Notes: Skipper on Apostel, rules; Phillips debuts

February 27th, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Third-base prospect still has work to do to get to the big leagues, having never played above the High-A level, but Rangers manager Chris Woodward has seen enough progress already this spring to form an opinion on what Apostel has to improve to get to the Major Leagues.

“Not much,” Woodward said after Wednesday’s game, Apostel’s fourth appearance in five Spring Training games thus far. The Rangers’ No. 10 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Apostel is 1-for-9 with a double, and he has fielded his position well. Woodward said Apostel, whom the Rangers added to the 40-man roster during the offseason, has “raised my eyebrows.”

The Rangers acquired him as a player to be named later in the trade that sent Keone Kela to Pittsburgh for lefty Taylor Hearn. Apostel began last season in Low-A Hickory before being promoted to High-A Down East, slashing .251/.359/.440 in 121 total games.

Apostel turns 21 on March 11, so he may still be growing into his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame. His size is atypical for a third baseman, but he and the organization expect him to stay at the position.

“As long as I work on my agility and the things I need to work on to stay there, I can be a third baseman,” Apostel said. “[I’m working on] my first move to the side. Sometimes big guys, moving to the side is kind of slow or kind of a challenge for us. … That’s what I need to work the most on. … I think I’m improving.”

Woodward thinks so too, although it’s too soon to anoint Apostel as the Rangers’ third baseman of the future. , the No. 8 overall MLB Draft pick last June, is also in the mix and playing regularly in the Cactus League. Jung, 22, has the higher profile as the No. 5 third-base prospect in baseball and the No. 55 prospect overall.

One of the two third basemen could be in Double-A Frisco by summertime, and in Arlington before much longer.

Phillips withstands jitters in scoreless start
In his first Major League camp, right-hander labored a bit in his first "A" game start, allowing three hits and walking two, but he worked his way out of a couple of jams and did not allow a run in 1 2/3 innings in the Rangers' 13-1 win over the Cubs. The 22-year-old struck out two and admitted after the game that he was “pretty excited out there” on the Surprise Stadium mound.

“I think I was going a little too quick out there to start … they’ve got some big names in there,” he said of the Cubs. Phillips struck out two of those names -- David Bote and Kyle Schwarber -- and joked afterward that he “blacked out” during the Schwarber at-bat.

“I just need to calm down,” Phillips said. “I know I belong out here for a reason.”

Reliever rule on Woodward’s radar
MLB’s new three-batter minimum rule for relievers will begin to be enforced on March 12, but Woodward has considered its implications since last year. The rule will have little practical effect at first, he said, since pitchers are rarely used for just one or two hitters in Spring Training. But in the regular season, the rule will significantly impact managers’ decisions, from the starting lineup and matchups to relievers’ days off, Woodward said.

“It will be interesting to see if I lack a decision because I’m a little worried about the third hitter, or even the second hitter, with two outs in the inning,” he said. “I don’t want to let it rule our decisions, but at the same time, be smart about it.

“We definitely had times last year where [a reliever is] available for one or two hitters, that’s just not possible now … I guarantee you there’ll be times where I’m like, ‘No, he’s not pitching, he’s off.’”

He said it
“That was a first-year manager. I won’t let him do that tomorrow, unless he throws, like, four pitches in an inning.” -- Woodward, on letting Lance Lynn talk him into staying in the game Friday. In Lynn’s spring debut last year, Woodward came out to pull the pitcher after he loaded the bases in the third inning, but Lynn successfully lobbied to stay in the game for another hitter.

Rangers beat
• Woodward acknowledged that starting Lynn against the Angels on Friday is less than ideal, given they’re a division rival and the Rangers would rather not give the Halos hitters an extra look at Lynn: “He wants to get out there and face some live hitters in a real game atmosphere, and … it just happens to be the Angels. It’ll probably be the only time he does that [this spring].”

• Catcher Robinson Chirinos has been bothered by a strained right hamstring and hasn’t played in a Cactus League game yet, but he is participating daily in live batting practice and catching bullpen sessions with members of the starting rotation, Woodward said. Woodward expects Chirinos will see game action within the next week.

• Shin-Soo Choo (left oblique tightness) will play Friday in Tempe; he has appeared in one February game thus far, going 0-for-2 on Sunday against the Mariners before being scratched Tuesday.

Up next
The Rangers face the Angels for the first time this spring at 2:10 p.m. CT in Tempe on Friday. Lynn will face Halos lefty Andrew Heaney, who dominated the Rangers in three starts against them in 2019, posting a 1.42 ERA and striking out 32 in 19 innings.