The Texas Rangers played their first nine-inning game of the spring on Saturday, leaving Salt River Fields with a 7-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It's only March 6, but there is no time to stop speculating about how each Cactus League game affects how the big league roster will be constructed when the Rangers play real games beginning April 1.
There's always more to unpack than we have time for, but here are a few things to highlight the Rangers' win on Saturday and what it means moving forward.
1. Taylor Hearn did a lot of things very well in his second Cactus League appearance. His two scoreless innings had a 1:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio, but he commanded his pitches very well outside of the first five pitches of the second inning.
Hearn was squeezed against Nick Ahmed to lead off the second inning, walking him on four pitches. However, he quickly moved right along, retiring the next three Arizona hitters with only eight pitches. Little things like that point to his growth as a young pitcher from one year to the next.
"I think we've definitely seen a big change," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "He's definitely a lot more in control. He just has this comfort about him, with how he carries himself. A little bit more like, 'I belong.' ... He's a great kid. I think he has a little bit more of an identity about who he is. He kind of carries himself that way now. He knows what he has to do to compete in this league."
2. This will flag my grammar check, but Ronald Guzmán ain't going out quietly. The "Condor" jumped on a middle-middle pitch for his second home run of the spring, mashing it 437 feet to deep center with a 113.4-mph exit velocity.
Guzmán's swing looks more fluid, and there seems to be every indication that he's carried over his MVP-status from the Dominican Winter League.
This is what the Rangers were hoping for last spring. So far, the first base competition remains wide open — and it's heating up.
3. David Dahl was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning, and was immediately removed from the game for pinch runner Adolis García. Chris Woodward confirmed after the game Dahl is fine, and it was the end of his day either way.
Everyone breathe a sigh of relief.
The Rangers need Dahl to be healthy this year — and frankly, so does Dahl. He was an all star for the Colorado Rockies in 2019, but fell out of favor with the club so much they non-tendered him over the winter.
Texas shrewdly jumped on the opportunity, signing him to a one-year deal. By doing so, the Rangers also have three years of control over Dahl because of his major league service time.
A healthy David Dahl in 2021 allows the Rangers to further evaluate how big of a role he'll have beyond 2021. Obviously, that has an affect on how quickly the Rangers' rebuild could be accelerated, as well as a trickle-down effect down the pipeline.
4. Leody Taveras did not have a good day at the plate. He struck out in all three of his at-bats, twice swinging and once looking. He did not control the strike zone, chasing pitches he laid off so well in his first taste of the big leagues last year that made him the leading candidate for Opening Day centerfielder this year.
Before we overreact to this, it's important to remember 1) it's spring training, 2) it's early in spring training, 3) he's still only 22 years old.
"I know there's going to be ups and down with these guys, especially the young hitters," Woodward said. "The one thing I want to see with Leody is that he maintains the at-bat quality every time."
The Rangers want him to be the everyday guy in center field come April 1. However, they've made it clear that he still has to earn that. David Dahl can play center field, which would free up a log jam in left field/designated hitter. Delino DeShields Jr. is in camp and can provide speed and defense off the bench if the Rangers feel Taveras needs more seasoning at Triple-A Round Rock.
Again, let's not overreact, but keep this on our radar from this point forward.
5. Another spring, another year of Rougned Odor impressing in spring training.
Before so many of you may roll your eyes, throw your hands in the air, lean back in disgust and scoff ugh, here we go again, here's what's different:
Despite publicly admitting his indifference toward playing third base, he is proactively asking for game action there. He wasn't supposed to play earlier this week against the Angels, but he went to Chris Woodward and asked to play — and play specifically at third base.
Odor played third base again on Saturday, and — given that he's been a second baseman for his entire big league career — made the position look natural. The highlight of his day came with a diving stop in the hole that saved a run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"For not playing third base, he's getting off the ball really well," Woodward said. "I think he's actually getting off the ball at third better than what I've seen at second."
There also seems to be a mutual dedication to "overtraining" at third base, as Chris Woodward put it. He believes Odor has the skillset to handle the hot corner, and was excited to see him make a play on Saturday.
"He was about as excited as I've ever seen him," Woodward said. "It was a big moment for him. Obviously, he's never played there. To save a run like that obviously meant a lot to him."
This is in no way any indication that Rougie has figured it out and he'll be the player the Rangers have wanted him to be all along. There's still more to figure out offensively. However, if you're wondering can Odor play third base, all indications so far say he can.
Promo photo: Kelly Gavin / Courtesy of the Texas Rangers
READ MORE: Rangers' Gallo Blazing With 3 Homers
READ MORE: Odor Tweaks His Rangers Stance