Just two days ago, there were questions about whether Robinson Tejeda and Nelson Cruz would even make the Opening Day roster.
They both delivered answers today.
Tejeda pitched four shutout innings and Cruz hit two home runs in a 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday afternoon. Texas improved to 12-6 on the spring, already equaling their Cactus League win total from a year ago when they went 12-18-1.
TEXAS AB R H BI
K Lofton cf 3 0 1 0
M Byrd cf 0 1 0 0
F Catalanotto dh 3 0 0 0
J Botts ph-dh 1 0 0 0
I Kinsler 2b 3 1 2 1
R Vazquez 2b 1 0 1 0
M Teixeira 1b 3 0 0 0
M Kata 1b 1 0 1 1
H Blalock 3b 3 0 0 0
D Meyer 3b 1 0 0 0
N Cruz rf 3 2 2 2
B Wilkerson lf 3 0 0 0
V Diaz lf 0 0 0 0
G Laird c 1 0 0 0
C Stewart c 1 0 0 0
J Hairston Jr ss 3 0 0 0
TOTALS 30 4 7 4
IP H R ER BB SO HR
R Tejeda 4 6 0 0 1 2 0
E Gagne 1 1 1 1 0 1 1
A Otsuka 1 1 1 1 0 0 1
F Francisco (W,2-0) 2 1 0 0 1 2 0
F Cruceta (S,2) 1 2 1 1 0 3 0
Robinson allowed seven baserunners in his four innings, but managed to work his way out of several sticky jams. It was reminiscent of last year, when it seemed he was constantly getting into and out of trouble. The most extreme example of this was a start on September 4th in Oakland where he allowed a whopping 12 men to reach base in his 6 2/3 innings of work, yet just one unearned run.
Tejeda got some help from his fielders, too: Kenny Lofton threw out Bengie Molina at home plate as he tried to score on a single in the 2nd inning, and Gerald Laird cut down Jason Ellison trying to steal second in the 3rd inning. That probably speaks more about Molina's lead feet than Lofton's arm, though. Richard Durrett of the Dallas Morning News says that Tejeda's slider was good, while his fastball was regularly in the 94-96 MPH range, touching 97 MPH. Needless to say, this was a huge game for Robinson - in more ways than one.
After Tejeda's solid outing today, and the assurances of Jon Daniels and Ron Washington that his rotation spot is safe, the back end of the rotation seems to be stabilizing a bit. However, with Jamey Wright, Kameron Loe and Bruce Chen battling for one spot, there seem to be some differing opinions in the local media on what the Rangers should do.
Evan Grant still thinks Wright should be the #4 starter based on his "experience," even though he admits he has poor career numbers. On the other hand, T.R. Sullivan believes Texas should go with Loe, and that he deserves a serious chance to establish himself as an MLB starter. He also lists a few veteran retreads in the same vein as Wright, such as Ismael Valdez, Mark Clark, John Wasdin, and Pedro Astacio, who I already compared Wright with. I'll have to take Sullivan's side here.
The other big story on the pitching side of things was the spring debut of Eric Gagne, who gave up a solo home run and struck out one Giant in his inning of work. The home run came on a 1-2 hanging curveball to begin the inning, but he quickly settled down to retire the next three hitters. So far, so good. Aki gave up a solo home run to Barry Bonds in his one inning. Frankie Francisco went two innings and picked up the win, allowing a hit and walk while punching out two. He may be pitching well enough right now to win a bullpen spot back after his rocky start. If the Rangers plan on having a dominant bullpen, they're going to need Frankie.
Offensively, it was Nelson Cruz who stole the show, as he provided half the team's offense with his two solo home runs to right and left field. He's 4 for 8 in his last two games after a 2 for 16 start, and seems to be doing well after taking a Yovani Gallardo fastball to the head eight days ago.
Matt Kata hit a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 8th inning in his only at-bat, as he continues to push for a roster spot. Evan Grant still thinks Kata's a long shot to make the team, and that the club will carry Marlon Byrd instead. It really all comes down to whether the team believes they already have a good enough platoon partner for Kenny Lofton without needing Byrd, such as Wilkerson, Cruz or Hairston. As for me, I'll take Kata as my 25-man roster dark-horse pick.
Ron Washington confirmed that Joaquin Benoit had made the team on Tuesday, after pitching five scoreless innings this spring with six strikeouts. No real surprise there, as he's tantalized Texas fans for years with his excellent stuff and peripherals. As long as he's not counted on to start any games, he's fine. Wes Littleton threw a scoreless inning in a minor league game on Monday, giving up one hit but striking out the side.
Jamey Wright will start against the Chicago Cubs at 3:05 PM CST Wednesday. Slammin' Sammy is expected to play versus his old club.
13 days until Opening Day.