This season will be big for Jeff Banister's future with the Rangers, and it goes beyond the number of wins

This season will be big for Jeff Banister's future with the Rangers, and it goes beyond the number of wins

Kevin Sherrington, sports columnist for SportsDayDFW.com and The Dallas Morning News, answered your questions about the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks and local college sports during a live chat recently. Here are some highlights:

Question: How much will this season affect whether or not the Rangers sign Jeff Banister past 2019?

Kevin Sherrington: I think it will have a lot to do with it. The roster as is won’t give him much of a shot to win, but that won’t be the determining factor. What any GM should look for on a team that’s not winning is if young players are progressing and a team plays hard. Can’t ask for a lot more than that. We’ll see this year if Banister’s message is getting through.

Question: I have been watching MLB for more years than I care to mention, but it seems to me that there is a real need to speed up the game. However, while the limit on mound visits will help, why not do something about the batter stepping out of the batters box after every pitch? There are 51 to 54 batters (minimum) per 9 inning game. Is all that glove adjusting, cup adjusting, helmet adjusting really necessary? Maybe they could limit it to just one per at bat. Your thoughts?

Kevin Sherrington: I agree, and the thing is, there are already rules on the books about that. Then, for reasons unknown to me, umpires stopped enforcing them. Hitters step out of the box to get signs or gather themselves after a wild pitch or if the pitcher is taking too much time. But stepping out as a trigger for preparing for the next pitch is ridiculous. I’m not sure I like the 20-second clock on pitchers simply because of the symbolism. Baseball shouldn’t have clocks, in an ideal world. But, unfortunately, there are far too few pitchers who take the throw from the catcher, get a sign and deliver the pitch in a timely manner. Baseball would be better off for more of those pitchers, and not just because of the length of games. Everybody loves a pitcher who works fast, particularly the defense behind it. They’re engaged. They play better defense because of it. If they’re not going to pitch that way naturally, then I suppose we have to make them do it artificially.

Question: What happened to all that pitching and all the prospects the Rangers had?

Kevin Sherrington: Traded. What’s interesting to note, however, is how few of those prospects have turned out big on opposing teams. Now, the Phillies have a few, including Nick Williams in the OF and Jorge Alfaro at catcher, unless they move him. And the Phillies have several starting pitchers who came from the Rangers’ system. But so far, none have done much to speak of. Lewis Brinson just got traded from Milwaukee to Miami. Those were some of the Rangers’ top prospects. Kyle Hendricks wasn’t a top prospect at all. The Rangers included him in the deal for Ryan Dempster. Hendricks has been very good for the Cubs, who also got C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm from the Rangers for Matt Garza. Jon Daniels will tell you that’s his worst deal in the last several years, on a number of levels. On the flip side, Gallo, Mazara and Odor still have very high ceilings, and they have a lot of good young talent at the lower levels of the system.

Question: Do you expect Joey Gallo to continue to grow in 2018, or possibly regress like fellow free-swinger Odor?

Kevin Sherrington: Gallo has made tremendous strides in his approach. I expect that will continue. Roogie’s regression came about because he didn’t change his approach. He still went up to the plate the same as always. What changed was how pitchers pitched to him. He didn’t make any adjustments. Until he does that, he’s going to continue to struggle.

Click here to view the full chat.

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Pitcher Jesse Chavez, Rangers reach $1 million, 1-year deal

Pitcher Jesse Chavez, Rangers reach $1 million, 1-year deal

FILE – In this July 18, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jesse Chavez throws to the Washington Nationals during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif. Pitcher Jesse Chavez and the Texas Rangers have finalized a $1 million, one-year contract. The deal, announced Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, is not guaranteed. The base salary would escalate to $1.5 million if the 34-year-old right-hander is on the 25-man active roster on opening day.(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

SUPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Pitcher Jesse Chavez and the Texas Rangers have completed a $1 million, one-year contract.

The deal, announced Friday, is not guaranteed. The base salary would escalate to $1.5 million if the 34-year-old right-hander is on the 25-man active roster on opening day.

Chavez was 7-11 with a 5.34 ERA in 21 starts and 17 relief appearances for the Los Angeles Angels last year. He has a 33-51 record and 4.69 ERA over 10 seasons in 70 starts and 283 relief appearances for Pittsburgh (2008-09), Atlanta (2010), Kansas City (2010-11), Toronto (2012 and ’16), Oakland (2012-15), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2016) and the Angels.

To clear a roster spot, Texas put left-hander Joe Palumbo on the 60-day disabled list.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Why Jesse Chavez is the guy who could make the Rangers' six-man rotation work

Why Jesse Chavez is the guy who could make the Rangers' six-man rotation work

Gerry Fraley, Rangers beat writer for SportsDayDFW.com and The Dallas Morning News, answered questions about the team in a recent chat. Here are some highlights:

What did you think of the Jesse Chavez addition? Just another dart the Rangers hope will stick?

Fraley: More than that. He can be the swing man in a 6-man rotation. Chavez has made more than 20 starts in three of the last four seasons and also worked out of the bullpen. The Rangers need that type of resilient arm to make a 6-man rotation work. 

And a bit of trivia. Chavez came into pro ball as a 42nd round pick by the Rangers in the 2002 draft. They traded him to Pittsburgh in 2006 for the immortal Kip Wells. Chavez has made 353 major-league appearances since the trade. Wells made two appearances with the Rangers. 

Of all the many potential rotation pieces the Rangers will look at in Arizona, how many have a legit chance to see meaningful time this year?

Fraley: At least nine. In no particular order: Hamels, Perez, Fister, Moore, Minor, Bush, Chavez, Niese and Herrera. 

Not sold on Colon. He still throws the fastball for strikes but was so hittable last year. Maybe Dan Warthen, his pitching coach with the Mets, has the answer. The Colon of 2014-16 with the Mets could help this club.  

What makes you think a six-man rotation could (or could not) work for the Rangers?

Fraley: Will use simple math here. A team that had trouble getting five starters together last year is going to six. Extra rest is good for pitchers, but I’m a believer in the Earl Weaver philosophy of why take away from your best starter to use (in this case) your sixth-best starter? Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but there is a lot of truth to that. 

That said, something has to be done to stop the torrent of injuries to pitchers. Maybe this is the answer. To hedge, it will be interesting to follow. 

Who’s your choice for Rangers closer, and why?

Fraley: Mike Minor, because he has strikeout stuff. So does Keone Kela, but Minor is coming off a better season. Alex Claudio deserves a chance based on his work last year, but I’m not big on changeup guys at the end. That said, Trevor Hoffman got to the HOF on a changeup. Todd Jones was good for a while that way, too. And Claudio has the mental toughness required to get the 27th out.

View the entire chat.

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Son of Pudge pushing for majors

Son of Pudge pushing for majors

The Texas Rangers could face the son of their first home-grown Hall of Famer this spring.

Dereck Rodriguez, a right-handed pitcher, is in camp with San Francisco on a minor league contract. His illustrious father Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez played 13 seasons with the Rangers and went into the Hall last summer. 

The father was a strong-armed catcher. The son began his pro career as an outfielder after being selected by Minnesota in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. 

Dereck Rodriguez hit only .216 with a .615 OPS in his first three seasons. He switched to the mound in 2014 and fared better. Rodriguez had a 3.27 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 38 walks in 143 1/3 innings at the High- and Double-A levels of the Minnesota organization last year.

Rodriguez signed with San Francisco as a minor league free agent. When asked if he hopes to open the season in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, Rodriguez told the San Francisco Chronicle “my hope is the big leagues.”

The sons of 11 Hall of Famers have played in the majors. Tony Gwynn Jr. and Tim Raines Jr. are the most recent additions to the list.

The Rangers play San Francisco twice this spring: at Scottsdale on March 3 and at Surprise two days later.

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If a World Series run isn't realistic for the Rangers in 2018, what should be their biggest goal?

If a World Series run isn't realistic for the Rangers in 2018, what should be their biggest goal?

Kevin Sherrington, sports columnist for SportsDayDFW.com and The Dallas Morning News, answered your questions about the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks and local college sports during a live chat recently. Here are some highlights:

Question: If the Rangers are ‘waving the white flag’ this season, if there’s not a World Series to chase, what should be their biggest goal this season?

Kevin Sherrington: They’ve got to see progression from that young core of Gallo, Mazara and Odor, and someone has to take charge in the bullpen. In a best-case scenario, that would be Kela as the closer. Otherwise, there’s not a lot that can happen that’s best for the long-term. One of the reasons that I’ve campaigned for more starting pitching is that they’re not going to find out anything this season about young starting pitching. They’re all veterans. I get why that’s so; no one’s ready on the horizon, and you don’t want to foul up their future by rushing them. As for the rest of the youngsters, they were going to play anyway, no matter who was pitching. So what’s the goal of this team? It should be to try to get that second wild card. Instead, I think it’s just looking to remain somewhat competitive while waiting on the kids. That’s not much for fans to hang their hats on.

Question: In the last few years the Rangers have taken a very slow approach in spring training where the position players would play 1-2 innings per game and be pulled after 1 hit (a single will do). They also had the team split to where they didn’t play on the field together until maybe the last 2-3 days. Horrible, I think. Surely, with most of the division games in the lst half of the year they are not going to start slow. I have a higher opinion of the guys on the team than some of the media. I still think they are the prospects we thought they were but they can’t take it easy in camp and start the season slow. What do you think they will do?

Kevin Sherrington: Jeff Banister said yesterday that he wants to rest his veterans and see the young guys play. I think they’ll continue that approach. I don’t have a big problem with it. There’s a fine line between over-extending veterans and getting them enough reps to be ready. It’s so hard to prepare when you’re playing in Arizona, where the conditions are tough on fielders and pitchers, and you’re never sure of the hitters are really ready for what’s to come. But the last thing you want is to start the season with veterans who don’t have fresh legs. A disaster. And as for the quality of the team, I think it’s better than many think, too. Just not the starting pitching. And that’s the problem.

Question: Is John Daniels no better of a GM than Jerry Jones

Kevin Sherrington: Daniels built two World Series teams. Jerry has won three Super Bowls, but most will tell you that he got a little help from Jimmy Johnson. Some deals and drafts haven’t worked out recently, but I think Daniels has earned the right to turn this around. We’ll see what he does in the next couple of years.

Click here to view the full chat.

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The case of the 22-year-old looking to make a Delino DeShields-like jump into the Rangers' 25-man roster

The case of the 22-year-old looking to make a Delino DeShields-like jump into the Rangers' 25-man roster

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Spring training is not about results or performance. It is about a process.

Disclaimer: Unless you are a Rule 5 pick.

Then it is very much about all those things.

Welcome to the paradoxical spring of Carlos Tocci.

Tocci, 22, could very possibly win an opening day job, though he has exactly 54 at-bats at Triple-A. Or by the end of March, he could be sent back to the Philadelphia organization whence he was plucked in December’s Rule 5 draft. There really isn’t much of an in-between. And all the Rangers have is about 30 days, playing under a notoriously tricky sky and often against minor league pitching, to decide whether Tocci can make this significant jump.

“We’ve got to get him as many reps against major league competition as we can,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “We know he’s got a skill set. We’re looking to see what he can offer this team early on to help in a winning manner.”

And then, once again, the paradox: “The challenge with spring training evaluations is: Can you truly evaluate what a guy is in spring training without over-evaluating spring training?”

The Rangers have carried Rule 5 picks into the season in two of Banister’s first three years. Delino DeShields, who hadn’t played above Double-A and was effectively converting from the infield to outfield, won a job as a backup outfielder in 2015 and stuck. Right-hander Mike Hauschild won a job as a reliever last season — and lasted three weeks before being shipped back to Houston.

Despite the wide difference in what ultimately happened with the pair, they won their jobs with solid spring performances.

In the case of Tocci, though, even that might not be enough.

On the surface, Tocci would seem to have a good case. He’s considered an above-average defender and natural center fielder. The Rangers’ current outfield is not renowned for defense, and there is no true backup to DeShields in center. DeShields has never started more than 85 games in center. A backup would be nice.

“It’s a big opportunity for me,” Tocci, who is from Venezuela, said Thursday through an interpreter. “I’m ready for the challenge. I know I need to do the little things well, play defense, get on base. Those are things I can bring.”

Banister said, “He is a premiere defender, he can be a dynamic defender. He reads the ball off the bat extremely well and carries his speed well. He glides to the ball.”

It sure seems simple. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems. In many ways, Tocci’s ability to make the team depends on what the Rangers do elsewhere, particularly with the starting rotation and in left field.

If the Rangers go with a six-man rotation as planned, it leaves only three spots for bench players, only one of whom would be a true outfielder. In left field, the Rangers have a potential platoon with right-handed hitting Ryan Rua and left-handed hitting Drew Robinson. In that case, Robinson, an infielder by trade, would become the backup center fielder, and there wouldn’t be room for Tocci, the closest thing the Rangers have to a backup center fielder.

Tocci’s case might be strengthened as much by what prospect Willie Calhoun does as his own performance. If Calhoun crushes baseballs and shows defensive improvement, it might tempt the Rangers to make him the everyday left fielder. That would leave the Rangers having to choose between Robinson and Tocci as the lone backup outfielder. Tocci, a right-handed hitter, would theoretically bring more balance. Part of the role would be as the team’s lone pinch-running option. Despite his speed, Tocci has never stolen 20 bases in a minor league season

Tocci prepped for the spring by taking 75 at-bats in the Venezuelan winter league. He hit .314 with a .360 on-base percentage. He also stole five bases without being caught.

For a guy who has to hit the ground running, that might be a good first step.

“I feel in good shape,” he said. “I’ve been playing for a while. I feel comfortable and ready to go. I want to do what I can to make this team.”

There is only so much he can do, though. The rest might come down to those hard-to-evaluate spring performances of others.

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