Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Training Trip Report

My dad, my granddad, and I went on a trip to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona over Spring Break. It was the 6th straight year we’ve gone to Arizona for Rangers Spring Training. We got there on Sunday, March 13th and left on Thursday, March 17th. It was a great trip and I had a blast. This week I’ll give a recap of my trip and a report on how the players looked.

Sunday, March 13th:

We had an extremely early flight in the morning that required me to wake up at about 3:00 AM the morning of Daylight Savings Time. Needless to say, that part was not too fun, but it was well worth it. Our flight went very smoothly, and my dad got us upgraded to first class, which was very nice. We landed on time and got to Surprise in time to go to the backfields for the Rangers morning workouts. At the workouts, I spent some time watching Hector Nelo pitch. It wasn’t a great outing, and he left everything high. I also got to see Joe Wieland and Matt Thompson pitch. Fortunately, they both looked good.

One of the fun parts about going to spring training is getting to catch up with the people we see there every year. On Sunday morning along, I got to talk with Jamey Newberg (and his kids Erica and Max), the Cookie Lady and her husband, Thad Levine, and TR Sullivan (whose blog I was mentioned in the next day at After the workouts, we went to lunch at NYPD (New York Pizza Department), which we go to every year, and which, as usual, was very, very good. I got pepperoni and sausage, my dad got the same plus meatballs, and my granddad got a salad that he said wasn’t too good, but it was his own fault for getting a salad at a pizza place.

After a good lunch, we headed over to the Rangers game. The Rangers were playing at home against the Giants, in a World Series rematch (in fact, it drew the biggest crowd ever at Surprise Stadium – over 11,000 people with even standing room sold out). Tommy Hunter started the game, and he looked horrible and just got clobbered. He allowed 7 runs, 4 earned, and 9 hits in 3.2 innings pitched. Mark Lowe came in to pitch the 5th after Mark Hamburger finished off the 4th inning, and looked fantastic. The Giants’ hitters went down 1-2-3. In the 6th inning, Arthur Rhodes really struggled, as he allowed 2 runs, both earned in his one inning of work. The Rangers brought Darren O’Day in to pitch the 7th, and like Lowe, he had a 1-2-3 inning. Brett Tomko pitched the last two innings for the Rangers, and while he looked decent in his first inning of work, he struggled in his second inning, and his final line was 2 runs in 2 innings. Offensively, the Rangers did well, however, and Elvis Andrus went 2-for-4 with 5 RBI’s, and David Murphy belted a Wilmin Rodriguez pitch in the 9th inning for a solo home run. Also of note would be Julio Borbon, who went 3-for-3 and scored twice, but looked very bad on defense. Mike Olt, the Rangers’ 2010 3rd round pick out of Connecticut, was impressive, as he connected for a double over the left fielder’s head at the plate, and also made two very slick defensive plays. In fact, Olt impressed me all throughout camp, between the games and the morning workouts. The final score of the game was Giants 11, Rangers 8.

That night, after the game, we went to Red Robin and got some burgers. This time my granddad got the restaurant’s specialty and ordered a burger. Red Robin is always good, and I enjoyed my fries, my burger, and my Oreo shake.

After dinner, we went to our hotel, a Marriot Residence Inn that is in easy walking distance of the Rangers’ stadium and backfield. It was awesome. We had two bedrooms, which my dad and granddad took, and a living room with a kitchen attached to it that had a sleeper sofa that I took. Having all of this space was great and made for a much better trip. In previous years, the three of us had been crammed into one big room. This year, we each had our own room (and our own TV), plus there were two bathrooms between the three of us. And being in walking distance of the stadium was nice because we could come and go between the hotel and the ballpark whenever we wanted all week.

Monday, March 14th:

On Monday morning, my dad, my granddad, and I all headed over to the workouts, and today we got to talk to Anthony Andro and his family, Jim Sundberg, and Terry Clark. We also talked with Tim Murphy for a few minutes, and he’s having to go through rehab this spring after he needed Tommy John late last year. Tim is easily one of the nicest guys in the Rangers’ system (which is saying a lot because the Rangers have a lot of nice guys in their system). We were at a table with him at a Rangers Winter Awards Banquet a few years ago and, ever since then, whenever we see him, he always takes time to come and talk with us. Even if he sees us first, he goes out of his way to come over and talk. We also talked to Josh Hamilton for a little while, and again I’m always amazed at what a great guy Josh is. He was on his way in from the workouts and was probably tired and ready to shower, but when he saw us, he still put his stuff down and spent about five minutes with us. It’s been almost three years since I interviewed him but he still always remembers me and takes time to talk.

While we were at the workouts, we saw a lot of batting practice and some PFPs (pitcher fielding practice). I also got to see Michael Kirkman’s bullpen, which was not impressive, as he was leaving a lot of pitches up.

After workouts, we headed over to the ballpark, where the Rangers were hosting the Dodgers. Neftali Feliz was the starter in this one, and he looked fantastic. His location was great, and the results showed it, as he allowed just one run in his four innings of work, and he struck out five. Eric Hurley came in next, and also pitched very well, and his results were identical to Feliz’s: 4 IP, 1 ER, 5 K. We also got to see Miguel De Los Santos pitch in the 9th, in his only major league Spring Training game before being sent down to minor league camp. Even though he allowed two runs, both earned, he was impressive to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Frisco soon. The Rangers offense wasn’t all that great in this game, but Josh Hamilton did manage to hit a bomb over the Rangers’ right field bullpen. David Murphy also hit well, going 2-for-4 with a double. This game was Adrian Beltre’s first game of the spring, and he went 1-for-3. The Rangers ended up beating the Dodgers in this game 5 to 4.

After the game, we drove to Outback, where I got a steak and a baked potato, both of which were very good. I didn’t have much time to eat my steak, though, because Jamey Newberg had a Q&A session back at Surprise Stadium with John Rhadigan, Scott Servais, Tom Grieve, Eric Nadel, and Josh Boyd. I have a summary of the Q&A posted on my blog at It was a lot of fun. We went back to the hotel for the rest of the night and I watched TV after the session was over.

Tuesday, March 15th:

When we woke up on Tuesday, we went to the lobby and ate the mediocre (but free) breakfast that the hotel provided, and then walked over to the backfields, where the Rangers were playing against the Royals in a B game. During the game, I got to talk to Jamey Newberg, Scott Lucas (who had just arrived in Surprise), and Evan Grant.

Darren Oliver started the game, and pitched two innings, and he looked much better in the second one than the first. Dave Bush also pitched in the game, and in the three innings I saw him, he was inconsistent. He looked very, very good in the first inning, bad in the second one, and solid in the third one. He had great stuff, but the Royals hitters were pouncing on his fastballs. At the plate, Yorvit Torrealba did not look good, and swung at multiple pitches in the dirt. Brian Barden, however, did not look so bad, and actually looked good as he hit a home run off of Vin Mazzaro. There were two different mental errors in the game. One was when Endy Chavez got picked off, and the other was Jose Ruiz, as he just flat-out dropped a throw that was right to him.

Tuesday was a very busy day, as after the B game we went straight to the Dodgers’ stadium in Glendale to see the Rangers play the Dodgers. Derek Holland started in this game, and really struggled, allowing four runs, all earned, on seven hits and two walks in four innings. Alexi Ogando followed that up with a poor performance of his own, as he allowed three runs on six hits in 3.2 innings. Cody Eppley got the final out of the game. The Rangers hit Clayton Kershaw well, but after he was pulled they couldn’t get anything going. Once again, David Murphy swung the bat well, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and the Rangers’ only extra-base hit of the game. The Dodgers ended up winning 7-6.

Right after the Rangers game was over, we drove over to Scottsdale, and went to eat at the Pink Pony. The Pink Pony is a steak place that has a lot of baseball memorabilia and in the past has been a hangout for baseball players like Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin. The Pink Pony actually closed last year after being open for 60 years, but new owners opened it back up just last month. The steak was very good, and the fries were good, too.

After eating, we headed over to see the Giants at Diamondbacks game in the Diamondbacks’ new stadium (that they share with the Rockies), Salt River Field at Talking Stick. It was fantastic, by far the best stadium in the Cactus League. Even though we left after five innings (it had been a long day), we still got to see three home runs, one for Chris Young, another for Justin Upton, and one for Freddy Sanchez.

After leaving the game, we made the hour-long drive back to our hotel in Surprise and called it a day.

Wednesday, March 16th:

On Wednesday, we went to our last Rangers game of the trip, but before that, we went to the workouts, which this morning was only the minor leaguers. In batting practice, Jonathon Roof was really impressive, and in his bullpen, Yoshinori Tateyama had very good location. This day, there were two intrasquad games on the minor league side, one with Double-A vs. Triple-A, and another with High-A vs. Low-A, where Wilfredo Boscan got pummeled and Alejandro Selen homered off of him.

Since the Rangers played a night game, during the day we went and saw the first few innings of the Giants at White Sox game in Glendale, which featured an impressive pitching match-up, with the Giants throwing Tim Lincecum, and the White Sox pitching Mark Buehrle. When we left after four innings, both pitchers had pitched well, and it was 1-1. The final score was Giants 5, White Sox 3.

The reason we left early was so that we could see the Rangers major league workouts, but it was so crowded we didn’t stay long. However, we did get to see the pitchers hit BP, which was kind of cool. In general, the crowds at Rangers camp were large this year, the largest we had ever seen at spring training. I guess that’s what winning the pennant will do for you.

At 6:00 PM, the Rangers played a game at home against the Rockies, and I took play-by-play notes of this one. See the end of this post for my notes from this game.

Thursday, March 17th:

On Thursday morning, we went over to the minor league workouts. Since the Rangers had another night game, the major leaguers were not out in the morning. I got to talk to Jamey Newberg and Scott Lucas again, and also got to talk to Jake Krug for a while. I watched Jordan Akins hit, and boy is he big. He looked a little inconsistent, but very powerful.

After we watched the minor leaguers work out for about an hour, we headed back to our hotel and packed up before going to the Reds game. After we were packed, we headed over to Goodyear to see the Indians play against the Reds. My dad was born in Cincinnati, so my dad and I are both Reds fans, although they are second for both of us. It was a fun game, and the Reds won 5-1. We got to see some good pitchers, but the most exciting pitcher we saw was Aroldis Chapman, and seeing him was so cool. Unfortunately, though, they didn’t have the radar gun on, so I can’t report that he hit 300 MPH or some crazy number like that.

After the Reds game was over, we drove straight to the airport, and our flight home went extremely smoothly. It was a great week like always. I’d like to thank my dad and granddad for taking me every year and I’d also like to thank Rich Rice for the help he gave me during the week.

My play-by-play notes from the March 16th Rockies/Rangers game in Surprise:

Top 1st – CJ Wilson pitching

Eric Young, Jr.: Strike-out looking. CJ fooled him on a backdoor slider, and had great location this AB.

Dexter Fowler: Flyout to Left Field.

Ty Wigginton: HR. Left a 2-2 pitch down the middle, and was hit over the LF fence.

Troy Tulowitzki: Infield Single. Elvis Andrus should have made this play, but he took a bad route to the ball.

Jason Giambi: Groundout to 2B.

1 run, 1 hit (Rockies 1, Rangers 0)

Bottom 1st – Jason Hammel pitching

Ian Kinsler: Double. Ian ripped a grounder down the LF line that was barely fair.

Elvis Andrus: Groundout to 3B. Very weak ground ball.

Josh Hamilton: Sac fly to LF. High fly ball that scored Ian.

Adrian Beltre: Single to CF. Line drive up the middle.

1 run, 2 hits (Rangers 1, Rockies 1)

Top 2nd – CJ Wilson pitching

Ryan Spilborghs: BB.

Jordan Pacheco: K looking. 3 pitch at-bat.

Ian Stewart: Groundout to 2B. CJ had good location in this AB.

Charlie Blackmon: K swinging. CJ threw a great slider for the third strike.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 1, Rockies 1)

Bottom 2nd – Jason Hammel pitching

Mike Napoli: Popout to CF. His swing did not look good.

Mitch Moreland: Double to Left-Center. Hit liner to the warning track.

Chris Davis: Double to Right-Center. Hit the ball to the wall. Got an RBI.

Doug Deeds: Single to RF. Poked an 0-2 pitch over the second baseman’s head.

Ian Kinsler: E2. Ian got a sac bunt down, but catcher overthrew first and Ian got to third base.

Elvis Andrus: Groundout to 2B. Did not score Ian because the infield was playing in.

Josh Hamilton: BB. 4-pitch walk.

Adrian Beltre: 3-run HR. Crushed the ball over the right-center field wall.

Michael Young: BB. Got down 0-2, then watched 4 straight balls.

Mike Napoli: Groundout to SS. Didn’t look very good.

6 runs, 4 hits (Rangers 7, Rockies 1)

Top 3rd – CJ Wilson pitching

Eric Young, Jr.: Single to RF. Hit a broken bat grounder through the hole.

Dexter Fowler: E1. CJ made an error on a sac bunt attempt.

Ty Wigginton: Flyout to RF. CJ came back after starting down 3-0.

Troy Tulowitzki: Single to RF. Got tagged out after a big turn at first base.

Jason Giambi: Groundout to 2B.

1 run, 2 hits (Rangers 7, Rockies 2)

Bottom 3rd – Jason Hammel pitching

Mitch Moreland: Flyout to LF. Hit the ball to the warning track.

Chris Davis: Solo HR. Hit a moon shot to dead center. Hit the ball extremely high in the air.

Doug Deeds: K swinging. Chased two pitches.

Ian Kinsler: HBP.

Elvis Andrus: K swinging. Swung at three pitches in the dirt.

1 run, 1 hit (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Top 4th – CJ Wilson pitching

Ryan Spilborghs: K swinging. CJ had good location in this AB.

Jordan Pacheco: Groundout to 2B.

Ian Stewart: Single.

Charlie Blackmon: Single to 3B. CJ jammed him, but weak grounder was placed well.

Eric Young, Jr.: Groundout to Pitcher.

0 runs, 2 hits (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Bottom 4th – Eric Stults pitching

Josh Hamilton: Single to RF. Soft liner.

Adrian Beltre: Groundout to SS. Fielders Choice.

Michael Young: BB. 4 pitch walk.

Mike Napoli: Flyout to RF. Looked bad again.

Mitch Moreland: K swinging. Bad swings.

0 runs, 1 hit (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Top 5th – CJ Wilson pitching

Willy Taveras: Groundout to 2B.

Ty Wigginton: K looking. CJ had good location this AB.

Troy Tulowitzki: Groundout to SS.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Bottom 5th – Eric Stults pitching

Chris Davis: Single to 2B. SS threw the ball away after Davis got the hit.

Doug Deeds: Groundout to 1B.

Ian Kinsler: Groundout to 3B.

Elvis Andrus: Single to RF. Blooper that scored Davis.

Josh Hamilton: Groundout to SS.

1 run, 2 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 2)

Top 6th – Mark Lowe pitching

Jason Giambi: Solo HR. Has that ball come down yet?

Ryan Spilborghs: Single to CF. Smashed the ball.

Jordan Pacheco: Flyout to RF.

Ian Stewart: BB.

Charlie Blackmon: Single to RF.

Eric Young: Single to RF. Got picked off of first base after taking a big turn on single.

Willie Taveras: Single to RF.

Ty Wigginton: Flyout to LF.

4 runs, 5 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 6)

Bottom 6th – Rafael Betancourt

Brian Barden: K swinging.

Chad Tracy: Flyout to CF.

Taylor Teagarden: K looking.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 6)

Top 7th – Darren O’Day

Alfredo Amezaga: Triple to CF.

Mike Jacobs: 2-run HR. Crushed over Rangers bullpen in RF.

Cole Garner: Double to RF. Blooper fell in between three fielders.

Wilin Rosario: Groundout to SS.

Hernan Irabarren: K swinging.

Charlie Blackmon: Flyout to CF. Hit to warning track.

2 runs, 3 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 8)

Bottom 7th – Franklin Morales

Joey Butler: Solo HR. Crushed into the Home Run Party Deck sign.

Jose Ruiz: Groundout to 3B.

Endy Chavez: Flyout to CF.

Omar Quintanilla: Lineout to 3B.

1 run, 1 hit (Rangers 10, Rockies 8)

Top 8th – Darren O’Day

Eric Young, Jr.: E1. O’Day made an error. Caught Stealing. Taylor Teagarden gunned him down at second with a perfect throw.

Willy Taveras: Single to 3B.

Ben Paulson: K swinging.

Alfredo Amezaga: Flyout to RF.

Bottom 8th – Matt Daley

Esteban German: K looking. Good battle. 8 pitch AB.

David Paisano: Flyout to RF.

Brian Barden: K swinging.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 10, Rockies 8)

Top 9th – Seth McClung

Mike Jacobs: BB. All over the place.

Cole Garner: 2-run HR. Demolished the ball over LF fence.

Wilin Rosario: E6. Caught Stealing. Taylor Teagarden hosed him trying to take second base with a terrific throw.

Hernan Irabarren: Groundout to 1B.

Charlie Blackmon: Single to CF. I’m not sure if he could’ve hit the ball harder.

New Pitcher – Zach Jackson

Eric Young, Jr.: Single to SS. Slow roller, but ran it out.

Willy Taveras: Single to LF.

Ben Paulson: Groundout to 1B.

3 runs, 5 hits (Rockies 11, Rangers 10)

Bottom 9th – Craig Baker

Chad Tracy: K looking.

Taylor Teagarden: BB. 4 pitch walk.

Joey Butler: BB. 4 pitch walk.

Jose Ruiz: Lineout to 3B. Runner on second picked off by third baseman.

0 runs, 0 hits.

FINAL SCORE: Colorado Rockies 11 (22 hits), Texas Rangers 10 (11 hits)

Come back next week for my season predictions.

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