How close you ask?
Consider that in just over three weeks, the 2nd Annual Baseball Do Field Trip will become a reality! And by that time, the Rangers will be four games deep into the 2013 regular season.
And, since the lowly Houston Astros represent three of those first four games, the Rangers should be sitting pretty at 4-0. But talk of the 2013 Rangers season, and even Astros-bashing, seems a tad premature since there are still so many Spring Training questions left unanswered.
Can Alexi Ogando hold down the fourth spot in the rotation? Can Lance Berkman’s body make it back from Surprise in one piece? Who will be the Rangers’ fifth starter, and when will the butcher and candle maker join Jeff Baker?
For Goodness Saker, What’s a Jeff Baker?
Last year in Surprise, Robbie Ross was the feel-good story of the spring. Considered a long-shot to make the roster, Ross not only made the squad, but became a crucial part of the big league bullpen.
So far this spring, major league journeyman Jeff Baker has been all the talk. The Baker Hype has been much deserved as he has put up a triple-slash line of .529/.568/.735 over 34 ABs thus far.
As of right now, it looks as if Baker has the inside track on being the Rangers’ go-to utility infielder, an area of concern since Andres Blanco departed prior to the 2012 season.
Mitch Moreland has never really had a chance to prove his value to the team. He has had some injury issues (2011 his wrist bothered him, and last season it was a hamstring) and when he has been healthy he was either trumped to make room for Mike Napoli/Michael Young, or was flat-out benched against lefties.
Hitting against left-handers had proved to be difficult for the big man from Mississippi. However, not so this spring. Moreland has been thumping southpaws to the tune of: .500/.600/1.00 with one long ball and four RBI thus far…If Moreland can stay healthy, look for him to have a big season in 2013.
The OTHER Martin
I’ve decided to be upbeat. So let’s not talk about the Martin Perez broken arm thing. Whoops, I guess I just did. That is the last time I will mention that Martin Perez may miss up to two months. Promise. Okay, anyhoo, let’s move on to the other Martin. Leonys Martin.
All indications are that Leonys Martin may be ready to become the Rangers’ full-time center fielder. Martin has had some issues defensively, but it is hard even for Ron Washington to ignore Martin’s .394/.447/.576 slash line. Now is the time for the Rangers to see if their $15 million investment in the Cuban defector was worth the, um, investment.
The only negative I can see with Martin getting the nod to start every day in center is that it moves Baseball Do-fave Craig Gentry back to the bench. Gentry is having one sweet spring too and has proved that he can hit right-handers to boot, thanks to his .294/.455/.529 thus far.
Although I’d love to see Gentry start on a regular basis, he is a nifty security blanket just in case Martin should falter. Look for Gentry to be a late-innings defensive replacement this season much like last season.
Lance Berkman Not Yet Broken
So far Lance Berkman has not been injured. However, he has been sporting a full-on beard. How does this matter in terms of injury? Well, should Berkman decide to ditch the face-do, do not be surprised if he blows out a wheel in the process.
Seriously, if you can tear an ACL playing first base, what makes you think you are safe in the shower?
What do I Think-o about Starter Numero Cinco?
It is a good thing that right-hander Alexi Ogando has looked solid over his recent outings. There is already a mini-controversy surrounding the Rangers’ future fifth starter, and you certainly don’t want any questions marks surrounding the fourth spot thrown in the mix too.
And therein lays the problem with the Martin Perez situation. Whoops, I mentioned him again. The aforementioned Robbie Ross has been quite sharp in his starts, but should he make the rotation, who would take over the role of left-handed go-to reliever?
Fellow southpaw Michael Kirkman, should he not make the rotation, is a likely candidate to replace Ross in the ‘pen. Free Agent pickup Kyle McClellan is a possibility in the fifth spot as is Justin Grimm. Grimm has struggled mightily this spring as his north-of-twelve ERA can attest.
Ross is in a similar situation to CJ Wilson three years ago, minus the whole being an incredible d-bag thing.
Essentially Ross will have to be so good as a starter that it is worth it to the club to create a lefty deficit in the pen. This is one of those roster decisions that is going to be right down to the wire.
Regardless of the eventual roster shakedown, the 2013 season is just around the corner and I am super-stoked!