- So the game was in Surprise today; the Texas Rangers’ Spring Training home. I didn’t have a credential so I had to debate about how I was going to spend my day. I headed over to the backfields in the morning and saw some cool stuff.
- Imagine four-ish baseball fields with their backstops all facing the same way, so it’s kind of a baseball sandwich. Now imagine roughly 200 players, plus instructors, running drills on all the fields and in bullpens. It’s nuts. That’s how I spent my morning — watching group after group of players run a drill here, a drill there, a drill everywhere.
- I was hoping to see to catch some bullpens but ended up only finding pitchers miming with towels. Since I didn’t have a roster, I had to kind of guess at who was pitching. After that, I watched some bunting drills. You know, invigorating stuff.
- The most fun drill seemed to be a fielding drill on a patch of grass behind the bullpens. An “infield” was marked off with chalk, with bases included. An instructor would stand at “home” with a fungo and a bunch of balls. One at a time, he’d hit the ball to one of a dozen or so fielders. If the fielder didn’t field the ball cleanly or let it get behind him, everyone had to take a lap. Charlie Hough seems to really enjoy conducting this drill. He would intentionally hit the ball over guys’ heads to make his “catcher”, one of the players, run laps.
- I saw a few guys I recognized during this drill. Most notably, Julio Urias was in one of the last groups I saw. Everyone was really enjoying themselves, laughing and giving each other crap if they missed the ball and made everybody run. Another notable prospect, Grant Holmes, whiffed on a sharp grounder and took his fair share of abuse.
- Finally, near the end, the players started taking batting practice. Since I didn’t have a roster, I had to cheat to find out who the players were. Every player has his own helmet, and on the back of the helmet, written on tape, is the player’s last name. So, after scouring helmets, I found a group that intrigued me. This group included outfielder Joey Curletta.
- Curly, as I call him out of earshot in fear of being pummeled, is a big dude. He’s listed at 6’4 and 245 pounds, and definitely looks the part. And man, can he put a charge in the ball. While he only hit seven home runs last season, expect him to grow into his power. He just turned 21 and is in for a big season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He also racked up 13 outfield assists last year.
- Oh, and did I mention I got to watch the best pitcher in the world throw a bullpen? That’s right, it was Clayton’s throw day. Watching him work is a privilege.
- So, after all of that, I ended up going to the game in Surprise. The Dodgers were throwing out close to what should be their Opening Day lineup, minus Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Uribe. Hyun-Jin Ryu was pitching and, while I thought the stadium gun was slow, it does seems like he was throwing a little softer than usual. However, Dr. Ryu assures everyone he’s fine.
- Howie Kendrick is fun to watch at the plate. Sure, he doesn’t have the flair of Puig or the speed of Dee Gordon, but he can flat out hit. Today, he jumped all over an 0-2 slider and hit it like 430 feet. Most impressive.
- That’s it for Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll have more from the backfields in the days to come. Oh, and expect some interviews in the not too distant future.
Paco Rodriguez Working On Mechanics