The six apparent candidates for the final two spots in the Rangers rotation - Dave Bush, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Eric Hurley, Michael Kirkman, and Alexi Ogando - have each gone three innings their last time out. The composite numbers?
Eighteen innings, nine hits, zero runs, six walks, 13 strikeouts.
No, you can't put too much stock in a short sample of spring training statistics, but 18 scoreless frames (for a team whose offense is hitting .304/.355/.511, so this isn't exactly Dead Ball Era baseball) is pretty impressive.
A key example of the numbers not telling the story is in the case of Julio Borbon, certainly the position player with the most tenuous hold on a starting job. The 25-year-old is hitting .391 with a .565 slug, has yet to strike out in 23 at-bats, and has three stolen bases in four tries. Encouraging for a player who's only being counted on to hit ninth, huh?
Maybe, until you hear from the men in charge of evaluating where Borbon is and determining his fate.
Paraphrasing Jon Daniels from a radio interview he did on Tuesday: "Julio hasn't had a great camp . . . he's had lots of hits but mechanically he doesn't look locked in and focused . . . and he missed a cutoff man yesterday . . . we need to see some improvement . . . we're not shutting the door on putting Hamilton back in center field but would love to see Julio take the job and run with it."
Those comments came before Tuesday afternoon's game against the Angels, during which Borbon frustrated Ron Washington when he got the hit-and-run sign and "swung like he was trying to hit the ball out of the park," as the manager pointed out during a Wednesday morning interview. "Julio," said Washington, "is capable of doing the job. It's up to Julio to go take that job."
And then there's the occasional performance about which evaluations can differ diametrically. Regarding Neftali Feliz, who was assigned the sixth through eighth innings on Wednesday, touching 98 and mixing in not only a handful of breaking balls and changeups but also a brand new cut fastball, one scout told Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, "He's got the best stuff I've seen all spring," noting that the cutter was "unfair - not Mo [Rivera] in his prime, but it's a hell of a fourth pitch." Meanwhile, our own Jason Parks, whose scouting chops are now on display at www.texasfarmreview.com, tweeted that Feliz's new offering "wasn't very good; poor arm speed, poor pace, poor location . . . . The cutter showed promise, but that and the [changeup] were poor."
(And let's consider the fact that, while Feliz did register four strikeouts, two swinging at fastballs in the upper 90s and two looking at breaking balls up in the zone, the four late-inning victims were Andy LaRoche, Jemile Weeks, Josh Horton, and Jai Miller, two of whom are fringy big leaguers and the other two of whom haven't gotten out of Class AA.)
One player for whom the numbers and the reviews matched up on Wednesday was Holland, who punished the A's for three innings, locating a low-90s fastball that touched 95, a swing-and-miss slider, and an effective change down in the zone. He started nine of the 10 hitters he faced off with a strike, never got to a three-ball count, and overall threw only seven balls to those 10 A's, in 37 pitches.
"Pretty sharp," said Washington, who said Holland made a "statement" with his appearance. "Very impressive. . . he was on the attack. . . he was pounding the strike zone. He was bringing the action to them. He wasn't waiting."
Added Mike Maddux about Holland's effort: "He looked like a pitcher out there today. He had a plan. And the firepower to back it up."
Earlier in the week, Michael Young and C.J. Wilson said that Ogando was the sleeper so far in camp, while a group of 10 Rangers players and coaches made Chris Davis far and away the consensus choice as the player having the most impressive camp. Ogando did nothing to hurt his standing on Monday (three scoreless innings, two singles, two walks, four strikeouts), but the way Holland dealt yesterday against Oakland gave us a glimpse of the pitcher who was a top 30 prospect in baseball two years ago and has had brief moments of dominance each of the past two seasons.
The next step for Holland is elevating his consistency. If he can get to the point at which he commands the baseball like he did on Wednesday more often than not, this will be the last camp in which we'll be asking whether he's a big league number four.