As we find ourselves fully engulfed by that not-so-magical time in spring training between the hotly anticipated final week or so before Opening Day and the similarly beloved start of spring training, this seems like a great time to break the monotony with the first real baseball game chat since last November (8:05 p.m. CDT, MLB.tv, MLB Network)
- Neftali Feliz reportedly told team president Nolan Ryan on Sunday that he preferred to remain in a closing capacity over transitioning to the starting rotation full time; when queried as to Feliz's specific remarks, Ryan commented: "[Neftali] just said he wasn't comfortable in a new role. Hey, look, he was on the mound for the last out of the American League Championship Series. That's pretty hard to walk away from. And if closing is what he wants do, that's how I look at him." (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News)
[General manager Jon Daniels further commented on the Feliz situation in the 3:00 p.m. CDT hour: "One of the big reasons why CJ was successful is that his heart was into it. He was committed to it. We saw how it played out. It's understandable that Neftali is comfortable closing. He had a tremendous year, was an All-Star, Rookie of the Year, all the accolades that came with it. We know he can dominate in that role. We told him that neither way is a disappointment. We're going to continue to keep him stretched out. He's going to get his work in. Maybe something changes along the way. We've always said that he's the closer until something changes. It's intriguing to think about what he could do as a starter, but there's no timeframe either. It may be something that never materializes, it may happen at any point in time. Even if it's not this spring, I don't think it limits his ability to do that in the future."
So, are we done here? Not exactly, as there's no real downside to keeping Feliz stretched out per se, and giving him a couple of more Cactus League starts affords him a bit more opportunity to tinker with things in an extended live game environment, but the so-called "experiment" seems to be headed towards finality. Matt Harrison, Michael Kirkman, Derek Holland and Dave Bush likely now begin a fight for two rotation spots and a long-relief spot, and I don't have a good enough feel for things -- nor does anyone else -- to pin any of these guys down to a role yet, but I feel pretty good about Bush securing one of those spots, in part because I can't imagine a six-lefty pitching staff coming to fruition.]
- Chris Davis went 3-for-4 with another home run on Sunday, and now boasts a .421 batting average on the spring, which has prompted one local columnist to guess that he's more of a "Nelly Cruz starting kit" than "sports dead" (Jennifer Floyd Engel, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
[I feel like I've been here before. Oh, wait, I have. Look, here's the thing, or at least my stance on this: the early indications appear good (from both scouting and statistical standpoints), and there are few players that the native Texan wants to root for more than their fellow native Texan from Longview. That's great. At the same time, how many advanced, higher-level players look great during the spring and look like someone else entirely once the higher-level pro leagues get underway? What assurances do we have that anything close to this level of performance is sustainable? And after what we've seen in the last two seasons, is a keen sense of wariness not absolutely warranted?
None of this really matters at this moment, of course, because Davis isn't going to have any playing-time opportunities in the majors unless Adrian Beltre or Mitch Moreland go down for extended periods of time, and though I look at him as the ideal change-of-scenery character (that is, somebody who has been mostly passed by in their current organization, and probably needs to end up elsewhere to have any chance of truly flourishing), it's debatable how much you could get for him at this point. I also don't think I'm buying into the Cruz starter kit notion despite the rough similarity in Cruz's and Davis's minor league hitting numbers and the whole "figuring it out late" thing, but I can respect the optimism, and I hope it ends up going somewhere. I just won't be counting on it.]
- Texas spent approximately $3.2 million on international amateur signing bonuses during the 2010 calendar year, representing the eighth-highest mark among all major league teams; 17-year-old backstop Jorge Alfaro ended up with the eighth-largest bonus of all signings in that pool, at a tidy $1.3 million (Baseball America)
[The one cautionary note I would issue here is that the endpoints are being placed around the calendar year itself, rather than the international signing period (which begins on July 2nd). As a result, players that Texas pretty much already had in the bag during the 2009 calendar year, but didn't have their deals formalized and/or announced until 2010, end up being included here, which to some extent misrepresents the strength of the 2010-2011 signing class -- a class that Texas couldn't allocate the usually large wad of money towards, because the organization felt it needed to redirect some of those funds to the major league side to help facilitate the flurry of mid-2010 deals.
Since I've mentioned Alfaro already, I figured I would also mention what Professor Parks noted about Alfaro a few days ago at TFR.com: "Alfaro showed off his crazy raw power, launching several balls over the left field fence during batting practice. From a mechanical standpoint, his swing is tailored for batting practice, with a narrow stance and an angled plane that allows him to punish predictable meatballs, but would work against him vs. game pitching. His raw strength lives in his hips and wrists, and it doesn’t take a max-effort swing to generate power. Turning that raw power into live game power will require the hit tool to step-up, and that is the real attribute to focus on."]