Rangers Minor League Notes (3/6)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Saturday's Spring Training game against the Royals proved to be a nice showcase for a number of Rangers prospects, as most of the big league regulars got the day off. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from another day at camp.

The Rangers lost their second consecutive game to the Royals, 2-1, on Sunday afternoon, but it was a great day for those interested in seeing some of the system's top prospects playing against a Major League club.

• Although he isn't technically a prospect anymore, left-hander Matt Harrison was easily the most impressive pitcher of the game for the Rangers. Harrison sat between 94-96 mph [or 93-95 mph, depending on the gun] with his four-seam fastball, and he showed an excellent 89-91 mph cutter. Harrison was aggressive, attacking hitters and the strike zone with his fastball and cutter. He got six groundouts in the two scoreless innings.

• A couple Royals pitchers–first-round pick Aaron Crow and former Ranger Josh Rupe–also showed electric stuff in the game. Crow worked around 94-95 mph with his heavy sinking fastball, and he threw a plus 84-87 mph slider that had righties diving out of the box. Crow fanned three and allowed just one hit in two scoreless innings.

Rupe, who signed a minor league deal with the Royals earlier in the offseason, struck out four and yielded one hit in two shutout frames. He flashed a hard 92-94 mph sinker with excellent movement and a sharp downer slider that reached 88 mph. Rupe hung a few sliders in his outing, but the vast majority were devastating swing-and-miss pitches. He also mixed in a low-70s curveball.

• The only prospect to pitch for the Rangers on Saturday was left-hander Kasey Kiker, who worked a scoreless inning of relief on 16 pitches. In the outing, Kiker threw eight fastballs [five strikes; 88-91 mph], five curveballs [five strikes; 75-80 mph] and three changeups [one strike; 79-80 mph].

Kiker didn't get much help from his defense, as Leury Garcia committed two errors [one throwing error on a ground ball, one on a stolen base attempt], but he got out of the frame unscathed.

The 22-year-old got in on the hands of Wilson Betemit with a 91 mph fastball, getting him to fly out to center and ending a nine-pitch at-bat. Kiker threw all three of his changeups to the right-hander, but he had trouble commanding it, throwing the last two well outside of the strike zone.

He used his curveball effectively to lefties Buck Coats and Scott Thorman, getting each to ground out. Kiker got off the mound quickly to field Coats' bunt attempt, and he set his feet and made a strong throw to get him at first.

• As a member of the minicamp, 18-year-old switch-hitting shortstop Leury Garcia got some action in Saturday's Major League game. Hitting left-handed, Garcia picked up the Rangers' only RBI of the game, when he grounded out on a slow chopper to shortstop with an 0-2 count. The speedy Garcia nearly beat the throw at first base.

Listed at 5-foot-7, 153-pounds, the youngster doesn't yet have the strength to succeed offensively against elite competition, but he also rarely appears overmatched. Garcia often puts together good at-bats, battles well, and puts the bat on the ball. He struck out just 64 times in 276 at-bats with Single-A Hickory last season and performed well at Advanced Instructional League despite being young and underexperienced for both circuits.

In the field, the game simply appeared to be moving too fast for Garcia on Saturday. The shortstop has plus range and a plus arm [bordering on plus-plus for both], but he is extremely raw defensively. In the eighth inning, he rushed a throw and fired high after fielding a ground ball from Royals prospect Irving Falu. When Falu stole second on the next pitch, Garcia bailed out as Falu slid into second, and the on-target throw sailed into centerfield.

Craig Gentry [CF] and Mitch Moreland [LF] both started Saturday's game, and they got action against a few of the Royals' power arms in righties Gil Meche, Aaron Crow and Blake Wood. All three pitchers consistently reach the mid-90s with their fastball. Gentry and Moreland combined to go 0-for-7 in the game with one strikeout.

Starting his first game in left field, Moreland wasn't particularly challenged on any ball. At the plate, he was out in front of a few changeups in the game, but when Wood left an 86 mph change up in the zone, Moreland took a ball to the warning track in dead center despite appearing to be a bit fooled.

• Another minicamp player–right fielder Joey Butler–got two plate appearances in the game. Butler started his afternoon by working a full-count walk on an eight-pitch at-bat against Blake Wood. Although he was behind Wood's 94-96 mph fastball, he was able to fight them off and stay alive before he took a hard slider for ball four. Butler fanned on a 94 mph sinker from Rupe in his second at-bat.

• Monday morning and afternoon should be another excellent day for prospects, as the Rangers will play a ‘B' game at 10 a.m. Right-hander Tanner Scheppers and lefty Michael Kirkman are among the young players scheduled to play in the exhibition.

• No videos or interviews from Saturday's action, as the minor leaguers had the weekend off before pitchers and catchers officially report on Monday. Click here to read the Q&A with Chad Tracy that was posted on Saturday morning.


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