Friday newsletter time: No big-leaguers, no problem Thursday at Rangers camp
Sebastian Walcott was part of the crowd Thursday on the back fields (Rangers Today/Jeff Wilson).
SURPRISE, Ariz. — The first off day of spring training arrived Thursday for the Rangers, and not a big-leaguer in camp could be found at the Surprise Recreation Campus.
Or at least the Rangers’ half, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
But the minor-leaguers were not off, including some players who were in big-league camp until last weekend.
There was no shortage of things to see, including Al Leiter much of the morning and early afternoon before and after his son threw off a mound. Hey, a big-leaguer was in camp after all.
The back fields are about getting work done. Work leads to development. Development leads to big-league players, either those who rise through the system and play for the Rangers or those who are traded away for big-league players.
Those doing the work were as young as 16, though Sebastian Walcott turns 17 next week, and as old as 31-year-old Josh Sale, the former Rays first-rounder who has overcome addiction to give baseball another shot. He was a Triple A Round Rock last season.
In between were first-round picks and 30th-rounders. They all make up one of the best and deepest systems in the game.
If player development interests you or you’re curious about it, follow this group. Rangers Today makes it easy, for only $5.99 a month.
About the big-league team …
History tells us that the day after a camp off day usually produces a series of cuts to the big-league roster.
With minor-league games beginning Monday, the Rangers could move more non-roster invitees and even some prospects on the 40-man roster to minor-league camp and give them the weekend to get settled.
The Rangers will also pay close attention to right-handers Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Jon Gray, who all threw Wednesday after dealing with various ailments.
Eovaldi’s bullpen was his first since experiencing tightness in his left side, and all appeared to go well. Gray (back), who pitched in the A game, and deGrom (left side), who threw live batting practice, both reported no issues.
But it’s always how they feel the next two days, and ascertaining that information will also be toward the top of the Rangers’ Friday to-do list.
If all is well, Gray and Eovaldi will throw bullpen sessions. DeGrom was on the schedule, but he prefers to throw bullpens the third day after his starts/live BPs.
Card of the Week
The boy has joined Rangers Today for this spring trip, and he’s doing a decent job of staying where he’s supposed to be and not making much noise. He’s busied himself by attempting to get autographs, and he’s done well for himself.
Top prospects Jack Leiter, Kumar Rocker and Anthony Gutierrez have accepted his requests to sign. Even Al Leiter signed a baseball.
But the first players to sign one of the boy’s baseball cards was Jonathan Hernandez. And here it is as the Card of the Week: the 2019 Bowman Chrome Jonathan Hernandez 1st Bowman.
Hernandez is vying for the closer’s job in a group that includes Jose Leclerc, Will Smith and Ian Kennedy. Brock Burke has been discussed, too. Hernandez definitely has the stuff and is now a nearly two years and one normal offseason removed from Tommy John surgery.
The gut feeling is that Leclerc or Smith gets the job. Leclerc was held out of the World Baseball Classic because of a neck issue he could have easily overcome, but the Rangers think so much of his potential impact on the club that they weren’t taking any chances. Smith was signed last weekend to a major-league contract, so the Rangers apparently thought he was needed for some leverage role.
Another gut feeling: The boy will try to get their autographs, too.
Must be at a store in one of those cities where they don’t prosecute shoplifters. Enjoy.
"This is my toy now!" 🤣🥰 pic.twitter.com/PDHTuKsvkY
— Madeyousmile (@Thund3rB0lt) March 10, 2023
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org