Notes: Sosa sees immediate results
Hard work paying off for newest Rangers slugger
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Everybody was eagerly awaiting this, especially Sammy Sosa himself. It came in his second appearance in an A game on Sunday afternoon at Surprise Stadium.Sosa, leading off the second inning hit a 1-1 sinking fastball from Luke Hudson beyond the left-field fence for his first home run of the spring in the Rangers' 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals. "When you are working so hard, you want to see results early," Sosa said. "It's good to get that one out of the way. Now I can relax. I was looking for that, so was everybody else." Except perhaps Hudson. "I put it on a tee," Hudson said. "It sped up his bat and was right in his wheelhouse." The home run came in Sosa's first start in right field. He was used as the designated hitter in his first two games, a B game on Friday and the A game on Saturday. "I enjoy it out there," Sosa said. "I'm the type of person who likes to sweat a little bit and joke around with the fans." Sosa's last home run as a Major Leaguer was Aug. 4, 2005, off Angels pitcher Ervin Santana but he still remembered to do the little hop after he saw the ball disappear over the fence. He also still does his famous salute after crossing home plate and didn't mind thee big ovation from the crowd of 4,995. "People like to see me play," Sosa said. "I've been blessed. I have good charisma and a good relationship with the fans. People love me out there. You're not going to take that away from me. I earned that." Sosa is now 2-for-6 in his first two A games after going 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the B game on Friday. "I feel physically stronger than before," Sosa said. "Sometimes like that you go to the plate too anxious and it takes you longer to get your timing. But to get that one out of the way is huge." Outfield shuffle: Nelson Cruz will start in center field for the Rangers on Monday when they play the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. Brad Wilkerson will start in right, manager Ron Washington said.
Wilkerson still figures to be the Rangers' left fielder on Opening Day and Cruz, who has been impressive early in camp, is likely to be in right field.But Washington is striving for maximum flexibility in his outfield and maximum versatility from his bench and will try a number of different combinations this spring. "I'm just trying to find out who can do what and how comfortable they are doing it," Washington said. The flexibility I get down here will determine how much flexibility I have during the regular season." The Rangers are also looking for a backup right-handed center fielder to go with Kenny Lofton, who is a left-handed hitter. Marlon Byrd was signed for that reason. But if Cruz can play both right and center, the Rangers could find another way to use that spot on the bench. Wilkerson has played just 38 games in his career in right field as opposed to 382 in left field and 226 in center. The main issue is his throwing arm, but Washington said, "He has great instincts. He's a ballplayer. He gets to the ball quickly and gets rid of it quickly." McCarthy, Chen start fast: Brandon McCarthy bounced a few breaking balls in the first but his changeup and fastball command were both sharp in his first outing of the spring. McCarthy pitched two scoreless innings for the Rangers on Sunday. McCarthy is already feeling the difference between coming into the Rangers camp locked in as the No. 3 starter and past camps with the White Sox when he was trying to win a job as a sixth starter/reliever. "It's better for me," McCarthy said. "Before the game, I can sit here and listen to my music and do whatever I have to do to get zoned in, rather than sitting in the bullpen, the phone rings and you have to dial it up quickly." Bruce Chen, competing for a spot as the Rangers fifth starter, also made his first appearance of the spring and retired six straight hitters. This was more like the way he pitched in 2005 as a 13-game winner rather than his disastrous 0-7 2006 season but the Rangers saw the results of his winter ball work. "Obviously you want to pitch well from the beginning," Chen said. "The most important thing is to get back to where I was. You don't need to see what the other guys are doing, it's important to pitch and have the ball feeling good as it comes out of my hands. Washington said Chen was "absolutely fantastic." He said it
"Jamey Wright has off-the-chart stuff. It's time for him to put it together and be a big winner but his stuff is electric." -- Pitching coach Mark Connor Briefly: Mark Teixeira didn't play Sunday but will make the trip to Tucson on Monday. Other regulars making the trip to Tucson besides Cruz and Wilkerson are Frank Catalanotto and Brad Wilkerson. ... John Rheinecker (back spasms) could throw off a mound in the bullpen on Tuesday. He's out of the competition for the fifth starter spot but Connor said there's a possibility he could be used in relief. ... Washington said Edinson Volquez will not be used as a reliever if he doesn't win a job as a starter. Said Washington: "He's a kid with a lot of potential. He just needs to horn in on the strike zone." ... Monday's game against the Colorado Rockies will be shown on Fox Sports Southwest, but with the Rockies broadcasters. Robinson Tejeda pitches for the Rangers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.