BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Pitchers and catchers reported to training camp last week. The position players have all arrived. By the end of next week, spring training will be fully underway, and exhibition games won’t be far behind. Amazingly for so few days in camp, how much news has spewed forth. So in no particular order:
* The team announced that third base coach Tony Beasley has sadly been diagnosed with rectal cancer. There is a strong possibility of a full recovery. He has arrived in Surprise and will begin chemo therapy next Monday. Beasley is optimistic that the chemotherapy will not wipe him out energy-wise, so expects at this point to continue his normal coaching activities.
* Yu Darvish took a giant step forward in his recovery from Tommy John surgery on Monday. He threw off a mound that is 50% of the elevation of a regular mound. The downward motion of throwing from an elevated surface puts pressure on the elbow. That’s why this is an important step. Darvish threw 17 pitches and reported no problems afterward.
* Josh Hamilton’s ailing left knee was examined by team doctor Keith Meister over the weekend. Hamilton has undergone two surgeries on the knee since the end of last season and received a cortisone shot in January. However, the pain has returned. He sought a second opinion and travelled to Birmingham, Alabama to be examined by Dr. Jeff Dugas. This turn of events has the Rangers monitoring outfield free agent and trade possibilities. If Hamilton is ruled out of action, it could open the door for standout prospects Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara. There are a number of free agent outfielders still unsigned including former Rangers David Murphy, Drew Stubbs, Will Venable, Jeff Francoeur, Marlon Byrd and Alex Rios. So far though, Hamilton has been able to perform his spring training baseball activities.
* The Rangers are in negotiations to extend Adrian Beltre’s contract past this season. He will be 37 during the upcoming season, and the Rangers’ top minor league prospect, Joey Gallo, is a third baseman. Still the Rangers want to extend the contract, believing that Beltre is still a very good fielder. Last season, the Rangers were 38-22 in the final 60 games which was good enough to catch the Astros for the division championship. Beltre returned from injury and hit .328 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs in those 60 games.
* Reliever Tanner Scheppers will soon undergo knee surgery that will keep him out until around the All-Star break. He was diagnosed with a torn articular cartilage in his left knee. This may not necessarily be all bad news for Scheppers. He was once a cornerstone of the bullpen as Joe Nathan’s setup man, and thought to be a building block for the future. In 2013, he was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 76 appearances. The Rangers decided to make him a starter in 2014, and he actually started on opening day. He failed miserably as a starter, and quite frankly his career has spiraled downward since. He’s been plagued by injury. Scheppers would have been one of at least six or seven pitchers vying for two bullpen roster spots, as five of the seven slots are taken. The likelihood is that those two roster spots go to a left-hander and right-hander, so Scheppers was really one of four or five pitchers vying for one roster spot. This way he makes a Major League salary while on the disabled list, and hopefully will be able to contribute once he recovers from the surgery.
* The Rangers announced they have picked up the 2018 club option on manager Jeff Banister and have added another club option for 2019. He is in the second year of the three year contract he originally signed. The team won the American League West pennant and he was named American League Manager of the Year in his first year on the job. COMMENTARY: What took the Rangers so long?
* The Baltimore Orioles have come to terms with free agent Yovani Gallardo for a 2016 contract. Since announcing the agreement, questions have arisen in regards to Gallardo’s physical. Assuming the contract is finalized, the significance to the Rangers that they will receive a draft choice in next June’s Amateur Draft between the first and second rounds as compensation. They will also receive an increase in the pool of money they are allowed to spend for players taken in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Baltimore also forfeits their first round draft pick for signing Gallardo, since the Rangers offered him a qualifying contract after the season, which Gallardo turned down. Texas will now have picks 19 and 30 in next June’s draft, if they receive the compensatory pick.
* Texas signed left-hander Jeremy Guthrie over the weekend to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Guthrie is an experienced starting pitcher that has not fared well of late. He is 36 and a twelve year veteran. He was 8-8 last season with a 5.95 ERA in 24 starts and six relief appearances for Kansas City. He will join Nick Martinez, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Phil Klein, Anthony Ranaudo, Cesar Ramos and A. J. Griffin as candidates for the fifth position in the starting rotation.