Tocci's spring tear turning heads in camp

March 8th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Outfielder  has a murky path to the Rangers' Opening Day roster, but the idea of him needing more development time in Triple-A is no longer a certainty.

The Rangers carried him on the Major League roster last year because of his Rule 5 status. This spring, he is earning his way with seven hits, including two doubles and two home runs, in his first 18 at-bats.

“Everybody is more excited about him than [they are about] anybody [else] in camp,” manager Chris Woodward said. “The turnaround for him, everything he is hitting is hard. Everybody is so happy for him. They have been around this kid all last year. He had a lot of room for growth. He is turning into a pretty good player and he is going to help us out a lot in the future.”

The Rangers took Tocci from the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft because he was a superior defensive center fielder. His offense was questionable, and through Aug. 16, he was hitting .174 with a .221 slugging percentage in 48 games. But he hit .353 (12-for-34) with a .441 slugging percentage in his final 17 games last season.

“Obviously he did something in the offseason. He came back a little stronger,” Woodward said. “It’s eye-opening. If he puts on another 10-15 pounds, who knows what you have at that point? It’s exciting to see development and how far he can go because he can really defend in the outfield.”

Minor excited about rotation

Mike Minor is on track to be the Rangers' Opening Day starter, but that’s not what has the left-hander excited in Spring Training. Minor is excited about the progress being made by Edinson Volquez, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller.

Those are the three starters coming back from Tommy John surgery who are being counted on to be a part of the Rangers' rotation.

“I’m excited about the team more than Opening Day,” Minor said. “I’m excited to get the season started. The subject in spring has been all the guys who have been previously hurt. I feel like it’s been a big story, but all those guys are showing up. Shelby hit 95 [mph], Drew has been throwing well, Volquez is hitting 97. I’m excited where we are at.”

Minor made his third start of the Cactus League on Thursday in the Rangers’ 11-8 loss to the Padres, allowing four runs in three-plus innings. Minor has spent a lot of time working on his curveball. He didn’t use it much last year, but he is trying to expand his repertoire and gain another offspeed pitch to complement his fastball.

Injury updates: Ibanez, Farrell

Minor League second baseman Andy Ibanez has suffered a strained right oblique muscle, and Rangers assistant general manager Shiraz Rehman said it will be a “challenge” for Ibanez to return to game action before Spring Training is over.

Ibanez is entering his fourth season with the Rangers' organization. He spent all last year at Triple-A Round Rock, splitting time between second and third base. He hit .283 with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and a .410 slugging percentage in 125 games.

Pitcher Luke Farrell, who suffered a fractured jaw on Saturday pitching against the Giants, underwent surgery on Wednesday. Farrell had a plate permanently inserted and then had the jaw wired shut for 2-3 weeks. Once the wires are removed, Farrell will begin a throwing program and is expected to begin the season on the injured list.

Rangers beat

• Hunter Pence played his ninth game at designated hitter and hit his first home run on Thursday. Pence is still limited by a sore right shoulder but is hoping to play the field at some point early next week.

• Rule 5 reliever Jordan Romano, after three scoreless appearances, allowed four runs to the Padres on Thursday.

“He’s trying hard,” Woodward said. “He’s almost trying too hard. He’s working his tail off, but he left some balls in the middle of the plate to some pretty good hitters. I want to see how he handles adversity. The next time out he is going to have some pressure on him, so I want to see how he handles that.”

• The 11 runs allowed by the Rangers on Thursday were their most this spring.

Up next

Right-hander Lance Lynn makes his second Cactus League start at 2:05 p.m. CT on Friday against the Rockies in Scottsdale. Lynn allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Dodgers on Sunday. Relievers Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin are also scheduled to pitch.