Baseball is Back! Exhibition Takeaways

Baseball has officially returned, as the Texas Rangers kicked off spring training with a 5-4 win against the Kansas City Royals.

The game wasn’t a complete loss for the Royals, however, as they saw Ryan O’Hearn and Jorge Soler homer, while getting some encoring performances from their bullpen.

Late-February into early-March is the time of year when you hear the phrase “in the best shape of my life” rather frequently, as players report to spring training. After day one of exhibition games Royals reliever Josh Staumont looked to exemplify that phrase. Staumont threw an “immaculate inning,” which means that he faced three batters and struck out each of them on three pitches.

Staumont started the inning getting Rangers prospect Sherten Apostel swinging, followed by a foul tip strikeout of offseason acquisition Adolis Garcia. The final out of the inning was infielder Andy Ibanez, who went down swinging. While the immaculate inning is impressive enough, Staumont reached triple digits multiple times, throwing 100 mph on his first pitch of the inning and topping out at 102.

At one point, Staumont was one of the Royals top prospects after being selected in the second round of the 2015 amateur draft but saw his stock fall, as he struggled with his control in the minor leagues. Obviously, it would be rash to make assumptions that Staumont completely fixed his control issues over one offseason based on the first spring-training game. At the same time, it’s an encouraging sign when you see a pitcher who walked 6.49 batters per nine innings in Triple A last season strikeout three guys on nine pitches with nearly perfect location throughout.

His best pitch is a lethal curveball that could help him become an integral part of Kansas City’s bullpen of the future, but if he wants to get there, he’s going to need to continue to work on his control.

The Royals saw another reliever take some steps in the right direction, too, as Trevor Rosenthal was able to hit 99 mph on his fastball on Friday. The 29-year-old righty struck out Ronald Guzman and Eli White on three pitches each, while utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded out on the first pitch.

Rosenthal was awful last season, but he was coming off a shortened 2017 and missed 2018 due to Tommy John surgery. The Royals took a shot on him on a minor-league contract in the offseason in hopes that he could find his St. Louis Cardinals’ form.

During the same contest, Rangers center fielder Danny Santana went down with calf tightness. While there hasn’t been much information regarding his injury status, in the event that he misses any time, prospect Nick Solak seems to be the most likely candidate to break camp as the opening day center fielder.

Outfielders Adolis Garcia, Henry Ramos, and Sam Travis, and utility players Rob Refsnyder and Eli White are the most likely candidates to replace Santana on the roster, should he require any time on the injured list.

Refsnyder had himself quite a day going 1-1 with a home run against lefty Eric Skoglund, and he was hit by a pitch from Chance Adams. Prior to his home run, Refsynder had fallen behind in the count, 0-2, and proceeded to battle back to a full count. While Skoglund was not on the ball on Friday, allowing some reasonably solid contact before throwing seven of his final eight pitches for balls (with the remainder representing Refnsyder’s homer), it’s notable due to Santana’s injury, as well as the fact that he has always been able to put together solid at bats, even if they didn’t always fall his way.

Throughout 423 major-league plate appearances, Refsnyder has hit just .218/.308/.302 but has walked 11.1 percent of the time and shown an ability to be very versatile.

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