What are the early reviews of the playing conditions at Globe Life Field?
-- Thomas M., Fort Worth, Texas
First of all, the artificial surface is getting positive reviews. Joey Gallo said the turf is firm and easy to run on, not as “mushy” as the surface at Chase Field in Arizona. He doesn’t expect it to be as demanding on his body as other artificial surfaces can be compared to grass.
The outfield will be more of an issue, especially during day games with the roof closed. The roof is dark, and there is a lot of natural light coming through the enormous side windows.
“There are some issues out there for sure,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “It’s not just the roof, but the side wall -- it goes light, dark, light, dark, back and forth. It’s really tough on our outfielders, so for them to get the reps is huge for us. We need to continue to work on it.
“The angles of the fence are something I don’t think we were anticipating when we first saw the designs of the stadium. There are a lot of little ones you can’t see with the naked eye that, when it hits off, it shoots in a completely different direction. And it comes off the padding a lot harder than in other stadiums, so there is going to be some potential for easy triples or inside-the-park home runs.”
How little leeway does Rougned Odor have this year?
-- Bret P., Boise, Idaho
Odor has been crushing the baseball in Summer Camp, and that has brought out the social media skeptics who quickly point out, “We have seen this before.” That part is no doubt true, but I have said this before: There was something different about Odor’s demeanor at the end of last season. He just seemed more humble, determined and dedicated to going about his business in the right way. It may be a mirage, but it’s still worth watching when the regular season begins.
The Rangers clearly asked too much of Mathis last season and he didn’t produce offensively. But they signed him because he works well with pitchers and is adept at both receiving and calling a game. That has value, especially if the rest of the lineup is producing. Jordan Lyles was outstanding for the Brewers last season, and much credit was given to veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal behind the plate. Mathis could end up being quite useful in a more limited role.
I haven’t heard much about Willie Calhoun. Does he look like he has fully recovered from the trauma of being hit by that pitch?
-- Jansen Y., Buffalo Gap, Texas
Calhoun still has some numbness in his cheek and jaw; otherwise, he is physically good to go. He is 1-for-25 offensively so far in Summer Camp, so he may still be struggling to get comfortable in the batter’s box. There’s still time for Calhoun to get rolling -- he hasn’t forgotten how to hit -- but that’s still worth watching in the next few weeks.
Intrasquad games tend to not be as intense as playing another team. Do you think the team will be adequately prepared for “Game 1” in a couple of weeks? Or will there be some rust coming out of the gate?
-- Joe S., Garland, Texas
Every team is dealing with the same circumstances, playing against their own teammates and not having fans in the stands. Clubs are doing everything they can to simulate the game atmosphere, but clearly nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like playing in front of fans and in a competitive environment. Nobody really knows what the finished product is going to look like.
We already knew that Globe Life Field is a pitcher-friendly ballpark. How will that impact on team strategy in the future?
-- William Chen, Taiwan
Clearly, the Rangers must place a long-term emphasis on having a premium defensive center fielder. That’s an obvious need in any ballpark, but it will need to be a top priority at Globe Life Field. Texas has Eli White and Leody Taveras in the 60-man player pool, and both have a chance to be elite fielders in center, even though neither has played yet in the big leagues. There are two more options in the Minors in Steele Walker and Bubba Thompson. The Rangers have long been attracted to superb athletes who play in the middle of the field, and that could be even more important in the new ballpark.
Which of these suggestions would you adopt if you were Commissioner: universal DH, no stepping out of batter’s box, limited number of pickoff attempts, pitch clock, robot-umpire strike zone or extra-inning ties?
-- Boggs U., Waco, Texas
No stepping out of the batter’s box. End of discussion.