Top of Rangers' lineup could be best in AL
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy knows what a championship batting order looks like. He has the lineup cards to prove it.
It usually starts at the top, and Bochy went on record Monday to say he believes the Rangers’ projected front four -- Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Nathaniel Lowe and Adolis García -- could rank among the best in the American League this season.
“It’s a nice group,” Bochy said before Texas’ 13-2 victory over Cincinnati on Monday. “It’s a nice top four hitters. I think we stack up very well with the rest of the league as far as our four.”
Early results have supplied ample evidence. That group started two of the Rangers’ first three games but took Monday off after a 13-4 showcase victory over the Guardians on Sunday.
Semien, Seager, Lowe and García collectively went 5-for-9 with four runs and four RBIs while each playing no more than four innings against Cleveland. All had at least one hit, and Seager hit a three-run homer. Lowe added a sacrifice fly and a walk.
“I think our lineup is going to have some depth to it, too,” Bochy said, mentioning Robbie Grossman, who already has a homer this spring. “You look at the years they had last year.”
The front four's impressive 2022 numbers suggest a group that can strike from all angles. Seager slashed .245/.317/.455 and was fifth in the AL with 33 homers. García hit .250/.300/.456 and ranked fourth in the league with 101 RBIs. Lowe batted .302/.358/.492 and was fourth in the AL with 179 hits. Semien slashed .248/.304/.429 and ranked fifth in the league with 25 stolen bases.
All four hit at least 26 homers, and García and Semien were two of the four AL players with at least 25 homers and 25 stolen bases. Houston’s Kyle Tucker and Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez were the others.
“It’s not just when they are hitting,” said left-hander Martin Perez. “It’s when they play defense, too. It’s good to have those guys behind me. I know they are going to make the plays.”
Bochy’s World Series winners in 2010, '12 and '14 did not feature lineups with numbers quite as gaudy, but one thing those Giants did was rise to the moment. Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval were on all three of those teams; Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt were on the last two.
“There was good production,” Bochy said. “I don’t think we had quite this kind of production. It was a group that did a lot of little things well. They weren’t a power-hitting club. It was a very unselfish group that did things to keep things moving or move guys over.
“It always comes down to a big hit, and they all had slow heart rates where they really performed under pressure well -- of course, led by Buster. You look at Crawford’s numbers at the end of the year. They were all right, but he always found a way to get a big hit for us, for example. A guy like Belt could carry you. They were good hitters in the clutch. You have to get those timely hits, and they were very good at it.”
Bochy said he has seen some slow-heart-rate hitters in his new group.
“I knew that,” he said. “I saw Corey a lot from the other side. Marcus some. Very confident guys. They are just professional hitters. Really good hitters. I’m going to enjoy watching them.”
The new rules that affect hitters should become natural by the end of spring training, Bochy said.
“In the early going, you are thinking, 'Is this going to speed up too much for hitters?'” he said. “By the time we leave here, it is going to be second nature. They are not guys who take a lot of time to get in there anyway. As far as the situation, they are not going to be affected by that."
• Mitch Garver caught three innings and homered into the Cincinnati bullpen in left-center field in his first game behind the plate since May 8, 2022 and second game at all since undergoing flexor tendon surgery in early July.
“I have to be honest with you, I was pretty nervous,” Garver said. “That’s the longest I have ever gone without playing baseball. To get behind the dish, game speed. There are a lot of things to take into account -- the pitch clock. It was the whole getting back into game speed, getting the gear on, making the throws to second base, seeing how the elbow felt. It took me a few throws to get it back warmed up again, but I think that is all normal.”
Garver caught Jacob deGrom’s bullpen session Sunday.
“Very special fastball,” Garver said. “It looks different than anybody I’ve ever caught before. Seeing him come down the mound like that … he was probably 85 percent, which is impressive by itself. He is obviously one of the best pitchers of our generation, so it’s great to finally see what it looks like from that perspective.”
Bochy said deGrom is expected to throw two more bullpen sessions before getting into a spring training game.
• Pérez threw 40 pitches in three innings in the first of two scheduled starts with the Rangers before he flies to Miami to join Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic. He gave up one run on three hits, getting six ground-ball outs and a strikeout.
“First time on a mound after six months, I felt good,” Perez said. He is aiming for 55 or 65 pitches in his next start.
“He’s right where he needs to be,” Bochy said.
Perez said the pitch clock was not a concern, “because I like to have good tempo. With the clock I can take advantage of that. I can play with that. It doesn’t bother me.”
Perez got an automatic strike called on Will Benson in the second inning when Benson was not ready to hit within the required eight seconds. “When I saw [the umpire], I said ‘oh, OK, thank you,’” Perez said.