Cactus League Game 17, Mariners at Rangers
Roenis Elias vs. Derek Holland, 1:05pm, 710am Radio, no TV
Welp, Roenis, I suppose you could make the case that the league needs to get back to having a good old fashioned long reliever, and that all this specialization is less effective in the AL West, where every team has the depth to mix and match pinch hitters to LOOGYs and ROOGYs. I don’t think it’ll work, but hey, Tacoma’s not so bad. Hit me up for bar and restaurant recommendations, or just ask Curto. Last night, Taijuan Walker seemingly wrapped up the #5 starter job with another scoreless outing, and he did so by working through some very early command issues. He’s now gone 12 innings with 13 Ks and just 3 BBs, and has yet to give up a run. Spring stats themselves don’t matter, but Walker has earned these stats not just through a high-octane fastball, but because his split-change is much improved from last season. There was so much talk about his cutter/slider transition, but the mechanical changes he’s made seem to have given him much better control. If he can throw the split for strikes as he did last night, then he’s less liable to have serious platoon split issues, and that was a bit of a concern if he was more of a FB/SL/CU pitcher (a BIT of a concern, not a huge one). Some times you just have to tip your cap, Roenis.
Derek Holland’s appearance today is good news/bad news for the Rangers. Holland came down with the always-good-to-hear shoulder soreness as camp opened, so the fact that he’s getting some game action in is a good sign that it wasn’t so severe that he’d need a DL stint or worse to correct it. On the other hand, it’s March 20th and Holland is pitching his first game, and is a couple weeks off of recuperation from *shoulder soreness*. It’s doubtful he can make the opening day start at this time, and while he’ll be ready in early April, the Rangers rotation which looked good at the top (Darvish, Holland, Gallardo) now looks extremely shaky. Holland’s been plagued by injuries throughout his career, and the Rangers desperately need someone behind Gallardo if they’re going to put up a respectably bad season instead of one of those 2013-Astros-style disasters.
Holland seemed to put everything together in 2013, topping 200 IP for the first time, and developing his change-up to the point where it wasn’t just an afterthought. As a FB/SL/CU pitcher, he had some platoon split issues earlier, and given that he can expect to face righties about 3/4 of the time, that limited his upside. The fact that he’s a fly ball pitcher in Arlington didn’t help either, but as a lefty with a fastball at 94-95 and a good slider that he can throw to righties and lefties, he always seemed like a breakout candidate. The change-up helped him control righties and the home run, at least in 2013. Unfortunately for the Rangers, he missed nearly all of 2014 with injuries, along with basically every other good Rangers player. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s still working on the change, or if he tries to keep things simple today and throw fastballs and sliders. This is also a good game for the M’s righties to show what they can do against a lefty with above-average stuff. Go, Justin Ruggiano.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Bloomquist, 1B
3: Ruggiano, LF
4: Cruz, RF
5: Zunino, DH
6: Romero, 3B
7: Tyler Smith, SS
8: Sucre, C
9: O’Malley, 2B
I checked this like three times, but it’s the RANGERS who are playing split squad games today, not the M’s. Hmmm. Well, good for Smith, O’Malley and Bloomquist. It’s no Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, but it’ll do for today.