Wednesday Newsletter time: Willie Calhoun might be facing most important stretch since joining Texas Rangers
He is expected to come off the injured list today so that the Rangers can evaluate him ahead of a busy offseason.
Willie Calhoun needs to play.
The outfielder/designated hitter was injured again this season, this time with a broken arm in late June, and in a season in which the Texas Rangers needed to see if he is part of their future, they ended up with more questions about him.
For all the good Calhoun has done since the end of the 2018 season, including a stronger commitment to fitness, he has been undone by lousy injury luck that, through not fault of his own, has put him in a precarious situation.
He is eligible for salary-arbitration for the first time. He’s not going to get a massive haul, but he will get a raise over the $593,000 league minimum he’s receiving this season.
The Rangers, meanwhile, need 40-man roster spots so that they can bring players off the 60-day injured list and add minor-league players who they don’t want to lose in the Rule 5 draft.
If the front office is looking for players who might need to be moved off the roster, Calhoun might be a candidate to be non-tendered.
The Rangers have only 18 games remaining, but they might be important games for Calhoun’s future with the team.
“If he kills for the last how every many games he plays, yeah, it could definitely change our opinions on things,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He hasn’t a lot of success. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunity, though.
“It’s hard to look at the small sample and the way the last two seasons have gone for him. It’s unfair to put that against him. We’ve seen what he can do in ‘19. We know that’s still in there. If he shows that for the last however many games, it could change things.”
Calhoun played only 29 games in 2020 and batted just .190 with one homer. He was drilled in the jaw by fastball in spring training and dealt with leg injuries during the shortened season. It was a mental grind.
He’s played in 59 games this season, batting .245 with five home runs in 205 at-bats. He hopes to play winter ball somewhere.
Calhoun did do much with the opportunity before he was injured, coming nowhere close to matching his breakthrough 2019 season of 21 homers in 309 at-bats.
That was only two seasons ago, but much has happened elsewhere on the club. The Rangers are rebuilding and still don’t know if he’s one of the building blocks.
“He hasn’t played enough for us to evaluate him, so we may have to make a really tough decision one way or the other,” Woodward said. “He hasn’t preformed the last two years, and hasn’t really played the last two years. We really have to go out on a limb to say he’s our guy.”
I am Iron Man
Well, Superman is what they call Adolis Garcia, who is built like a ton of bricks and is apparently just as tough.
Case in point: Garcia was drilled in the left wrist Monday night be a fastball, and he went down in pain. Woodward, along with a lot of people, thought the worst.
The back of the wrist is no place for a hitter to be plunked. The hamate bone is somewhere in there, along with a bunch of other bones that tend to break when impacted.
Garcia simply shook it off.
“This guy is not made of human material,” Woodward said. “Everyone calls him Superman for a reason. It hit him right in the wrist. Right as it happened I thought for sure he was coming out of the game. I thought he would be done. He was fine.”
Still concerned? Well, Garcia launched his 30th homer of the season Tuesday, tying Pete Incaviglia for the club’s single-season record for a rookie. Garcia finished a triple shy of the cycle as the Rangers rolled to an 8-1 victory over Houston.
Garcia, who was an All-Star this season, is batting .249 with a .774 OPS. He remains one of the favorites to be American League Rookie of the Year, but he has more important things on his mind.
“I’ve really been focusing on the things I need to start hitting again,” Garcia said. “It’s important to finish strong and make the adjustments so I can finish out the year strong.”
Nate Lowe and DJ Peters also connected for home runs off Zack Greinke, who has been beaten badly by the Rangers in his last two starts at Globe Life Field.
Right-hander Jordan Lyles allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings in his best start of the season.
Stopping the run
Lost in all the trash-can banging with the 2017 Astros is that their outfield defense was just short of spectacular.
They could field an outfield with essentially a center fielder at each spot with George Springer, Jake Marisnick and Cameron Maybin. Doubles became singles when that was the alignment. When Josh Reddick was in right field, his arm strength kept teams from trying to take an extra base.
The Rangers are trying to emulate that outfield defense, something they identified as a need once they learned the dimensions at Globe Life Field. They have been able to insert a center fielder at each spot for the past three weeks, and each has an arm that can stop teams on the bases.
It’s been an advantage with Peters is in left, Leody Taveras is in center and Garcia is in right. If they can keep a runner at third on a single, the Rangers can be out of an inning on the next pitch.
“When those three guys are out there, it’s pretty special,” Woodward said. “It will definitely impact us in a positive way. It already has.”
The ball doesn’t sail out of Globe Life Field as it did at Globe Life Park. More balls are in play in the larger outfield, and more outs can be made with outfielders who can cover ground.
Garcia is second in the league with 13 outfield assists, some of which came during his time in center field. Teams learned last season to not run against Taveras, and Peters has shown off his arm in the six weeks since he joined the team.
They all need to hit to earn a spot in the 2022 lineup (Garcia has a spot sewn up). If they do, the Rangers could have some of the base outfield defense in the game.
"When we built that stadium, we knew that good outfield defense was going to be a necessity and that if we had good outfield defense with good arms that would be a huge factor in our success,” Woodward said. “When we have that kind of defense, it’s doing to be a game-changer for us.”
Video proof of how much butt sniffin’ goes down at the dog park. Enjoy. See you Thursday.