Today was decision day for the Rangers, as manager Ron Washington made some important calls about the composition of his pitching staff. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Washington will put Tanner Scheppers in the rotation and transition Alexi Ogando into a set-up role. In turn, he has opted for Joakim Soria over Neftali Feliz for the closer role.
Scheppers entered spring training as a long shot to secure a rotation spot, but injuries to Derek Holland and Matt Harrison and a poor spring from Ogando opened the door. The 27-year-old right-hander has also pitched well during Cactus League play, posting a 3.07 ERA and 14/4 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 innings. This includes an impressive outing yesterday. Scheppers, who had a a 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings out of the Rangers bullpen last season, has only made 12 starts in pro ball, all of them in the minors. Despite the inexperience, the Rangers are willing to experiment.
Feliz was considered the early favorite to replace Joe Nathan at closer, but he has shown diminished velocity this spring while allowing four runs on 11 hits and one walk over eight innings. Meanwhile, Soria has allowed just two baserunners over six scoreless innings. Washington said that Feliz’s role is yet to be determined and that he’s still competing for a job.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉