The Texas Rangers began their Spring Training games on February 25, nearly two weeks before minor league players officially reported to camp. On Tuesday, the minor league players finally began playing in games. Lone Star Dugout ventured to the Royals' side of the Surprise Recreation Campus to watch the clubs' Low-A teams do battle.
• Despite being the home team, the Royals' Low-A club [Burlington] batted nine times in beating Hickory, 4-3. It should be noted that team rosters in Spring Training have very little bearing on actual opening day rosters. Any current team assignments should be taken with a grain of salt.
• Martin Perez got the start for Hickory, and he was the only hurler to throw more than one inning. Perez went two frames, allowing one run on two hits. He walked one and fanned two. The left-hander caught two different runners leaning towards second with his solid pickoff move – one of the two was picked off for the second out of the second inning. Perez faced Royals prospect Eric Hosmer once. The first round pick reached on an infield single that bounced into no-man's land after he rolled over a curveball. The 17-year-old Perez didn't throw many pitches, but he wasn't afraid to mix in his offspeed stuff. He threw six changeups [two for strikes] in the outing.
• Outfielder Mike Bianucci, the Rangers' 8th round pick last summer, had his debut season cut short after he broke his wrist. Broken wrists have often been known to take away a hitter's power, but Bianucci began his Spring Training by roping a double off the left field wall in the first inning of yesterday's game. He also reached on a hard-hit, run-scoring E5 in the third inning.
• Right-hander Julio Santana pitched the third inning for Hickory, and he was on top of his game. Everything Santana was throwing had solid movement, and he notched an easy 1-2-3 inning. Santana fanned two batters – one on a high fastball and one on a changeup – and got a groundout to shortstop on another fastball.
• Ryan Schlecht was just the Rangers' 34th round selection last year, but he turned heads by posting a 1.48 ERA with 26 hits allowed in 42.2 innings in Spokane last year. The big hurler didn't have his best stuff on Tuesday, as his command was all over the place. He allowed one run after giving up a double, hitting a batter, walking a batter, and throwing a wild pitch.
• Catcher Leonel De Los Santos continued to look promising as a hitter on Tuesday. He put together a couple of decent at bats and hit an opposite field line shot that was caught on the warning track – roughly 370 feet deep.
• Tanner Roark pitched the sixth inning and worked around a couple of baserunners. The Illinois native picked a runner off first base after allowing a bunt single and then fanned a hitter on a low fastball. He allowed a double [or E3 – it was borderline] to right field on a hanging curveball, but showed impressive fastball command by running it in on a hitter for a broken-bat 6-3 to end the frame.
• Left-hander Yoon-Hee Nam, 21, had perhaps the best results of the day. Nam isn't overpowering, but he spotted his fastball on both corners and threw a solid big-breaking curveball. The native of South Korea fanned two hitters – one on a curve, one looking on an inside fastball – in a perfect ninth inning.
• Right fielder Guillermo Pimentel appeared in the game's second half. The 19-year-old turned heads with an excellent offensive showing in the Dominican Summer League last year, but he still appears to be raw at the plate. Perhaps Pimentel's best tool is plus arm. The outfielder has an effortless cannon that was accurate with each throw on Tuesday.
• Shortstop Leury Garcia was impressive at Fall Instructional League, and he continued to look good in the Spring Training opener. Garcia, who has good hands and a strong arm, made a couple of nice plays in the field. He also reached on a bloop single over first base [hitting left-handed], promptly stole second, and then took third on a routine fly ball to right field.
The High-A game was located just a few feet away from the Hickory/Burlington contest. Bakersfield cruised to an easy victory [either 8-2 or 9-2] behind an impressive offensive attack and some solid pitching.
• Michael Main got the starting nod for the Blaze, but his command wasn't as sharp as usual. Main walked a few batters and – although he was slated for two innings – reached his pitch count after just one frame.
• Reliever Chris Dennis followed Main with two innings. Despite hitting one batter, he faced the minimum by immediately getting a double play ball.
• Ryan Tatusko, Evan Reed, and Hector Nelo all added one inning of relief and all turned in clean, impressive performances.
• A few offensive notes from what should be a strong offensive club: Tim Smith (2/4, 2B), Jonathan Greene (2/4, 2B), Mitch Moreland (1/4), Engel Beltre (0/3), Mauro Gomez (0/3), Davis Stoneburner (0/2), Ian Gac (0/2).
• The speedy Cody Podraza got his career back on track by going 27-for-75 [.360] in the AZL last summer, and he played well again on Tuesday. With the bases loaded, Podraza laced a ball into the outfield and sped [to put it lightly – Podraza can fly] into third for a bases-clearing triple.
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