There isn't a tremendous lot to say -- that isn't redundant or common knowledge, at least -- about what's going on on the major league side of things this spring, but here are a couple of thoughts about yesterday's proceedings that you can either take or leave:
● In a certain sense, it's good that what happened to Yu Darvish yesterday actually happened now as opposed to later -- and in another sense, it's good that it happened now as opposed to last week, when the media attention being cast upon Darvish reached its apex and most of the baseball world stopped down to watch his first stateside exhibition. First impressions don't/shouldn't really matter in Darvish's case, and his Cactus League performance doesn't really matter either, but people are going to overreact no matter what he does, and with that being a foregone conclusion and all, I'd still prefer for the overreactions to have a positive tenor to them.
Now that I've burned through an entire paragraph with little to show other than some cryptic commentary, let's get back to what we do know: Darvish wasn't good yesterday. Darvish struggled yesterday. Darvish whiffed three batters in three innings yesterday (and still generated some very photogenic swinging strikes), but issued four free passes and allowed a three-pack of base hits, and it's a testament to something -- preternatural luck, perhaps, or Darvish's own skill at wriggling out of jams, or more likely the fact that Cleveland was throwing out its second-team lineup -- that he escaped with only two runs of damage. As Jason Parks remarked on Twitter, though, "the hallmark of a successful pitcher is surviving when the stuff/command aren't there," so if you desperately need something good to cling to here, I'd recommend that.
To be clear, though, the fastball command was never there (a pitch which he again threw early in the count as a foundational pitch, but to little effect), and Darvish was quick to admit as much after the game. His full complement of breaking pitches were "as sharp as they could be" (per bullpen coach Andy Hawkins), but minus any semblance of feel for his fastball, he was doomed from the beginning, to which I say ... yeah, whatever. The process is the only thing that matters, and the process is still in good shape. The fundamental game plan is sound, the stuff is still elite, and if the absent fastball command was a function of mechanical inconsistency -- well, it's the middle of March, and it's one game in the desert that nobody will remember one year, or six months, or even a month from now.
● Aside from the whole "let's get hyped over Darvish -- oh wait, he's not pitching well, never mind" sequence of events, yesterday also offered us our first legitimate injury scare of the spring, as Craig Gentry made a full-sprint lunge for a liner in center field, went for everything, and ultimately came up with nothing. To add injury to insult, Gentry landed hard on his left wrist, and reacted for a few seconds as though he had been shot in the arm -- and while his ailment is today being described as a "mild wrist sprain," there was readily apparent potential for something much worse. Couple that with the fact that Gentry hasn't exactly been an indestructible pillar himself, and you get why those first couple of seconds after his fruitless dive were such cause for concern.
You also begin to recall one of the primary reasons why the Rangers are loathe to run Josh Hamilton out in center field on a regular basis, given that the position entails a larger zone of defensive responsibility, which means more field coverage, which means more sprinting ... and diving ... and leaping, sometimes into immovable objects. I'm oversimplifying things a bit here, of course, and I also suspect that the organization is dually motivated to limit Hamilton's time in center field because it realizes that it has better defensive options in house, so it's likely not all about managing injury risk. But I still see quite a few arguments as far as center field being no riskier than any other outfield position, and I just don't know how much I can honestly buy into those arguments.
● Not so very long ago, a Koji Uehara trade seemed like a foregone conclusion, and according to at least one local report, such a trade nearly occurred at least twice within the last couple of months. Both trades were reportedly blown up by Uehara's invocation of his no-trade clause, and after a lot of back-and-forth about whether he actually wanted to be in Texas or not, Uehara is still here. In theory, at least, that's a good thing.
But this is where I'm going to somewhat deviate from my incessant "spring training doesn't matter" ranting, because Uehara was rocked yesterday, and Lone Star Dugout's Jason Cole issued a noteworthy comment about the source of his struggles:
Koji Uehara's been up in the zone with his fastball quite a bit so far this spring.— Jason Cole (@LoneStarDugout) March 13, 2012
I'm still about as close to a fervent Uehara supporter as you're going to see, and I find it almost inconceivable that Uehara won't make the Opening Day bullpen .. but I'm also beginning to wonder just how much leash he'll be extended from the outset of the season if his post-July 2011 struggles infilitrate his 2012 body of work, and if this situation -- which has really been rather unusual dating all the way back to his acquisition date -- will ultimately have the happy resolution that all of us are looking for.