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.
Opening Day for the RoughRiders is a mere 43 days away and baseball fans in the Metroplex are itching to see the ‘Riders and Rangers in action once again. As a primer to get ready for the season, we’ll be posting semi-regular batches of links to stories by the local media about the Rangers, giving you a one-stop shop of sorts for all your Rangers news & notes. With today marking the 20th birthday of 2012 ‘Riders shortstop Jurickson Profar, today seemed as good a day as any to start filling you up with Rangers info.
Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com has stories about one of the youngest players in big league camp, former ‘Riders infielder Leury Garcia, and one of the oldest players in Lance Berkman. I know there’s been abundant talk about Garcia’s versatility, but there probably needs to be some pumping of the brakes regarding his ability to play outfield. While he is a premium defensive player whether he’s at second base or shortstop, he is still inexperienced in the outfield and will need a lot more time out there before he can be considered a credible option on any sort of basis at the big league level. He’s a great piece for the Rangers to have, nonetheless.
Jeff Wilson (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) notes that the Rangers hope that their success on offense will start at the top with former RoughRiders Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus setting the tone for the rest of the lineup. Drew Davison gets to know former Montreal Expos draftee Collin Balester, who hopes to make an impact in the bullpen this season. Josh Hamilton is certainly not going to win any popularity contests around these parts, and Gil Lebreton gets Biblical to start his column chastising the former Rangers slugger.
The Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant has some notes on yesterday’s first intersquad scrimmage, including some Yu Darvish observations and an injury update on 2012 ‘Riders reliever Wilmer Font.
Anthony Andro (Fox Sports Southwest) also recaps Darvish’s performance, with the Japanese right-hander getting a good crack about Andrus’ defensive miscue. Matt Mosely wonders if Hamilton is crazy like a fox for making his DFW “baseball town” comments.
Finally, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com explores Matt Harrison’s roots on Tobacco Road in the small town of Creedmoor, North Carolina.
The Rangers officially published their ALDS roster earlier this morning featuring 11 former RoughRider players that will be suiting up for Texas against Tampa Bay:
Scott Feldman (’05, ’08)
Neftali Feliz (’08)
Alexi Ogando (’10)
Matt Harrison (’08)
Derek Holland (’08)
C.J. Wilson (’03, ’05-’06)
Elvis Andrus (’08)
Ian Kinsler (’04)
Mitch Moreland (’09)
Endy Chavez (’10)
Craig Gentry (’08-’09)