Results tagged ‘ Texas Rangers ’

Back fields, bees and Buckel: Day Two in Surprise


The all-seeing eye of the back fields, providing a prime view of four diamonds at once.

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.



Hypoderm Sunscreen & 99¢ Only Stores, two lifesavers.

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.


Uniform reinforcements are on standby outside the clubhouse.


Lots of players in camp means lots of broken bats. There’s an overflowing cardboard box filled with them.


Approximately one-sixteenth of the baseballs they’ve got in camp. These ones haven’t yet met a bat or blade of grass.


It’s hard not to look forward to the future when you see a foursome like Joey Gallo, Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara hitting together.

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.


Jason Wood hits grounders and calls out simulated scenarios for the fielders to respond to like they were in an actual game.


Ryan Rua sizes up a Jason Wood pitch during BP.


Greg Maddux about to hit a grounder back to Nick Tepesch as he joins Matt Harrison and Tommy Hanson for fielding work.

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.


Kevin Pucetas readies a knuckleball while warming up in the bullpen.

The lineups for one intersquad game.

The lineups for one intersquad game.

Wait a minute, let's get a better look at that Jason Wood baseball card.

Wait a minute, let’s get a better look at that Jason Wood baseball card.

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.


Nomar Mazara attempts to square up a pitch during an intersquad game. That’s Jorge Alfaro behind the plate.

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.


Cody Buckel looked completely different than the last time I saw him pitch in 2013, when he struggled to throw strikes.

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:

The swarm of bees were approximately the size of a basketball and it seemed to be growing.

The swarm of bees was approximately the size of a basketball and it seemed to be growing.

Nonchalant pest control showed up on a moment's notice.

Nonchalant pest control showed up on a moment’s notice.

You know it's memorable when even the exterminator is snapping photos. But he was crazy close without much face protection.

You know it’s memorable when even the exterminator is snapping photos. But he was crazy close without much face protection.

Getting to work. They put a tarp down to help collect the dead bees.

Getting to work. They put a tarp down to help collect the dead bees.

He's not spraying any sort of insecticide or poison; it's actually just soapy water, which apparently messes with the bees pretty badly.

He’s not spraying any sort of insecticide or poison; it’s actually just soapy water, which apparently messes with the bees pretty badly.

The whole group didn't fall at once.  The bees came out in fist-sized clumps.

The whole group didn’t fall at once. The bees came out in fist-sized clumps.

After about five minutes of spraying, the coast was clear and I dashed into the ballpark.

After about five minutes of spraying, the coast was clear and I dashed into the ballpark.

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.

The second level view from right behind home plat.e

The second level view from right behind home plate.

A look from the third base concourse. The Rangers team offices are housed in the building in the back.

A look from the third base concourse. The Rangers team offices are housed in the building in the back.

Looking homeward from the outfield berm. That grass the fans are seated on is actually a plastic synthetic surface that feels and looks like real grass.  I had to pluck one from the ground to confirm it wasn't the real deal.

Looking homeward from the outfield berm. That grass the fans are seated on is actually a plastic synthetic surface that feels and looks like real grass. I had to pluck one from the ground to confirm it wasn’t the real deal.

Want to cool down after the game? There's a community aquatic center across the street from Surprise Stadium.

Want to cool down after the game? There’s a community aquatic center across the street from Surprise Stadium.

The Rangers bullpen is down the right field line. Under the screen you can see 2013 RoughRiders Randy Henry, Jimmy Reyes and Brett Nicholas.

The Rangers bullpen is down the right field line. Under the screen you can see 2013 RoughRiders Randy Henry, Jimmy Reyes and Brett Nicholas.

Kansas City's offices are located on the third base side of the park, exactly opposite (an equal, by all appearances) of the Rangers'. These kids must know that they could never be Royals.

Kansas City’s offices are located on the third base side of the park, exactly opposite the Rangers’. These kids must know that they could never be Royals.

New to me: a souvenir store in a ballpark tailored to women and children.

New to me: a souvenir store in a ballpark tailored to women and children.


Team-themed coozies are among the specialty products for sale at the “women and kids” team store.

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

Eric Nadel (left) and Matt Hicks giving listeners every Josh Wilson detail they could ask for,

Eric Nadel (left) and Matt Hicks giving listeners every Josh Wilson detail they could ask for,

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.

The Rangers assume the victory formation after an 8-2 win over the Reds.

The Rangers assume the victory formation after an 8-2 win over the Reds.

As always thanks for reading,


Russell Wilson: A worthwhile gimmick for Rangers


Whether it’s a football or a baseball, Russell Wilson shows good form on his throws. (photo credit to Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News)

This story appears in the March 7 edition of Sports Page Weekly, which is a free publication available in the Metroplex.

During the early portion of spring training for the Texas Rangers, much of the focus has been on a young second baseman who burst onto the pro sports scene in August 2012.  He impressed observers with his skill and a cool sense of confidence which was uncanny for someone so young.  His notability and importance have only grown because of recent events.  Come late February, the Rangers, as well as fans, were wondering when they’d finally see him take to the field out in Surprise.

No, this discussion does not concern Jurickson Profar and his balky right shoulder.  The above also applies to newly minted Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson. 

Last December, the Rangers plucked Wilson, better known for his stellar work on the gridiron and whose pro baseball career had been on hiatus since 2011, from the Colorado Rockies in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.  The cost to formally acquire the baseball rights of the undersized signal caller? A mere $12,000, roughly the same amount of signing bonus money a team might allot toward a late round draft pick in June.

Throughout the off-season, we’ve read numerous stories about how the Rangers drafting Russell Wilson was not a gimmick.  Let’s be clear: this whole episode has been a complete gimmick.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word “gimmick” with the following description: a method or trick that is used to get people’s attention or to sell something. 

Enter the Rangers and Wilson.  On March 3rd, the team held a “Russell Wilson Day” of sorts.  The Seattle Seahawks quarterback traveled to Surprise, worked out with the team, fielded ground balls, took in the spring game against Cleveland (a 6-4 Rangers loss) and gave a speech to players within the organization.  And, yes, Texas has begun selling Rangers jerseys with “3” and “Wilson” on the back, as well as other Wilson-themed merchandise. (I’m sure Frisco RoughRiders shortstop Luis Sardinas, whose jersey number is 3 on the Rangers’ 40-man roster, gave Wilson his blessing to temporarily use the number.  Maybe Wilson even persuaded him with financial incentives.)

Now, no one inside or outside the Rangers organization expects Wilson to trade in his facemask and shoulder pads for a glove and some pine tar on a full-time or even part time basis.  This was a singular opportunity to stage a cool photo-op, grab some friendly headlines and sell some Rangers gear.  In other words, it was a gimmick.  For his part, Wilson seems to sincerely enjoy baseball and his respect for those within the game is evident.  But other than throwing out the first pitch sometime this summer, he’s not suiting up on a diamond again anytime soon (unless he somehow transforms into some sort of Anthony Wright clone).  The Rangers knew this when they took him off the Rockies’ hands a few months ago.

But the fact that drafting Russell Wilson and having him spend a day at spring training was a gimmick does not necessarily make it a bad thing.  I realize there’s a negative connotation with the word, but gimmicks can have positive value, as this one does.

First of all, the Rangers should be commended for recognizing and seizing a terrific promotional opportunity and making the most of it in a pseudo-organic way (at least compared with, for example, the Red Sox’ explicit marketing deal with Johnny Manziel, which brought the former Aggie to Fort Myers for a day, wearing a #2 Boston jersey to boot).  Additionally, it has brought a bevy of positive attention to a club coming off a mildly disappointing season, fans are buzzing over their team’s connection with the best young quarterback in the NFL (go ahead, compare his numbers with Andrew Luck and tell me who comes out on top) and it allowed the players in the clubhouse to bask in the glow of a bona fide champion.

And therein lies a big reason why the Rangers want to be so closely associated with a second baseman who owns a career .229 batting average in 93 professional baseball games (all below the Advanced-A level).  As this organization strives to maintain a team that consistently competes for championships, the hope is that through osmosis this group can absorb as many positive attributes as it can from winners like Wilson.  Especially ones who are young enough for current professional athletes to relate to.  That sort of thing can potentially go a long way toward developing a team’s culture and identity. 

If Adrian Beltre is lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy high above his head come October, I’m not sure he’ll be pointing back to March 3rd and Wilson’s spring training visit as a big reason why, but it could be an intangible piece of the foundation that makes up this team’s season.  Intangibles are immeasurable by definition.  But in this case for the Rangers, it cost $12,000.

Yes, drafting Russell Wilson and bringing him to spring training was a gimmick.  A gimmick that may already be worth the gambit.


 – Alex

Champions! Recapping the Rangers in the Arizona Fall League

The 2013 Arizona Fall League champion Surprise Saguaros (Photo courtesy of Baseball America)

The 2013 Arizona Fall League champion Surprise Saguaros (Photo courtesy of Baseball America)

You could be excused for having missed out on this year’s championship game for the Arizona Fall League.  It fell right in the middle of a busy slate of college football games this past Saturday (which was a beautiful, 76-degree day here in the Metroplex) and, for the most part, only the most diehard followers of the minors would be punching their remotes to tune into MLB Network for the broadcast in the middle of November (other potential viewers might have included those who didn’t want to see his alma mater serve as a collective mop for the Florida State Seminoles to clean Bobby Bowden Field with).

Those who did flip over to the game were treated to the Rangers-affiliated Surprise Saguaros winning their second-ever league championship (and first since 1995).  After winning the West Division with an 18-12-1 record, the Saguaros blanked the East Division-winning Mesa Solar Sox 2-0 for the title.

Of the nine Rangers players who suited up for Surprise this season, just two played in the final game.  Top Texas prospect Jorge Alfaro caught all nine innings and drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single up the middle in the second inning; it was his lone hit in three at bats while holding down in the seventh spot in the order.  Righty reliever Keone Kela pitched a perfect eighth inning and didn’t let a ball out of the infield to complete the Rangers’ contributions to the victory.


So how did the Texas talent do during the AFL out in the Copper State?  Here’s a rundown of the Rangers minor leaguers:

(Note that for a variety of reasons, the AFL generally is quite hitter-friendly, so you will want to take some of these numbers with a grain of salt.)

C Jorge Alfaro: 19 G, 80 PA, .386/.438/.500, .938 OPS, 6 2B, 3B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 18 R, 5 BB, 17 K, 2-5 SB, 3 E, 5 PB, 7-14 catching basestealers

There’s a lot to like about Alfaro’s performance in the circuit, as well as some indications that Rangers fans should exercise some patience while waiting for the Colombian backstop’s Arlington arrival (it’s unrealistic to think he’ll be the 2015 Opening Day catcher – he spent nearly the entire 2013 season with low-A Hickory).  In addition to a cannon throwing arm, Alfaro’s other calling card has been his power (rare for a catcher).  Although he did not go deep in his 19-game stint in the desert, that’s a pretty triple-slash line.  The sixth-youngest player in the league, the 20-year-old was the Saguaros’ primary catcher (his 15 games behind the dish were tied for the most among all AFL players), and he gunned down 50 percent of attempting basestealers.  That mark was bested only by Peoria’s Austin Hedges (Padres), who caught 12 of 22 (55%) runners.  Alfaro is still a work in progress defensively, however, as his league-leading five passed balls indicate (only one other player had more than two).  Still, the performance was very encouraging for arguably the Rangers’ most exciting minor league prospect.

RHP Lisalverto Bonilla: 3 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.00 WHIP, .167 BAA

One of the newest members of Texas’ 40-man roster, Bonilla is a changeup specialist with an electric fastball and a solid slider.  After flaming out in Triple-A, he spent the last half of the 2013 regular season with the RoughRiders.  The word “dominant” doesn’t come close to describing what Bonilla, Picked up in the Michael Young trade, did this summer in Frisco; because “Santeria” is currently playing as I type this report, I’ll go with the word “sublime” to label his efforts.  In his short time in the AFL, Bonilla simply continued what we saw him do on the mound at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  Of Bonilla, Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews told me that if he can consistently throw his fastball at the knees of hitters, he will have a long and extremely profitable big league career, because the heater and change are that good.

RHP Ryan Harvey: 3 G, 0-1, 1 SV, 5.40 ERA, 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, WP, 1.50 WHIP, .273 BAA

Harvey started the AFL with Surprise, but the Rangers elected to remove him from the Surprise roster for non-injury reasons after only three appearances.  The thought here is that the organization wanted to limit his innings after tossing a career-high 58 innings in a variety of roles for Myrtle Beach this past season.  I would expect to see the former Seton Hall Pirate with the RoughRiders in 2014.

RHP Keone Kela: 7 G, 0-0, 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 8.2 IP, 5 H, R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 10 K, 1.15 WHIP, .172 BAA

The youngest pitcher on the Saguaros (20), Kela may be a candidate to skip the Advanced-A level and begin 2014 in Frisco after an impressive AFL campaign (I would doubt it, however, given his age).  A hard-thrower, Kela overwhelmed opposing batters by proving very difficult to make contact against.  His walk rate was  a bit higher in the AFL (5.19) than it was during the regular season (3.46), which he split between Hickory, Spokane and the AZL Rangers.

LHP Will Lamb: 6 GS, 1-1, 8.69 ERA, 19.2 IP, 29 H, 22 R, 19 ER, HR, HB, 19 BB, 10 K, 2 WP, 2.44 WHIP, .349 BAA

After starting 32 of his first 43 professional appearances in 2011 and 2012, the Rangers moved their former second round draft pick into the bullpen this past season, making all but one of his 39 appearances for Myrtle Beach as a reliever.  Lamb responded with his worst statistical season as a professional despite pitching in the hurler haven the Pelicans call home.  He got another shot at starting in the AFL, but as the numbers above indicate, it did not go well.  The former two-way player at Clemson will still be just 23 for the entire 2014 season, so time is still on his side and left-handed pitchers with good stuff are always valued.  Next year will be a very important one for Lamb and for the Rangers to see what they have in him.

Nick McBride’s Texas League troubles followed him to the desert. (photo credit to Grant Nelson)

RHP Nick McBride: 10 G, 1-0, 6.43 ERA, 14 IP, 21 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 2 HR, 8 BB, 9 K, BK, 3 WP, 2.07 WHIP, .339 BAA

McBride split 2013 between Myrtle Beach and Frisco while also making a cameo appearance in May with Round Rock.  He was very effective out of the bullpen for the Pelicans but did not have much success as a starter in the tougher Texas League.  The former fifth rounder worked out of the pen for Surprise and appeared to have the same difficulties he had with the RoughRiders: too many baserunners.  His fastball command was not sharp and his breaking ball needed a lot of refinement in his time with the ‘Riders and, despite showing flashes within starts, would often get burned by putting himself in too many difficult situations.

1B Brett Nicholas: 17 G, 66 PA, .230/.273/.393, .666 OPS, 7 R, 7 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K

Nicholas earned the opportunity to showcase his abilities in the prestigious AFL by way of his breakout regular season with the RoughRiders.  One of the most complete offensive players in the Texas League this past season, Nicholas struggled a bit with the bat out in Arizona, as the numbers indicate.  That may be the result fatigue from playing essentially every day over a full season for the first time, so I wouldn’t necessarily read too much into those numbers.  His AFL campaign did have a few highlights, however.  He was tied for fifth in the league in doubles, named the MVP of the Rising Stars Game with a two home run performance and he got married just as the fall season was beginning.  I’m not sure how much he will be looked at for the Rule 5 draft next month, but he gets a lot of Chris McGuiness comparisons and McGuiness was selected by the Indians last year before being returned to Texas in the spring.  While Nicholas does not have the same power that McGuiness has, he does have more versatility with his ability to play catcher.  He played the position in college and has a decent amount of professional experience behind the plate (he’s often told me he’s still a catcher at heart playing first base).  He is expected to catch full-time in the Dominican Winter League following his stint with Surprise.  Nicholas would seem to be a good fit with a National League team with his ability to play multiple positions and swing a solid bat.

Ryan Rua had four trots like this with the Saguaros in the AFL. (photo credit to Grant Nelson)

3B Ryan Rua: 17 G, 71 PA, .175/.268/.385, .633 OPS, 13 R, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 7 BB, 24 K, 6 E

Perhaps the most unexpected breakout season across the minors, Rua exploded onto the prospect scene with a 32 home run campaign for low-A Hickory (104 games) and Frisco (23 games).  That tremendous power was on display in the AFL with four home runs, which tied for fifth among all players.  Those homers, however, were his only extra-base hits in 71 plate appearances and it is apparent that he had some of the same contact issues he had with the RoughRiders.  Like Nicholas, it could be the result of a long season that led to the diminished numbers.  Rua is a very polarizing prospect for those in the business.  His power is genuine and obviously comes out in games, not just at five in the afternoon.  In addition to improving his contact, he needs to improve dramatically defensively.  After primarily playing second base for the Crawdads, he shifted to third base with Frisco and played there for Surprise as well.  Rua committed six errors in the AFL and while his arm is good enough for the position, his positioning and hands need work.  At times he looks a little stiff with hands that are too hard at the hot corner.  Hopefully the increased reps he gets at third will allow the defensive aspects of his game to catch up to his power.

RHP Matt West: 10 G, 1-0, 3.72 ERA, 9.2 IP, 12 H, 4 R, HR, 7 BB, 10 K, WP, 1.97 WHIP, .293 BAA

A member of the 40-man roster, West (who turns 25 today) has spent the bulk of the year rehabbing from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2012.  A former second round pick out of high school (originally as a position player), West made one appearance for the AZL Rangers in August and saw his workload significantly increased with Surprise.  The biggest signs of encouragement from West’s numbers are his ten strikeouts – indicating he can still gas it to get elite hitters out – and his ten appearances without any injury complications.  His performances seemed to get better as the AFL season went on, hopefully setting the stage for a successful comeback season in 2014.  If all goes well, he could put himself in position for a big league role at some point next year.


Finally, a reminder that, despite the AFL getting the MLB Network treatment with some of the best minor league prospects on the field, it’s still not close to the big leagues at least when it comes to the strike zone.  Two screenshots from the strike three call on a 3-2 pitch in a 2-0 (championship) game.  This was the final out.

AFL Ump 1

AFL Ump 2


– Alex

Best in the League, Part II

Carlos Olivas (second from the left) pays a medical visit to RoughRiders pitcher Carlos Pimentel. (Alex Yocum-Beeman)

Carlos Olivas (second from the left) pays a medical visit to RoughRiders pitcher Carlos Pimentel.

Brett Nicholas and Neil Ramirez weren’t the only RoughRiders honored last month for a stellar 2013 season.  The two Frisco stalwarts were named post-season All-Stars at the DH and pitcher positions, respectively, and they’ve now got some company.

Company that’s going to have to clear a bit more space on his mantle.

Last month Frisco’s Carlos Olivas was named “Athletic Trainer of the Year” for the Texas League for the second straight season by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS).  This is a tremendous honor and Carlos is incredibly deserving of the award.  He does a terrific job caring for the players and keeping them healthy and on the field.

A trainer from each minor league is chosen for an award in addition to a minor league coordinator and at the Winter Meetings, the “Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year” will be elected by PBATS members.   Carlos was one of two trainers in the Rangers organization to win an award; the other was Alex Rodriguez of the Dominican Summer League Rangers.

Here’s the full list of award-winning trainers:

League:                                       Winner:                                                      Organization:

Coordinator Jay Williams San Francisco Giants
International League Jeff Allred Washington Nationals
Pacific Coast League Eric Ortega San Francisco Giants
Eastern League Scott DiFrancesco New York Yankees
Southern League Charles Leddon Cincinnati Reds
Texas League Carlos Olivas Texas Rangers
Florida State League Alan Rail Minnesota Twins
California League Grand Hufford Houston Astros
Carolina League Patrick Wesley Baltimore Orioles
Midwest League Chris Tomashoff Tampa Bay Rays
South Atlantic League Mark Keiser Kansas City Royals
New York – Penn League Jason Schwartzman Detroit Tigers
Northwest League Reggie Mugrue Toronto Blue Jays
Appalachian League Kiyoshi Tada New York Mets
Pioneer League John Duff Colorado Rockies
Arizona League Clete Sigwart Cincinnati Reds
Gulf Coast League Philip Mastro Pittsburgh Pirates
Dominican Summer Alex Rodriguez Texas Rangers

PBATS President Richie Bancells had this to say upon the announcement of the winners:

“These 18 athletic trainers stood out in 2013 as the best in their respective leagues, and I am so honored that they all showed the dedication and professionalism it takes to keep their players on the field. These fine gentlemen represent the bright future that lies ahead for PBATS.”

Carlos is back home in New Mexico, but I asked him a few questions over e-mail about winning the award.

In addition to valuing the health of his players, Carlos also values being a sharp-dressed man.

In addition to valuing the health of his players, Carlos also values being a sharp-dressed man.

Alex Vispoli: What does it mean to you to have won this award for the second straight year?

Carlos Olivas: It was definitely a surprise when I heard. It is a testament to the program we run and I give credit to Eric McMahon for his part in the sports medicine team. I am honored to be voted the winner for 2 straight years.

AV: Why do you think your work has been recognized once again as exemplary?

CO: We try to keep current with what we do as far as injury prevention and rehabilitation. Our players play a big role believing in what we are doing and following through with our programs. Having a medical team of doctors available for visiting teams and giving them the same access we have is huge. I always try to communicate with the visiting athletic trainers on a daily basis to make sure they have everything they need.

AV: Has anyone within the Rangers organization congratulated you on winning?

CO: I have heard from numerous people congratulating me.

AV: How was this past season from your perspective as an athletic trainer? Any unique or important challenges?

CO: It was overall a very good year. We only had a few major injuries and kept DL time to a minimum. We try to spend a lot of time on prevention and catching small injuries early before they turn into something big. Lower body muscular injuries (hamstring, groin) are always tricky because they tend to nag.  Every year is a challenge with the amount of turnover with players in the minor leagues. We are constantly gaining new players with new sets of challenges.

AV: Does this qualify as a dynasty/do you have enough pictures of someone to ensure a third straight win?

CO: I have pictures of everyone…including you, Vispoli.

Duly noted.

To learn more about Carlos and what he does as a minor league athletic trainer, take a listen to this interview I did with him back in July for the radio broadcast.

Congratulations Carlos!

– Alex

‘Riders on the Record: Final Words


‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

An extra long edition this week with a double-dose of the skipper and a season finale chat with Jeff Andrews is here! It’s been a pleasure posting these each week. Thank you for your support of the Insider Blog and ‘Riders on the Record this season. We hope you enjoyed getting to hear from everyone this season. Highlights for the final edition include Phil Klein on his position on a football field, Nick Tepesch on being named the Rangers’ fifth starter and Randy Henry on how he can improve upon his stellar season.

Happy Monday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele

After a tumultuous weekend in which the bullpen has been severely taxed, the manager Steve Buechele assesses the state of the ‘pen and who could have been on the mound among the position players. He discusses why Luke Jackson was removed in the midst of a no-hitter and explains the quick success of Nick Martinez in Double-A. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Monday, August 26, 2013 – Catcher Zach Zaneksi

The RoughRiders catcher Zach Zaneski comes on to talk about his offseason plans and the end of the RoughRiders season. With Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez in town, Zach tells us what kind of wisdom the future Hall-of-Famer has shared with the ‘Riders backstops. (w/ Nathan Barnett)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 – RHP Phil Klein

For the first time in his pro career, Phil Klein was the starting pitcher. He talks about keeping his routine consistent and how excited he was to get the nod. In preparation for our fantasy football post on the RoughRiders Insider Blog, I also asked Klein where he would play on a football team. (w/ Nathan)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 – 1B/C Brett Nicholas

Brett Nicholas put together a career year in 2013. He was named to the Texas League Post-season All-Star Team and a member of the Arizona Fall League the previous day, and he talks about the significance of both in the larger picture of his career. Hovering around a .300 batting average, Brett weighs in on the importance of that number to him as well. (w/ Nathan)

Thursday, August 29, 2013 – 3B Ryan Rua

Fresh off his walk-off grand slam, Ryan Rua reflects on the best moments of his career. He looks back at his breakout season and assess the progress that he has made this year as well as his adjustment to Double-A pitching. (w/ Nathan)

Friday, August 30, 2013 – Rangers Rehabber Nick Tepesch

Rangers rehabber Nick Tepesch talks about his first ever rehab. He shares his story from Spring Training that ended in the nod as the Rangers #5 starter and the development of his slider that has helped him make the leap. He also explains how quick teams and players are to adjust at the big league level. (w/ Nathan)

Saturday, August 31, 2013 – RHP Randy Henry

RoughRiders reliever Randy Henry is putting the finishing touches on a spectacular season in his year at Double-A. Battling an elbow injury, Henry was one of the more dominant pitchers in the Texas League this season. He evaluates his year and pinpoints places for future improvement. (w/ Alex)

Sunday, September 1, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele

For the final time, the ‘Riders skipper joins our own Alex Vispoli on the pregame show to discuss the end of the season. He gives his take on the significance of a .500 record and shares his plans for the offseason. (w/ Alex)

Monday, September 2, 2013 – Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews

On the final day of the season, Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews sits down to assess his pitching staff at season’s end. He talks about the development of Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez, including the significance of his Jackson’s unconventional mechanics and Martinez’s baseball smarts. A big league coach in 2008 with the Pirates, he explains the value of coaching in the majors and what he learned in his season in Pittsburgh.

– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: sky piece – baseball cap

(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)

‘Riders on the Record: Dunk City baseball and September call-ups


‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

The second-to-last ‘Riders on the Record features Richard Bleier on the rise of his alma mater to “Dunk City,” the inaugural turn for Rougned Odor on the Record (via translator Arlett Mavare) and the always enlightening Jason Cole on the newest ‘Riders hurlers. Want to find out if Rougned Odor voted for himself in Moniker Madness? Be sure to listen in to Alex’s chat with him from Thursday.

It’s been a pleasure reliving these conversations with the players, coaches and special guests this season. We will put off next week’s Record until Monday and include the final eight days of interviews for the season. Thanks for continuing to tune in.

Happy Sunday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 18, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele

Steve Buechele weighs in on the the previous night’s antics when Odor knocked a walk off single for the second straight night. He gives his take on late-game enthusiasm and how close the ‘Riders came to blows with the Drillers Saturday night. He tries to explain the late fielding blunders for the club and what he expects of Neil Ramirez, who would make his final appearance for the club that night.  (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 – LHP Richard Bleier

Relief pitcher Richard Bleier joined the RoughRiders after a rocky start to his season in Triple-A. He talks about dealing with the adversity and disappointment of demotion back to Double-A and how he has rebounded to have a strong year out of the ‘Riders bullpen. He recalls the decision to shave his beard in the middle of the season and remembers his time at Florida Gulf Coast. (w/ Alex)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 – Hitting Coach Jason Hart

Hitting coach Jason Hart joins the pregame show and talks about the newest RoughRiders like Ryan Rua and Kalian Sams as well as how he tries to improve as a hitting coach. Getting close to the end of the season, he explains how he keeps the hitters motivated and focused through the end of the season. (w/ Alex)

Thursday, August 22, 2013 – 2B Rougned Odor

Translated by Arlett Mavare, Rougned Odor explains to Alex about his adjustment to the Texas League and what it was like to have back-to-back nights in which he collects a walk off hit. He talks about the importance of staying with his double play partner Luis Sardinas and the stock he places in the Moniker Madness competition put on by Minor League baseball to crown the best name in the sport. (w/ Alex)

Friday, August 23, 2013 – Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus

Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus sits down before the ‘Riders’ last game in San Antonio to discuss the trio of new ‘Riders pitchers: Luke Jackson, Jerad Eickhoff and Nick Martinez. He breaks down the play of Luis Sardinas and speculates on potential September call-ups to the Rangers. (w/ Alex)

– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: baseballese – the overall language of baseball, comprising official terminology, slang, and jargon. 

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Rougned Odor Walk-off Madness

081713 Odor web

What an exciting weekend we had here in Frisco. Big crowds, beautiful August weather and a sweep of the Drillers.

On back-to-back nights, the Rangers’ top second base prospect Rougned Odor knocked a walk-off single to send Frisco past the Tulsa Drillers by a 6-5 score. Odor has impressed with his mere presence in Double-A, as he is the youngest player in not only the Texas League but also the entire Double-A level, besting top Cleveland prospect Francisco Lindor by a few months.

His feats on Friday night and Saturday night are unprecedented in RoughRiders history.

Thanks to our friends over at for cutting up the clip. Unfortunately, on Saturday, they chose a different clip, but we do have a GIF from baseball blogger Kazuto Yamazaki, who spends a good chuck of time following the Rangers and their affiliates.

Roogie walk-offNever before has a RoughRider walked it off on back-to-back nights. Four other times, the RoughRiders have collected walk-off wins on consecutive nights.

Hank’s brother Jake Blalock followed Luke Grayson‘s walk-off with one of his own on May 7, 2006.

Jake Blalock walk-off

A wild pitch from Sam Demel made a walk-off winner of the ‘Riders on May 19, 2007, one night after Emerson Frostad singled in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning against the Midland RockHounds.


Joey Butler and Andy Jenkins beat the Missions with extra-innings walk-off singles on consecutive nights here at Dr Pepper Ballpark in late August of 2010.

Last season, the ‘Riders picked up back-to-back game-ending hits in the South Division Championship Series against the Corpus Christi Hooks. Chris McGuiness doubled in the winning run on September 5 and Leury Garcia knocked a home run to right field to end game two on September 6. The ‘Riders would sweep the series before falling to the Springfield Cardinals in the Texas League Championship Series.


Rougned Odor was the first to end games on two straight nights in team history. To further the rarity, he did in the same way (a single), against the same team (Tulsa Drillers) and by the same score (both wins were 6-5 RoughRiders victories). Friday’s came in the 13th inning, while Saturday’s contest finished in the bottom of the ninth.

The 19-year-old has impressed to start his Double-A career. He hit safely in his first nine Texas League games. He hit in each game this weekend and has four doubles, adding to his absurd Myrtle Beach two-bagger total for a season tally of 37–the most by any Rangers minor leaguer and tied for fifth in all of minor league baseball.

2013 19 Frisco 16 78 9 20 4 1 3 9 1 1 5 16 .278 .333 .486 .819

The ‘Riders open a series with the San Antonio Missions tonight, trying to extend their hopes at a playoff berth. Frisco needs to win three of the four games over the Missions in the series to avoid San Antonio clinching against them. You can learn more about the ‘Riders of late in tonight’s game notes.

– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: massage – to bat a ball

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

‘Riders on the Record: getting knighted and swinging at a tire


‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

A jam-packed home stand had lots of new faces looming in the tunnels and on the field at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Tony Fernandez was here as the active hitting coach for Jason Hart, Rangers Field Coordinator Jayce Tingler was in town for a bit, as was the Outfield Instructor Joe Mikulik and Infield Instructor Casey Candaele. Newcomers Nick Martinez, Jerad Eickhoff, Ryan Rua and Kalian Sams all made their Dr Pepper Ballpark debuts, and the ‘Riders were joined by Rangers rehabber Lance Berkman.   Highlights this week include the knighthood of Sir Kalian Sams, Lance Berkman talking about the development of his left-handed swing and the insights of Tony Fernandez.

Happy Sunday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 11, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele

The skipper sits down with Alex as he does on Sunday to discuss the past week. Steve Buechele explains why he was ejected in the ballgame the previous night and the goes over the frustrating one-run losses of the previous week. He talks about what it is like for a manager after being ejected. As a former big league third baseman, he also explains how difficult a transition that Ryan Rua is making mid-season to go from second base to third. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 – OF Kalian Sams

Kalian Sams began the season in the San Diego Padres system and faced the RoughRiders as a member of the San Antonio Missions. Now in the Texas system, he talks about getting acquainted with his new teammates and the hardest part of adjusting to a new clubhouse. A knight in his native Netherlands, he explains how he came to be knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands and what that process was like. (w/ Nathan Barnett)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 – Rangers Rehabber Lance Berkman

Rangers rehabbing DH Lance Berkman talks about his decision not to retire and what he feels like he contribute to the major league team the rest of the day. He explains the value, in his opinion, of a rehab assignment and why he has been so successful in rehab assignment overs the years. He also talks about becoming a switch-hitter and how he learned. (w/ Nathan)

Thursday, August 15, 2013 – Special Assistant to the GM Tony Fernandez

Longtime major league shortstop Tony Fernandez joined the RoughRiders for the first few games of the home stand to serve as the acting Hitting Coach in place of vacationing Jason Hart. He talks about the process of serving as a temporary hitting coach and what it takes to ensure the growth of the hitters are not thrown off. He also talks about his work in the Rangers system and the key to success for the young middle infielders Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor. (w/ Nathan)

Friday, August 16, 2013 – C Brett Teschner

While not a highly touted prospect, undrafted catcher Brett Teschner has one of the more interesting stories among those who have donned the RoughRiders red this summer. In his short time in the Rangers system after a mid-season signing this year, Brett has been on every single Rangers US-based affiliate roster, completing the set of his here with the ‘Riders. He talks about the crazy travel. He explains what it is like for the undrafted professional after the MLB draft and if he ever considered calling it quits. (w/ Nathan)

Saturday, August 17, 2013 – RHP Nick Martinez

One of the newest RoughRiders pitchers, Nick Martinez, joins us following his second Double-A start and home debut to discuss his early success with the ‘Riders. Primarily a second baseman in college, Nick talks about his transition to a full-time role on the mound, the development of his repertoire and the origin of his mechanics. (w/ Nathan)

– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: curvist – a curveball pitcher

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Lance Berkman: a photographic history

Lance Berkman spent a couple games with the RoughRiders on rehab assignment this week. The decorated former outfielder and first baseman spends most of his time nowadays as a DH for the Rangers.

On assignment, he joined an ever-growing list of MLB rehabbers the ‘Riders have this season (in chronological order): Justin Miller (rehabber because of his place on the 40-man roster, despite zero big league time), A.J. Pierzynski, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, Joakim Soria, Craig Gentry, Jeff Baker and Matt Harrison. That list does not include: Martin Perez, who was optioned to Frisco but his time here served a similar purpose, Kyle McClellan, who before his current stint on the active roster was on a rehab-like schedule with the ‘Riders before an early season call up, and Mike Olt who was on a minor league rehab of sorts, playing just three games with Frisco before returning to Triple-A.

If Berkman is indeed done with his rehab (he departed from assignment in Frisco yesterday), he complete a solid all-around rehab outing between the two levels.

2013 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA 4 14 11 3 4 0 0 1 3 3 2 .364 .500 .636 1.136
2013 Round Rock PCL AAA 2 7 7 1 3 0 0 1 2 0 1 .429 .429 .857 1.286
2013 Frisco TL AA 2 7 4 2 1 0 0 0 1 3 1 .250 .571 .250 .821
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/16/2013.

He has been good as a rehabber over the course of his career, although he writes off the success: “It’s a small sample size, so if you have a couple bad at-bats or if you feel good and get a couple good pitches to hit” it can really affect the numbers Berkman explained on Wednesday. For him, the rehab assignment is more about seeing the ball well and “to take some of the pressure of performing off.”

Some look past the spectacular career of Berkman, who ranks in the top-5 all-time switch hitters in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

But…if you want those numbers like those, you can go any number of place. Like here or here or look right below at this handle little chart:

Rank: Player: bWAR: fWAR: Average:
1 Mickey Mantle  109.70  112.30  111.00
2 Chipper Jones  85.20  85.10  85.15
3 George Davis  84.80  84.60  84.70
4 Pete Rose  79.40  80.20  79.80
5 Ozzie Smith  76.50  74.80  75.65
6 Frankie Frisch  70.40  72.00  71.20
7 Tim Raines  69.10  67.60  68.35
8 Eddie Murray  68.20  66.30  67.25
9 Carlos Beltran  67.10  64.60  65.85
10 Roberto Alomar  66.80  63.90  65.35
11 Reggie Smith  64.40  63.90  64.15
12 Max Carey  53.90  60.00  56.95
13 Lance Berkman  52.10  56.10  54.10
14 Tony Phillips  50.80  54.20  52.50
15 Ted Simmons  50.20  46.60  48.40

bWAR is Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference and fWAR is the same statistical concept, calculated by FanGraphs. Anyway, enough numbers. Well, nearly enough numbers.

Instead, I present to you a photographic timeline of the career of Lance Berkman, complete with one of the few (if not only!) high-quality Berkman-in-RoughRiders-uniform photos in existence. From clean-shaven to goatee to clean-shaven to bearded back to clean-shaven to speckled-gray beard…1999 to 2013.

And a few more numbers.

1998 Jackson Generals, Astros Double-A

1998 Jackson Generals, Astros Double-A

1998 22 Jackson TL AA HOU 122 517 82 130 34 0 24 89 6 4 85 82 .306 .424 .555 .979
1999, New Orleans Zephyrs , Astros Triple-A

1999, New Orleans Zephyrs , Astros Triple-A

1999 23 New Orl. PCL AAA HOU 64 267 42 73 20 0 8 49 7 1 39 47 .323 .419 .518 .937
2002, Astros

2002, Astros

2006, National League All-Stars

2006, National League All-Stars

2008, National League All-Stars (Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

2008, National League All-Stars (Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

2008, Astros

2008, Astros

2010, Astros (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

2010, Astros (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)


2010, Astros (David J. Phillip / AP)

1999 23 HOU 34 106 10 22 2 0 4 15 5 1 12 21 .237 .321 .387 .708
2000 24 HOU 114 417 76 105 28 1 21 67 6 2 56 73 .297 .388 .561 .949
2001 25 HOU 156 688 110 191 55 5 34 126 7 9 92 121 .331 .430 .620 1.051
2002 26 HOU 158 692 106 169 35 2 42 128 8 4 107 118 .292 .405 .578 .982
2003 27 HOU 153 658 110 155 35 6 25 93 5 3 107 108 .288 .412 .515 .927
2004 28 HOU 160 687 104 172 40 3 30 106 9 7 127 101 .316 .450 .566 1.016
2005 29 HOU 132 565 76 137 34 1 24 82 4 1 91 72 .293 .411 .524 .934
2006 30 HOU 152 646 95 169 29 0 45 136 3 2 98 106 .315 .420 .621 1.041
2007 31 HOU 153 668 95 156 24 2 34 102 7 3 94 125 .278 .386 .510 .896
2008 32 HOU 159 665 114 173 46 4 29 106 18 4 99 108 .312 .420 .567 .986
2009 33 HOU 136 563 73 126 31 1 25 80 7 4 97 98 .274 .399 .509 .907
2010 34 HOU 85 358 39 73 16 1 13 49 3 2 60 70 .245 .372 .436 .808
HOU (12 yrs) 1592 6713 1008 1648 375 26 326 1090 82 42 1040 1121 .296 .410 .549 .959
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/16/2013.
2010, Yankees (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

2010, Yankees (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

2010 34 NYY AL 37 123 9 27 7 0 1 9 0 0 17 15 .255 .358 .349 .707
2011, Cardinals (Scott Kane/ Icon SMI)

2011, Cardinals (Scott Kane/ Icon SMI)

2011, National League All-Star (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

2011, National League All-Stars (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

2011, Cardinals

2011, Cardinals

2012, Cardinals (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

2012, Cardinals (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

2012, Cardinals

2012, Cardinals

2011 35 STL NL 145 587 90 147 23 2 31 94 2 6 92 93 .301 .412 .547 .959 AS,MVP-7
2012 36 STL NL 32 97 12 21 7 1 2 7 2 0 14 19 .259 .381 .444 .826
STL (2 yrs) 177 684 102 168 30 3 33 101 4 6 106 112 .295 .408 .533 .940
Spring 2013, Rangers (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Spring 2013, Rangers (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)


Rangers, 2013 (Kelly Gavin / Texas Rangers)

2013 37 TEX AL 68 282 27 62 10 1 6 34 0 0 38 48 .254 .355 .377 .732
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/16/2013.

And then there was Frisco.

2013, RoughRiders (Andrew Weaver)

2013, RoughRiders (Andrew Weaver)

– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: swish hitter – a power hitter who strikes out frequently

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

‘Riders on the Record: The Franchise Hits Record and Modeling off Tim Lincecum


‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

Lots of new faces, lots of new voices this week for ‘Riders on the Record. Wednesday through Saturday we heard from folks we have yet to hear from this season, including three players who joined the team this month. If you have seen Luke Jackson pitch, you might make the Tim Lincecum comparison in terms of his windup. Jackson addresses that notion; turns out its not a coincidence. Be sure to tune in to the always poignant G-Rod, who became the RoughRiders All-Time hits leader on Sunday before a promotion to Triple-A on Friday. Why is Ryan Rua hitting so many home runs this year? He tries to explain the uptick in long balls as well.

Happy Sunday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 4, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele

The ‘Riders manager saw a bevy of changes to his roster of the week prior. Steve Buechele discusses the promotion of Carlos Pimentel to Triple-A, the addition of some highly-touted prospects from Myrtle Beach included Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas and Luke Jackson, as well as the challenge of telling players that they have to go down a level. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 – UTIL Guilder Rodriguez

With a pair of hits on Sunday August 4, 2013, Guilder Rodriguez became the all-time franchise leader in hits, passing Renny Osuna who had 347 hits for the club. He discusses the significance of the record, especially in light of him passing a friend and a former teammate. He also shares his parting words with Hanser Alberto and Odubel Herrera when they were sent down to Myrtle Beach. (w/ Alex)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 – SP Jerad Eickhoff

Fresh off his Double-A debut, the big right-hander Jerad Eickhoff sat down with Alex Vispoli. Jerad had some family in town for the outing, he talks about how often his family gets to see him pitch. He talks about how he had honed his control and what he makes of Nick Tepesch comparisons. (w/ Alex)

Thursday, August 8, 2013 – SP Arlett Mavare

Arlett Mavare has not been a starting pitcher since his first year in professional ball. Sliding into the rotation of the ‘Riders this season, Arlett has really found a groove. He talks about his curious strikeout numbers, which he piles up despite the lack of an overpowering fastball. (w/ Alex)

Friday, August 9, 2013 – SP Luke Jackson

Rangers top-10 prospect Luke Jackson fired six shutout frames in his first Double-A start. With an unconventional delivery, Jackson is a very hard thrower. He talks about the tinkering of his mechanics as a professional and how he developed the motion in the first place. He also talks about the adjustment to Double-A and the new clubhouse which is now home to a bunch of his Myrtle Beach teammates. (w/ Alex)

Saturday, August 10, 2013 – 3B Ryan Rua

A “career year” only begins to describe the kind of season that Ryan Rua is putting together this year. At or near the top in the minors in home runs for most of the season, Ryan talks about how he has been able to unlock the power this season and about his journey from small Lake Erie College to Double-A pro ball. (w/ Alex)
– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: blinker – the back pocket lining of baseball pants


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