Tuesday newsletter time: Jacob deGrom draws a crowd. And, no, not just Rangers fans
(AP photo/Abbie Parr)
SURPRISE, Ariz. — The swelling crowds at Texas Rangers spring training were treated to something special Monday on the back fields at the Surprise Recreation Campus.
It’s not every day that one of the best pitchers in the world throws so close to fans that they can hear the zip on his pitches.
And there stood Jacob deGrom on the mound at Nolan Ryan Field, and he was really good.
But it wasn’t simply fans and club officials watching the right-hander throw in his first game, albeit a Triple A game, of spring training. His teammates were watching, and so were his future teammates from minor-league camp.
Game recognizes game, but deGrom’s game is next-level. Rangers pitchers and even position players wanted to see it. Some watched from the clubhouse as they finished up their work for the day.
They were all wildly impressed. Some Royals minor-leaguers in the dugout couldn’t believe how good some of deGrom’s pitches were.
He struck out five of the eight batters he faced. One batter closed his eyes and crushed a fastball off a fence post for an inside-the-park homer, and deGrom gave credit were credit was due. Another hit a towering infield popup and came into the dugout and exclaimed, “I just missed it.”
Afterward, deGrom was pleased with how his two innings went. He also threw some more in the bullpen to aid in his buildup for the regular season. He liked his changeup and curveball, which he said will be plus pitches this season, and said he fixed his slider from his live batting practice last week.
Four plus pitches? Yikes.
But he has to make it to the starting line, which in this case is the March 30 season opener. He can worry about the finish line later.
The step he took Monday was one in the right direction.
Another loss, but …
Manager Bruce Bochy knows the Rangers’ win-loss record (7-11) isn’t very good, especially of late. They lost another game Monday, this time 11-8 to Arizona. Maybe today’s full-camp off day will help.
But what matters most to Bochy, and why spring records are useless for the most part, is how the Rangers have been losing.
The regulars have been playing really well. They have put the Rangers in position to win, only to see the backups and just-in-case players and pitchers give up a lead or allow deficits to grow with errors and mental mistakes. Pitchers fighting for jobs have fallen behind in counts and made it too easy for opposing hitters.
Bochy can’t say enough about how well rookie third baseman Josh Jung has been playing, and is really impressed with left fielder Robbie Grossman. Corey Seager is starting to realize the benefits of no more infield shifts against him. Bochy likes the catching, a lot. Of course, he’s a former catcher and knows a thing or two about the position.
He would like for deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi, who also pitched Monday in a minor-league game, to be more up to speed. He wishes center fielder Leody Taveras hadn’t injured his oblique, but seems optimistic that he might be OK by Opening Day.
If Bochy, a three-time World Series winner, is happy with the way the Rangers are playing, there might not be as much to worry about as their record indicates.
Rangers Today reminders
Round 2 of the Rangers Today three-round spring-training bout has come to an end. We have things to do in Texas, namely depositing the boy in time for his weekend baseball tournament. He had a fun time at spring training, and it looked like others his age were in store for a similar experience this week.
The coverage will continue from Texas, and the final week of camp is always newsy. That’s your friendly reminder that it’s time to get full access to Rangers Today for $5.99 a month, $35 for six months or $60 for a year. You can subscribe or upgrade your free account here.
On the podcast side of things, the Rangers Today Baseball Podcast will be shooting this week with a big-leaguer lined up to join us from camp. We’re moving ahead with our plans for more video content, including this one. We’re really looking forward to the season starting to we can start.
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