Rangers are in full development mode

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Image result for burke rangers pitcher

By Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                             DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers are in full development mode, and
it was more apparent this week. Texas won three of four against the
Angels to re-claim third place in the American League West. The team
played hard, and in all three wins, Texas scored the winning run in
their final at-bat.  It was just their second series win since the
All-Star break.  In this season that has become about development,
young players played key roles this week.

The starting pitchers in three of the games were rookies that are
relatively new to the Major League roster – Kolby Allard, Joe Palumbo
and Brock Burke.  Palumbo made just his fourth Major League
appearance, and Allard was making his third.  Burke made his Major
League debut, as did reliever Joe Hernandez.  That brought the total
to 14 pitchers that have made their Major League debut this season
with the Rangers, which ties the club record.

Brock was the best. On Tuesday night, he shut out the Angels for
six innings, going through the top of the Angels’ order three times.
The top of the Angels’ batting order includes Mike Trout, generally
acknowledged to be the best player in baseball, as well as future Hall
of Famer Albert Pujols and Justin Upton.  It’s a tough top of the
order to work around.

The Rangers led 2-0 after six innings, so Burke had a good chance
to earn his first Major League win. Unfortunately, that didn’t
happen, because Shawn Kelley gave up a run in the eighth inning and
Jose Leclerc was charged with a blown save, his fourth, after giving
up a game tying solo home run to Brian Goodwin in the ninth inning.
The Rangers did go on to win the game in the 11th inning as
another newcomer, Emmanuel Clase, held the Angels scoreless in the
10th and 11th innings to earn his first Major League win.
Allard started the series by getting rocked for five first inning
runs and two more in the second. It was clearly the worst of his
three Ranger starts since being added to the roster on the last road
trip.

With a doubleheader scheduled on Tuesday, and seven innings
remaining in Monday’s game; manager Chris Woodward opted to let Allard
stay in the game.  And why not?  They were losing 7-1, so the game was
probably a lost cause anyway.  If Allard got knocked around some more,
it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, and it helped keep the
bullpen fresh.

A funny thing happened though in this year of development.  Allard
went back out and threw three scoreless innings facing just nine
batters.  He retired eight, and the one that reached base on a walk
was erased on a double play.  On the offensive side, the Rangers
rallied for four more runs, such that after five innings, the score
was 7-5 and there was a game to be won.  The Rangers did it!

Texas rallied for two runs in the eighth inning to tie the
Angels, and the game went to extra innings.  Rafael Montero blanked
the Angels in the 10th and 11th innings and became the winning pitcher
when the Rangers scored in their half of the 11th.  He’s not a rookie.
He’s 28, and he’s putting in a strong bid to be part of next year’s
bullpen.

Hernandez was called up Tuesday for the night game, but didn’t
make his debut until Wednesday.  He has been groomed as a starting
pitcher, but he wasn’t successful early this year and was moved to the
bullpen…he’s done much better as a reliever.  The Rangers played 31
innings over the span of less than 28 hours Monday and Tuesday.  That
can wear a bullpen out, so Hernandez was a fresh arm.

On Wednesday he entered the game in the seventh inning with the
Rangers trailing 7-4.  He shutout the Angels over the final 2-1/3rd
innings giving up just one hit and a pair of walks.  When the Rangers
rallied for two runs in the seventh inning and single runs in the
eighth and ninth innings, Hernandez was the winning pitcher.  Woodward
has said that they are not giving up on Hernandez as a starting
pitcher, but for now, he’ll be in the bullpen.

Brett Martin is another rookie making his mark on the Ranger
roster.  He has appeared in 31 games this year and has become the top
left-hander in the bullpen.

Ariel Jurado, like Martin, is still a rookie, despite debuting
last year.  He’s in the Rangers’ rotation now, but has struggled in
recent starts.  He did turn in a good performance Thursday night in
Chicago despite getting rocked early.  He suffered through a four run
third inning, but pitched a complete game.  It was the Rangers’ fifth
game in four days, so a day off for the entire bullpen was welcome.

Ian Gibaut and Taylor Guerrieri are two relievers that have made
their Major League debuts this season.  Guerrieri had a rough time in
his first appearance, but has now pitched in 12 games with a 3.32 ERA.
He is making a strong bid to be in next year’s bullpen.
Gibaut made four appearances and was sent to AAA to get a fresh
arm on the Ranger roster this week with the crunch of four games in
three days.  He allowed no runs over his last three appearances and
has a 2.52 ERA.  He’ll be back this year and could be a part of next
year’s bullpen.

So much for pitching.  Nick Solak was highlighted last week in the
SportsPage Weekly, and the Rangers have also noticed.  Texas, which
made at least one roster move to the 25-man active roster prior to
every game in the Angels’ series, called him up to join the team for
Tuesday’s doubleheader.  It was a great day for Solak and for more
reasons than making it to the big leagues.  He was the DH in game one
and got his first hit.  He played second base in the night game, and
hit his first Major League home run.  At the time it staked Burke to a
1-0 lead.

He came to bat in the 11th inning with two outs and Delino
DeShields was on second.  Solak didn’t get a hit, but he did put the
bat on the ball. The ground ball off his bat looked to be an easy
play for Pujols at first base to end the inning but somehow the ball
eluded Pujols. Speedy DeShields scored from second, and the Rangers
had a walk off win.  In this day and age when batters are striking out
in record numbers, it was good to see the importance of putting the
ball into play.

Also on the offensive side is the case of Willie Calhoun. Calhoun
is in his second stint with Texas after not making the club out of
spring training.  He was surprisingly sent down in July while carrying
a .277 batting average at the time, but since coming back, he has hit
the ball like a man that doesn’t ever want to go back to the minor
leagues again.

Calhoun is batting fourth in the order with regularity, and that’s
true even with Hunter Pence back on the active roster.  For the eight
game home stand just concluded, Calhoun hit .433 with three home runs.
He is still a work in progress in left field, but with regulars like
Rougned Odor barely hitting .200, it helps to have a hard hitting
outfielder even with some defensive shortcomings.

Jose Trevino has been catching every other game since joining the
Rangers.  The book on him is he’s Major League ready defensively, but
his offensive game is questionable.  He did hit his first Major League
home run while appearing in all four games of the Angels’ series.
Scott Heineman is back with the Rangers for the second time.

He’s a right-handed hitting outfielder that was having a good season
at AAA after an injury kept him off the field for most of the first
two months of the season.  He has some power and likely projects as a
fourth outfielder.  He has the athleticism to play all three outfield
positions, and this team is woefully short of right-handed hitters in
the lineup; so he may have a place in the Rangers’ future.  The
outfield picture is crowded, so the Rangers have also been looking at
him at first base.

One side benefit of looking at these younger players is the
atmosphere. They are excited to be in the Major Leagues, and are
playing hard….their enthusiasm is spreading to veterans.  The team
as a whole looked more upbeat this week. It was certainly a factor in
three walk off wins.
NOTABLE:
• Sam Huff, the likely catcher in the future for the Rangers, was
named the Rangers’ 2019 minor league Player of the Year.
• Manager Chris Woodward said they are considering using a six man
rotation in September to give more starts to the young developing
pitchers.
• Veteran Edinson Volquez has begun a rehab assignment in hopes of
returning to the active roster as a relief pitcher in September.  He
plans to retire at the end of this season, but wants to go out making
appearances out of the Rangers’ bullpen.  The Rangers seem open to the
idea even though they will have to commit a spot on the 40-man roster.
• This weekend August 23-25 is “Players’ Weekend”.  Each team has
special jerseys, and the players get to put the name of their choice
on the back.  A couple of examples: Shin-Soo Choo chose “Korean Kid”
and Joey Gallo chose “Pico De Gallo”.

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