SURPRISE, Ariz. - The Texas Rangers began their Spring Training schedule on Thursday afternoon, and…
Rangers Minor League Notes (3/5)
• Before Friday's game, it was business as usual on the back fields. The big league team hit the fields at 9:30 a.m. to stretch, and the position players proceeded to field ground balls, take batting practice, and hit soft toss in the cages. Pitchers did conditioning work, and some [like Clay Rapada and Derek Holland] threw bullpen sessions.
• One very minor observation/note about Holland from his bullpen: when working out of the windup, he is bringing his hands over his head. Holland always kept his hands around his hips when coming up through the minor league system.
• Marcus Lemon continues to work in big league camp, and he got his first game action of the season on Friday. Lemon entered the game at second base for Kinsler, and he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout looking and a groundout to short.
Lemon has visibly bulked up since the end of the 2009 regular season. He attributed his power surge during the Arizona Fall League to his hard work in the weight room, and Lemon definitely looks like a bigger, stronger player. His lower-half is much thicker than it was last season.
• On the minor league side, it was the general pre-camp routine. Players had a relatively light workout before retiring back to the clubhouse. Although a number of players are already in camp, pitchers and catchers officially report on Monday. The minor league players will get Saturday and Sunday off.
• A group of minor league catchers–Doug Hogan, Chris Gradoville, Jose Felix and Vin DiFazio–took batting practice in a group at around noon. All four hitters were impressive. Hogan is one of the strongest players in the system, and he has tons of raw power that shows up both in games and batting practice. Gradoville and Felix struggled offensively at their respective levels [Frisco; Bakersfield] last season, but they looked good at the plate on Friday. Felix was particularly good, belting line drive after line drive and showing improved power.
• Centerfielder Craig Gentry got just one at-bat in the big league game. He flew out to centerfield on a 93 mph fastball from Roman Colon.
• Justin Smoak also got just one at-bat, and he struck out in his plate appearance against Colon. Smoak was served a diet of offspeed stuff [two changeups, a fastball, and he fanned looking on an 81 mph slider that broke over the inner-half], but the experience of facing a big leaguer with above-average offspeed stuff should prove beneficial. The first baseman saw plenty of fastballs in the Texas League last season, but he struggled in Triple-A, as more advanced pitchers began throwing him more breaking balls and changeups.
• Since signing with the Rangers in 2007, Mitch Moreland has spent plenty of time at first base and right field, but before Friday, he had played just part of one game [out of 266 in his career] in left field. Moreland made his debut in left field, but he also didn't have a ball hit to him. The slugger grounded out hard to second in his only plate appearance, as he got just on top of a 92 mph fastball that was left up in the zone.
• Max Ramirez is also getting used to a position that is relatively new to him–first base. Ramirez seemed to handle himself well around the bag in the game, even fielding one bunt cleanly before quickly flipping the ball to Marcus Lemon, who was covering first. In his lone at-bat, Ramirez turned on a fastball and lined it into left field for a double.
• Four Rangers pitchers logged two innings in the game, and the only ‘prospect' that got into the game was right-hander Neftali Feliz, who allowed two runs on two hits in two innings pitched. He walked one and struck out one.
Feliz was excellent in his first inning, as he needed just nine pitches to get through the frame. Feliz threw eight fastballs [one curve for a called strike at 79 mph], the last three of which registered at 97 mph, 98 mph and 99 mph.
The 21-year-old wasn't quite as sharp in his second inning, throwing 18 pitches and giving up both his runs. Feliz appeared to be thrown off-track after he was hit on the foot by a hard ground ball. His next pitch beaned former Frisco teammate Manny Pina.
Of Feliz's 27 total pitches, he threw 20 fastballs [14 strikes], four curveballs [three strikes] and three changeups [one strike]. While one 78 mph curveball simply didn't break and stayed up, Feliz's curveball looked pretty sharp on Friday. He was unable to locate his 85-88 mph changeup, however. Feliz got a called strike threw on an 86 mph change, but the pitch was well up in the zone–arguably above the strike zone.
His fastball was, as usual, outstanding. Feliz got a couple broken bats with his heater, including Scott Thorman's two-RBI single in the ninth, which came despite his shattered bat on the 98 mph fastball. With upper-90s heat and heavy late movement that rides in on hitters, Feliz is going to make plenty of bats explode during his career.
• Across the diamond, on a largely efficient day for everyone involved, righty Zack Greinke was, well...Zack Greinke. He carved up the Rangers lineup, getting through three scoreless innings on just 27 pitches. Greinke mixed in all his pitches and sat in the low-90s but showed the ability to dial it up around the mid-90s when necessary.
• As previously mentioned, former Rangers prospect Manny Pina [who was traded to the Royals with Tim Smith for right-hander Danny Gutierrez] appeared on Friday's game. The catcher, who is a member of KC's 40-man roster, grounded out to second and was hit by a 93 mph Feliz fastball.
• Lefties Kasey Kiker and Zach Phillips got work in the bullpen during the top of the ninth inning, but neither pitcher appeared in the game.
Watch Video - HD (Mitch Moreland takes batting practice)
Watch Video - HD (Clay Rapada throws a bullpen session)
Watch Video - HD (Marcus Lemon takes batting practice)
Watch Video - HD (Doug Hogan takes batting practice)
Daily Prospect Q&A: Ben Snyder
Jason Cole: You got your first outing with the Rangers on Thursday afternoon. Had you ever pitched in a big league Spring Training game before that?
Ben Snyder: No, I never got the chance to go up with the Giants to get an appearance up there or anything. This is my first big league camp, and I'm excited. It's good to be around all these big-time faces around here.
Cole: Tell me a little about your thoughts on your first outing out there. Were there any nerves?
Snyder: Not too many nerves. When I first got on the mound to throw my warmup pitches, it kind of hit me a little bit. But it wasn't a whole lot of nerves. I've just mainly been concerned with throwing the first-pitch strikes that we've been talking about and getting guys out. I didn't want to get an inning rolled over on me or something like that. That was probably the main concern.
Cole: You've got a few left-handed pitchers with you in camp competing for a spot in the bullpen. Talk about that competition and how it's going so far. Does it make you raise your game a bit?
Snyder: Yeah, I feel like it's a very good thing to have competition amongst guys. Coming up through the minors, throughout our pitching staffs, everybody always wanted to do better than the guy that pitched the night before and stuff like that. I think it's good to have competition to push you and raise your game a little bit. If you get too comfortable, somebody could come right from underneath you and swipe it out.
But yeah, we do have a lot of lefties and a lot of spots to fill. But there are more guys than spots. My situation probably depends on what they do with a couple other guys, and where they fit in the bullpen and the rotation. It's my job to go out there and earn it, see what I can do, and try to perform.
Cole: Is it one of those deals where you can't really think about the other guys so much, but you just have to worry about what you can control?
Snyder: Yeah, you don't really want to worry yourself about, ‘Well this guy threw so many strikes or got this many ground balls.' It's nothing like that. You have to take concern with yourself and try to put yourself in the best possible position to reach the big leagues. I'm still on my way.
Cole: You've been in Spring Training for a few weeks now, and it is pretty much your first taste of the Rangers' organization. Were you at that minicamp in Arlington as well?
Snyder: I was. I was out in Arlington. I got a chance to meet a lot of guys. It was surprising how many guys were there, just living there in the offseason and just getting work in. It's a little different–I'm back in Columbus, Ohio, where we get pounded with snow. So not too many guys are going to try and stay there for the winter.
But yeah, it was good to get in and meet a lot of the guys. I have a brother that plays in the Cubs organization that played with a couple guys on this team that have come up and introduced themselves to me. They've been real nice. Nobody has really given me a hard time or anything like that, so it's good that people are trying to accept me. We're all trying to get the same goal–getting to the playoffs and the World Series.
Cole: How was the weather that weekend in Arlington? It wasn't snowing, was it?
Snyder: No, it wasn't snowing. It was a little rainy one day, and we didn't get out. I think that was the last day–we didn't get on the field. But otherwise it was just a little cold in the morning and we were only out on the field for about an hour anyway. We were inside most of the time. It didn't really put too much of a hinder on us.
Cole: And I imagine this low-70s Arizona weather right now is nice to work out in after not really being able to do anything outdoors in Ohio.
Snyder: No, you can't really do anything. It's hard to even drive down the street to go to the store. It's beautiful. I always look forward to coming to Spring Training. I've been in Scottsdale with the Giants, and we've been blessed with some good weather. The desert is cold in the morning, but that's about it. That's all you can ask for. It's beautiful–not even a cloud in the sky today. That's usually how it is.
Cole: Tell me about working with Mike Maddux, Andy Hawkins, and the other pitching guys around here. Is there anything you've been focusing on right now when you pitch?
Snyder: The first two live BP's, I had trouble with my changeup. Hawkins and TC [Terry Clark] will be standing in behind us watching, and they will just give me little tips and stuff. Just mechanical things–I'm not trying to baby the pitch and aim it too much. I just have to let it go and trust your stuff. Maddux does a lot of talking about trusting your stuff. You pitch to throw strikes and pitch to get guys out. You have to have confidence in your abilities.
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