Surprises: Though it was announced while the club was in Arizona, top prospect Edinson Volquez being sent back to High-A Bakersfield for a refresher was the surprise of spring training for Rangers fans. Jake Blalock, who played with Double-A Frisco after the Rangers traded for him in mid-2006, will start with Bakersfield.
Interesting stories to follow: There are a handful of interesting stories on the Bakersfield roster, but there is little doubt that most Rangers fans will be paying attention to the progress of Edinson Volquez this season.
Right-handed pitcher Kendy Batista, 25, will pitch his first season in the U.S. this summer. The Minor League Rule 5 Draft selection had a 2.35 ERA over 15 relief appearances with Baltimore's Venezuelan Summer League club.
Native Texans Taylor Teagarden and Chris Davis will each play with their first full-season club while slugging outfielder John Mayberry takes his act to the hitter-friendly California League.
John Mayberry will take his big bat to the California League in '07
Keep your eye on: Michael Schlact. The 6-foot-7 hurler had an outstanding 2005 season with Single-A Clinton, but struggled with Bakersfield last season. The right-hander, who spent much of the 2006 campaign working to develop his four-seam fastball, could bounce back if his four-seamer and slider turn into solid complements to his outstanding sinker.
The Blaze open the season on the road on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Pacific. Their first home game comes on April 12 against Modesto at 7:15 p.m. Pacific. For tickets, call (661) 716-HITS or go to BakersfieldBlaze.com.