SPRING TRAINING BEGINS!

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers held their first full squad workout yesterday, as position players were all present and accounted for at Saturday’s reporting date.  Pitchers and catchers have been in camp since Wednesday, and one thing that has become evident is the attention Yu Darvish will be getting.  Estimates of Asian media members essentially in Ranger camp to monitor Darvish exceed 100.  Literally every move Darvish makes is closely watched including such triviality of running from one field to another during the course of a training day.  After a bullpen session, the catcher is grilled on how well Darvish threw.  After throwing batting practice, the hitters are grilled on how his pitches looked.  Even his father’s tweets in Japanese are floated around the Internet.

It’s a carnival already that shows no signs of letting up soon.  This is both good and bad.  Derek Holland has already come out with statements critical of the media for their focus on Darvish.  “Hey, we’re a good team.  We have lots of other good players that deserve attention,” he effectively said.  Hopefully, that sentiment does not turn into jealousy.

On the other hand, the focus on Darvish has lessened the attention other stories could be getting, such as the hangover from losing the World Series, particularly in the manner in which the team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in game six.  One beneficiary should be Josh Hamilton after his relapse with alcohol at a Dallas pub earlier this year.  The mystery as to what really happened and why are suddenly overshadowed by Darvish, lessening the pressure on Hamilton to come forth with details.

Surprisingly, Hamilton chose to address the media last Friday, though he made the events at Sherlock’s last month off limits.  In the course of the session, he made statements about his contract negotiations that didn’t come across well.  It was so bad, that Hamilton felt compelled to meet with media members again on Sunday to clarify the situation.  He undoubtedly would have been better off leaving the media to focus on Darvish.

As for the early reports, Darvish, Michael Kirkman and Koji Uehara are throwing well.  Texas may be glad they were unable to work out a trade for Uehara.  He wasn’t very good after Rangers acquired him from Baltimore last July, but his overall 2011 season was very good.  If he can duplicate that performance this year, the Rangers will be extremely pleased to have Uehara in the bullpen.

Injuries are always a concern.  Here is a short list of injuries that are being monitored:

1.  Mike Napoli (ankle) – Napoli was able to catch bullpen sessions after reporting last week, handling the squats involved in catching.  He ran for the first time yesterday, making base running cuts, though he said later that he ran at just 60%.  He has admitted that the ankle injured in a World Series game six slide is not 100%.

2.  Mitch Moreland (wrist) – Moreland is limited to 75 swings each day, as opposed to 150-200 that hitters normally take in spring training.  He reports that all is well so far with the wrist that underwent surgery this winter.

3.  Elvis Andrus (heel) – Andrus had a wart removed surgically from his right heel and is slowed for a few days.

4.  Joe Beimel (elbow) – Beimel was unable to pitch Sunday with elbow stiffness, and is expected to miss two or three days.  He is a non-roster invitee to camp that is a candidate for the left-handed specialist reliever spot in the bullpen.

The Rangers first spring game is scheduled for next Sunday against Kansas City.

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION:  Many of the Rangers’ position players were already in camp last Wednesday when pitchers and catchers were required to report.  One that wasn’t was Michael Young.  The Los Angeles native was seen at the AAC in downtown Dallas pulling for his beloved Lakers.

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