A morning in Surprise

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I complained a bit earlier about how long of a drive it is to get to Rangers camp in Surprise. And it is far if, like me, you prefer to stay in the Tempe/Scottsdale area.  But if you’re coming out to Arizona to specifically see the Rangers or the Royals, you’ve got a really nice complex to come to. Surprise is pretty nice.

It’s different, though. Both superficially and for purposes of fan/player interaction.  The superficial differences can be seen in this picture:

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That’s the Royals’ clubhouse/office complex down the third base line. The Rangers have an identical one down the first base line. The white railing and all of those sliding glass doors remind one of a beachfront motel that has seen better days but which is still kept up for the budget traveler. I almost feel like I’m visiting my grandma when I approach these places. Whatever the case it’s quite the contrast to the professional and almost futuristic office/clubhouse buildings at Camelback Ranch, Salt River, Goodyear and places like that.

As far as substantively, Surprise gives fans the opportunity to get way closer to the morning action than most other spring training complexes. The batting cages abut the concourses inside the ballpark. The back fields are well-arranged and fans have much greater freedom to roam among them than you typically see. There are actually stands near a lot of them so you can camp out and watch warmups, drills and the like up close.

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Well, not that up close. But pretty close.

Wandering around the workouts I came across a couple of things of note. Like catchers playing catch with a catcher’s mitt.

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How very “Inception” of them. After seeing this I can’t get this song out of my head.

Also: either hitting coaches get personal model gloves or else Magadan takes good care of his old one from his playing days:

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It’s been three days since I saw an equipment bag on grass. I was getting the shakes, so forgive me:

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Ahhhh.

Back towards the press box, I noticed some plaques on the wall of the concourse. Members of the Surprise Recreation Campus Hall of Fame:

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Just look at how professionally that plaque is hung. That plaque just knows how to hang on a wall the right way.  Also:

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If your Hall of Fame has room for the guy who literally bankrupted the franchise, I’d say you have a “big Hall” mindset.

An hour and a half until game time. I’m gonna be busy until then:

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A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.