The atmosphere around the spring training complex these last few days has been buzzing, to say the least. It is probably like this every spring, but there is a general sense of optimism in everyone from the coaches to the players during these early workouts. It starts with the major league guys and coaches, and while we don't interact much with them, everyone is excited for them to get the season underway and see what they can do.
And this optimism and excitement is trickling down to the minor league guys. For two years in a row the Rangers have had the top-rated farm system in the league, and the expectations for us to do well are high. The coaches have already made it apparent to the players that this will be a highly competitive spring, maybe the most competitive spring they have seen in the last few years.
Not only are there a ton of talented players, but also these players are all competing for the same limited spots. Every day more guys show up ready to compete and win a spot, which only adds to the already intense atmosphere. I know I'm excited, and I think the other players are too, and I can't wait for Spring Training to actually start.
Yesterday about a quarter of the pitchers worked on situations with the position players, which I badly needed. One of the tough things about converting to pitcher (you know, other than throwing a ball 60'6" for a strike while trying not to let the batter hit it) is that I have to completely learn a new position. I have to learn the bunt defenses, the relays and backups, and pick-offs all from a new spot on the field.
While these aren't exceptionally difficult, it's being able to do them without thinking while in the flow of the game that's tough. With one out and a runners on first and third, I need to be focused on getting a groundball, not on where I need to back up if he hits a single – I just need to be able to react and backup the right base without thinking (and this isn't to say I can't anticipate the play before I step on the rubber). So every bit of practice I can get fielding the position helps.
However, this bit of situational practice led to my first "pitcher" moment. While coming set with runners on first and third ... I dropped the baseball – I balked. I still don't really know how I just dropped the baseball.
Now, luckily, this was just practice and not a real game, but man was that kind of embarrassing. I used to make fun of pitchers when they did something stupid like that, now I'm the one that made the slip. A balk was literally a thought that never even crossed through my mind before it happened, so next time I guess I just need to not balk?
Other than that, the last few days of early camp have been relatively uneventful, with the exception of a few Vlad BP sessions and the major league intrasquad games. The routine has stayed the same, but I'm sure it will pick up next week. For now everyone is making sure they are ready to go on Monday.
Follow Tim on Twitter at @TGSteggall3!
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