Minor League Journal with Chris Dennis (3/17)

Chris Dennis appeared in his first Spring Training game of the year on Tuesday, tossing two scoreless innings with the Bakersfield club. Lone Star Dugout has the third installment of this season's minor league journal with Dennis.

Sorry for the delay since the last journal, but I thought it would be best to wait until games started because I didn't have very much to write about the last couple of days. The position players came to camp last Thursday, and we have been hard at work trying to prepare ourselves for today so that we somewhat resemble what professional baseball players are supposed to play like.

I feel bad for the position players. They report four days before games start and as a result, have to workout twice as long as the pitchers so that they are ready to go. Our pitchers have been split into two groups, one group throws early and the non-throwers (meaning no bullpen that day) go late. Even on the days when I'm in the late group, I still have been getting home at least an hour or two before Matt does. It's a tough league being a position player. It kinda makes me happy that I'm not athletic enough to be one. (I did play a solid shortstop in little league, though.)

As I stated before, we started games today, and on the schedule were the Kansas City Royals. Game time can be a little hectic for pitchers. When camp begins, they split everyone into working groups that are named after our affiliates. (Ok City, Frisco, Bakersfield, and Hickory) The coaches then make it very clear that these groups are absolutely no indication of where you are going to be this year. You could be in Ok City's working group and actually be in Hickory opening day, they just split the rosters up as evenly as they can. As a matter of fact, these working groups do not necessarily even mean that a player will pitch for that team in Spring Training. It is simply who you practice with.

I am in Frisco's working group, but as I showed up today found out that I would be pitching with Bakersfield, right behind Michael Main. OK City and Frisco had the home games today, while Bakersfield and Hickory had away games, but, since we share our facilities with the Royals, our road trip was more like a five minute walk. I got over to the field in plenty of time to sit down and relax and take a little rest before my outing.

The plan was for Main to throw two innings, and then I would follow with one as would many relievers behind me. Spring training is a little different, in that, if a pitcher reaches his pitch count during an inning, the teams will just end the inning and swap sides. This usually means that no matter what, the schedule will remain the same. Everyone is trying to win, but we are also just trying to prepare mostly younger guys for a long season, so no one gets too extended in their pitch counts.

Like I said, I had the third inning and I had already planned out when I would head to the bullpens, when I would stretch, and when I would throw. Being that it is spring training, and with the nature of the pitch counts like they are, I did not see this plan wavering. What I didn't account for is that this is baseball, and like Murphy's Law, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. During the first inning, Main's normally great command wavered a bit, and being the first day of spring, the coaches went to shorten his outing since his pitch count was up. Three different coaches started yelling "Dennis, get hot! Dennis, get hot!" I was expecting an inning rollover, so when all this commotion started happening only one thing went through my head… "Oh crap.

I got my glove, found a catcher, and sprinted over to the bullpen. As I start making a couple of warm-up tosses, the coach that was with me in the bullpen kept telling me to get hot and that I was about to go in during that inning. At this point, my warm up meter went from quick, to Usain Bolt fast. I started huckin and a chuckin. I had arms, knees, elbows, and teeth flying everywhere. If I was a riding lawnmower, with the turtle and rabbit settings for speed, I was on rabbit and the handle was stuck my friends.

After about a minute of the one man Chinese Fire Drill I was performing in the bullpen, I let the coach know that I was ready. He then signaled the dugout, who signaled back that I had the next hitter. I was ready to go, so I just sat and waited, and Carlos Dominguez, my catcher looked like he was fine with that because he had a look on his face like he had just caught four different guys simultaneously. Then, to top off this whole scenario, the next at bat finished, and they pulled the team off the field and rolled the inning over. (This is why water coolers take beatings after bad outings, because things like this make us crazy. Not crazy like joking around crazy, crazy like you really feel like that water cooler deserves every bit of the punishment for inexplicably causing a bad outing crazy.)

Once the next inning started, I was plenty loose and looked a little like I had just run a 10K. I had a nice, quick 1-2-3 inning. (With a hit batter and a double play. First day of spring, had to let everyone know that that's my plate!) After the inning, feeling a little winded still from the warm-up-a-rama, I walked into the dugout with a nice days work under my belt. Chavy came to me and said, "You got the next one." No problem, I thought, and it wasn't really. This is where the more running thing kicked in because it is the first day of games and after another 1-2-3 inning I really felt pretty good physically. Usually at that point after the first game of the year my body feels like Rick Flair just worked it over in the ring.

So, I threw two innings, threw well, and my parents and wife got to see it as well. All was going well, until I looked over at the conditioning area and Ed, one of our strength coaches, was waiting by himself and looking at me. That meant one thing… that Ed was about to run me for a good long while, Forrest Gump style. I ran, Ed laughed at me after, and then I headed in and got a workout in. Game one is complete, and now, so is my bodily soreness. Bakersfield ended up winning 8-2, by the way, and Lawson got a hit and a sac fly in the game.

On a quick note before I end, I had mentioned that an All-Hair team might be in the works, and some of my teammates went to work this off-season and did a whole lot of not cutting their hair. Josh Lueke, especially, looked like he hadn't cut it in months and maybe even skipped some showers to accentuate it. I almost called animal control when I saw him warming up the other day to come remove the Sasquatch from the field. He got it cut though, and I think he's excited about being able to see the plate again without his mop in his eyes.

Thanks for reading!

-Chris Dennis

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