Notwithstanding the standard caveat that spring training performance -- at least on an individual level -- doesn't really matter quite so much as health, coachability and the formation of an obstinate winning mentality, it's worth mentioning that a team's Cactus/Grapefruit League win-loss record does, in fact, wield some predictive value ... so keep watching those standings out of the corner of one eye, I guess:
● The Texas Rangers crushed the Kansas City Royals by a 13-3 margin in their Cactus League opener on Thursday afternoon, receiving positive results from staff ace Rich Harden (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) and nominal No. 3 starter Colby Lewis (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K) while amassing 21 hits on the offensive side (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Oh, hey, look at that: I already contradicted my own "spring training statistics aren't important" proclamation. Harden justified his pedestrian radar gun readings -- his typical 92-93 mph four-seam fastball ran more along the lines of 87-89 mph on Thursday -- by embracing the notion of changing pitch speeds to keep hitters off balance: "The older you get, the more you realize it's not how hard you throw." Certainly true to a large extent, but recall that a strong correlation exists between fastball velocity and pitching performance, with the key inflection point being 91 mph; in other words, stay above that threshold and you're (probably) good to go. If not, well, beware.
Other miscellaneous tidbits: Jarrod Saltalamacchia's mammoth raw power manifested in his second-inning blast to right-center field, which apparently sailed 440-450 feet before touching down ... Matt Brown (2-for-3, HR) is probably going to merit close observation in the context of the Rangers' on-going search for a backup corner infielder ... Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando predictably posted average fastball velocities in excess of 95 mph; according to Scout.com's Jason Cole, Ogando snapped off a "couple of good [sliders] and a flat one" while flashing an 88-89 mph change-up.]
● Outfielder Josh Hamilton (bruised left shoulder) swung off a tee on Thursday and caught some fly balls, but isn't expected to play in a game before next week; on a semi-related note, the Rangers-tendered contract extension that Hamilton turned down last spring was reportedly a four-year, $24 million deal (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Jon Heyman, SI.com)
[I think that what we're seeing develop is one of those early-exhibition season situations where there's not (too) much reason for panic -- that is, unless he remains beset by this issue well into mid-March, at which point his availability for the April 5th home opener might be plunged into some amount of doubt. In any event, we can probably expect to see another imminent barrage of articles questioning Hamilton's long-term health and highlighting his "past demons" and so on and so forth (the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Randy Galloway has started the ball rolling in that regard); however, that's justifiable when you're well on your way to becoming a 130-game player.
Regarding last year's abortive contract offer (one which Hamilton expressed disappointment towards at the time, indicating that he perceived that he was being low-balled), it's interesting that Texas elected not to attempt to buy out any of Hamilton's free agent-eligible seasons, which begin with his age-32 campaign in 2013; the Rangers initially wanted to buy out "least 1-3 [post-arbitration] years," but obviously didn't follow through on that, prompting one to wonder just how those negotiations ended up playing out behind closed doors and to what degree apprehension over Hamilton's health ended up mitigating the value of the Rangers' offer.]
Quick Hits: According to The Biz of Baseball's Maury Brown, a high-ranking source in the Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan-led ownership consortium is "feeling good" about the ownership transfer being completed by Opening Day ... Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has ranked four Rangers prospects among his top 101 prospects in the game: Neftali Feliz (No. 3), Martin Perez (No. 15), Justin Smoak (No. 17) and Tanner Scheppers (No. 68) ... General reminder: Follow Baseball Time in Arlington on Twitter and Facebook (here and here, respectively); Jason "El Magico" Parks will be publishing updates on the latter page upon his arrival in Surprise, Arizona next Monday.