SO LONG AND WELCOME BACK
Another week, another Ranger lands on the disabled list. Alexi Ogando is the latest to join the walking wounded. Things have gotten so bad I’m fully expecting to hear that Luis Ortiz, the Rangers #1 pick in Thursday’s MLB
Draft, will need to undergo Tommy John surgery the day after he signs with the club.
Still, the overall news of the week for the Rangers health is positive. Tanner Scheppers returned from the disabled list Thursday and got thrown right in the fire during the 8th inning of Texas’ 8-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Scheppers didn’t look particularly good, giving up a home run to Adam Jones, but he induced a double play to end the 8th with only the solo home run as damage. What was heartening to see was the bullpen line-up after Colby Lewis got pulled following five meh innings: Robbie Ross Jr., Scheppers and Joakim Soria. It was the first time this season the pen had a familiar ring to it. Ross Jr. pitched his best outing in weeks, throwing two shutout innings with no hits and picked up the win when Texas broke a 5-5 tie in the 7th.
Another piece of good news on the health front. Fifth outfielder Jim Adduci is likely to return from his DL stint this weekend against the Cleveland Indians. Adduci was off to a great start in 2014, going six for his first 13 with two doubles and three RBI when he broke his finger on the bag while sliding (or diving). While only the “fifth” outfielder, Adduci is definitely a step up from Daniel Robertson, who failed to tag up at third on a fly to right in Thursday’s game and cost the Rangers a run.
Word has it Neftali Feliz is close to returning to the bullpen as well so, believe it or not, the Rangers are actually getting healthier for a change.
ANOTHER SERIES, ANOTHER FORMER RANGER RETURNS
Tuesday marked the return of Nelson Cruz to Arlington. Cruz hit a home run in Tuesday’s win over Texas but the Rangers held him in check the rest of the series. This weekend another favorite from the World Series teams returns. David Murphy was the fourth outfielder for most of his time in Texas but was the starter in left field in 2013. Now he’s back to being a 4th outfielder with the Indians and once again he’s thriving, hitting .280 with 5 home runs and 34 RBI. To put that in perspective, if Murph was still a Ranger, those numbers would lead the club in RBI and rank third in home runs.
CHOICE HEATING UP?
In the second inning of Thursday’s game against the Orioles, I tweeted that a Michael Choice hot streak would help the Rangers immensely. With Prince Fielder out for the season and Mitch Moreland stuck at two home runs, the Rangers have very little power outside of Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo. Choice is that potential power bat but he’s been hitting right around the Mendoza line all season long. As if he’d read my time line, Choice went deep for his fourth home run within minutes of that tweet and he added a double for good measure late in the game. Choice is not a great defensive player in the outfield so if he isn’t hitting he really isn’t doing much to help the club win. If Thursday’s game is any indication, Choice just might be getting the hang of this major league hitting thing. If so, the Rangers offense might start scoring runs more consistently.
This should probably wait a few days because there is likely a lot of movement in the Rangers minor league system coming over the next week or two. Still, I feel the need to point out the incredible season being put up by a couple of Rangers’ prospects. Joey Gallo is tearing up the High-A ranks with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Gallo is currently hitting .330 with 21 home runs and 50 RBI. Myrtle Beach is not a hitter’s park. In fact, the entire Myrtle beach roster hit only 64 home runs in the course of the entire season. Gallo is on a pace that would net him 2/3 of the entire 2013 team if he stayed with the Pelicans the whole season. That isn’t going to happen. Gallo may not even play in the Carolina League All-Star game. In just a matter of weeks if not days, expect Gallo at the AA level with the Frisco RoughRiders. The same could be said of Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez. Last year’s top draft pick is 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA in helping lead the Pelicans to a league best 40-18 record.
On the AA level, looking to get promoted soon is Luke Jackson. The righthander checks in at 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA and could find himself in AAA Round Rock soon. On the hitting side, if Gallo gets promoted as expected to play third base in Frisco, the current third baseman, Ryan Rua, already has a case for promotion to Round Rock as well. Rua is hitting a robust .313 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. Round Rock would certainly welcome Rua and Jackson. The Express are easily the worst team in the Rangers minor league system record-wise, posting a 26-34 mark despite having a roster full of talent with major league experience. Maybe they’re mostly utility player/back of the rotation major league experienced but still, they’ve been to the Show and fans expected more from them.
Of all the players mentioned here, I think Jackson has a shot at being in Arlington before the end of the season. He may just be a September call-up, but he should get a shot before season’s end. Don’t look for Gallo in a major league uniform until the end of next season at the earliest.
Here we are, a week into the baseball season’s second month. Statistics start meaning a little bit more than the first three weeks where a hot or cold streak looks great or horrific on paper but signify nothing more than a hot or cold streak. So far, the Rangers have done about as well as could be expected considering all the injuries they’re up against. Now, however, we’re starting to get more of a feel for this year’s team and, quite frankly, it doesn’t look so good. The offense has been spotty, the pitching is growing more suspect by the day and defense seems a dirty word so the Rangers avoid playing it well at all costs.
There are still a number of Rangers who will be arriving in the coming months to help: Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto. That’s fine for June and July. The problem is, Texas still has a slew of games to play in May and June before the first reinforcement arrives and this team needs help NOW.
Case in point: When Profar went down with an injury in his throwing arm, the Rangers went with a second base platoon of Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy. This looked like another one of Jon Daniels’ genius moves, getting two utility guys on the cheap and having them perform way above expectations. On April 17, the Wilson-Murphy combo was hitting .267 with 4 doubles, 7 RBI, 6 walks, a sacrifice and two sac flies. Since that time, they’ve hit a combined .197 and, while they have one more RBI at 8, they also have 23 strikeouts and just three walks in 71 at bats. In other words, they’re showing us who they’ve always been- spare pieces expected to shoulder more of a load than usual. The Rangers have at least a month left before Profar returns and I’m not even convinced it won’t be even longer period. Wilson and Murphy displaced Adam Rosales and Brent Lillibridge from the roster. Rosales in particular is doing a decent job at AAA Round Rock. He’s now up to .283 on the season with 7 doubles and 5 homers. Rosales has some pop in his bat and can play second, third and first. At this point, he might offer more to the Rangers than they’re getting from Murphy so why not give him a shot?
There aren’t any real solutions in the catching department. Soto is out for at least another month, the catchers at Round Rock aren’t anything to write home about and Jorge Alfaro is probably two years away from the big club. Texas is just going to have to lump it with Robinson Chirinos and J.P. Arencibia, unless JD decides to trade for a proven catcher.
Meanwhile, the pitching staff still needs sorting out. While the starting staff is starting to settle down, at least until Holland returns in June or July, it will probably remain inconsistent for a while. Matt Harrison came back from the DL and had one good and one bad start. That will likely continue for the next 4-6 starts as he works his way back. Same thing applies with Colby Lewis. Despite almost two years between big league appearances, he’s performed well overall, but not well enough to guarantee any more than six innings in any start. After an incredibly hot start, Martin Perez has looked awful his last two starts. Robbie Ross has had three consecutive bad outings as well. Veteran Joe Saunders is now on a rehab assignment but you won’t find many Rangers fans waiting for him to return.
One solution is Nick Tepesch. The righthander had a terrible spring and got sent back to the minors midway through Spring Training despite contributing four wins in 17 starts for Texas in 2013. At Round Rock, Tepesch has pitched like the ace of a AAA staff, going 6-1 with a 1.58 ERA, 41 strikeouts and only 9 walks in 38 innings of work. Tepesch has nothing left to prove at AAA and, if anything, is more likely to give the Rangers 7 innings every time out than Robbie Ross will. Ross earned his rotation spot with a strong spring but, like any walk of life, hasn’t proved it lately. Ross has been a valuable bullpen commodity. It’s time he returned there.
Speaking of the bullpen, it has quickly turned from one of the Rangers strong suits to a mess of stinking you know what. Alexi Ogando has gotten overworked and gave up six hits and a walk in just a third of an inning of work in Colorado last night. Ogando has done nothing to sway me from my earlier stated opinion that by seasons end, he will be a non-factor on the Rangers. Also worrisome is Neal Cotts, who thus far (1-2, 5.68 ERA, 3 Blown Saves) has not come close to being the pitcher he was in 2013 (8-3, 1.11 ERA). Because Perez, Lewis, Harrison and Ross haven’t been able to go deep into games, the bullpen is pitching too many innings. If Texas were to bring up Tepesch and send Ross back to relief, it will help settle down a combustible situation. Opening Day starter Tanner Scheppers will return soon as well and should go back to being the 8th inning guy.
It’s only two players, but adding Rosales for Murphy, then adding Tepesch while moving Ross to relief and placing Ogando on the DL for whatever reason they can come up with, could help this team navigate through a tough month of May in better shape than they’re in now.
Every Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.
Robinson Chirinos is making a claim to start most of the games as catcher while Geovany Soto is on the mend.While this award is for a single game, Chirinos actually had two outstanding games during the week. In Tuesday’s 10-7 win over the Boston Red Sox, Chirinos led off the third with a towering home run over the Green Monster to stake the Rangers to a 1-0 lead. It was the start of a 5-run uprising in the inning. Chirinos also added the last RBI of the inning when he walked with the bases loaded. In the fifth, with Texas up 8-1, Chirinos led off with a double and later scored the ninth run of the game. That’s the OFFICIAL game Chirinos gets Star of the Week for. As an honorable mention, Friday’s and Sunday’s twin 1-0 wins over the Astros both featured Chirinos prominently. In Friday’s 12-inning nail biter, Chirinos provided the 12th-inning single that plated the only run of the game in walk-off fashion. Sunday it was time for his defense to shine, as the Rangers catcher threw out two would-be Houston base stealers, helping Martin Perez earn his second win of the season. Below is Chirinos’ home run in the Boston game:
Kevin Kouzmanoff was the last man NOT to make the Texas Rangers 25-man squad out of Spring Training. The only reason he didn’t make the team was because he was strictly a corner infielder, while Texas needed someone like Josh Wilson, who could play three infield positions. When Adrian Beltre went down with a tight quadriceps muscle in Tuesday’s win over the Red Sox, Texas summoned Kouzmanoff from AAA Round Rock in a hurry. Despite not having played in the majors in almost three years, Kouzmanoff got off to a quick start for the Rangers, getting hits in each of his first four games with Texas. Kooz actually has a six game big-league hitting streak going now, with a 900+ day gap between games two and three of the streak! For the week, he hit .417 with a double and RBI. With Sunday’s announcement of Beltre going on the disabled list retroactive to Wednesday 4/9, Kouzmanoff will be the Rangers starting third baseman for the next week and a half minimum. If he continues to play the way he has the first four games, not only does it help the Rangers short-term, it will make it hard for Jon Daniels to send him back to Round Rock once Beltre is back.
Originally, Yu Darvish was my winner for the second consecutive week for his dominant effort against the Astros, where he threw one-hit ball at the Astros over eight innings, striking out nine. Then along came Martin Perez on Sunday. To be sure, Darvish had a “better” game than Perez but the 23-year-old was just as spectacular against a woeful offensive attack from Houston. Plus, unlike Darvish, Perez got credited with the win. In his third start of the season, Perez went eight strong innings, giving up no runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. The young lefty also started resembling southpaws who have come before him over the past few years in Texas, Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson. Both were among the league leaders in getting hitters to ground into double plays. Over his past two starts, Perez has induced nine double plays including four by the Astros in Sunday’s game. Add in the two caught stealing by Robinson Chirinos and Perez never allowed an Astros baserunner to get into scoring position. Click here to see highlights of the Perez win.
The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be
Texas went 3-3 the second week, treading water while dealing with their injury woes. Texas went 1-2 in Boston against the Red Sox, while winning two of three from the Astros at home. The offense has struggled mightily since Beltre went down as shown by the two 1-0 games against the lowly Astros. With no Beltre, Houston intentionally walked Prince Fielder three times over the weekend. Fielder has yet to hit a home run as a Rangers player, though he stung the ball hard both Saturday and Sunday. The once-feared Rangers power attack has only managed five home runs in the first 12 games. That HAS to improve or treading water will soon become an extended losing streak, no matter how great the pitching.
The Rangers are at home all week with four games against division-rival Seattle and three against the Chicago White Sox. The biggest highlight of the week is Wednesday night’s game, when Yu Darvish squares off against Felix Hernandez. Darvish has thrown 15 scoreless innings thus far (15 innings in which the Rangers have not scored a run for him either), while Hernandez has struck out 30 batters in his first 21 1/3 innings. Also on tap: the return of Colby Lewis, who throws the opener against the Mariners tonight. Lewis hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 18th, 2012. He’s not only coming back from elbow surgery but also a hip resurfacing procedure. Nobody knows whether Lewis will have the stamina to go every fifth day for the rest of the season, let alone if he can still pitch effectively in the big leagues. Nobody has ever tried coming back from hip resurfacing in baseball before. What we do know is, based on how he performed in the World Series years for Texas, Globe Life Park will be rocking tonight and Lewis is sure to get an incredible reception from the fans when he strides to the mound in the top of the first.
Oddity of the Week
Elvis Andrus got ejected from Sunday’s game for arguing a called third strike at the end of the third inning. As a result, from the top of the fourth until the top of the ninth, when Alexi Ogando came in to record the save, Texas for the first time fielded a line-up containing NO players from the Rangers’ 2011 World Series team.
When the Texas Rangers take on the Philadelphia Phillies today in the season opener for both teams, the Rangers Opening Day 25-man roster includes 17 players who were NOT on the Rangers Opening Day roster just one year ago today. The only holdovers? Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Jason Frasor, Alexi Ogando, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Leonys Martin and Adrian Beltre.
Part of the turnover is due to the current length of the Rangers disabled list. Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Geovany Soto were all on the 2013 roster when the Rangers played the Astros on Sunday Night Baseball. Still, that’s a better than 50% turnover of the roster in just one year’s time.
Of the Rangers 2010 squad that appeared in the World Series for the first time, only Andrus, Moreland and Ogando are on the Opening Day roster in 2014.
From the 2011 World Series team, you can add Adrian Beltre to the list.
Even accounting for the players currently disabled and expected back this year (Harrison, Holland and Colby Lewis), the 2014 Rangers bear only the vaguest resemblance to the team that came within an eyelash of being the 2011 World Champions. Still, this is a team that has playoff aspirations. If the injury bug that him them in Spring Training gets fixed and remains fixed, maybe they can do it. We just don’t know. To borrow a cliché, that’s why they play the games.
#1 of 162 begins today. Time to find out what these 25 guys, including the 17 newcomers, have got.
Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 7-0
Overall: 91-71 (2nd Place AL West) (-5)
Craig Gentry .391/.462/.435, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 6 Stolen Bases
Alex Rios .346/.357/.654 3 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 8 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases
Mitch Moreland .200/.333/.200
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Alexi Ogando 3 Runs, 8 Hits Allowed in 5.1 Innings Pitched
The Texas Rangers have not qualified for the post-season, but thanks to an incredible last week of the season, they are guaranteed a 163rd game.
Say what you will about Texas getting to stay home the entire last week of the season to face the only two teams they dominated all season, they still needed every one of the seven straight wins they put together on the week to qualify for even this 163rd game. The Monday night match-up with the Tampa Bay Rays is not officially a play-off game, it’s actually a regular season game, with all stats counting towards the regular season total. Win tonight and THEN the Rangers can say they’ve made the post-season for the 4th year in a row.
Even with a 7-0 week, the Rangers weren’t the hottest team in the American League. That honor went to the Wild Card bound Cleveland Indians, who will take on the winner of tonight’s Texas-Tampa Bay game on Wednesday while riding a 9 game winning streak. The Indians dominated their week against the two lowest-ranked teams in the AL Central and Minnesota in particular seemed to just roll over against the hot Tribe. By the way, I want to meet the guy who could have said with certainty four months ago that the Indians would make the playoffs sporting a rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir.
Thanks to the Rays dropping two of their three games with the Blue Jays, the Rangers get to play the Rays tonight with rookie Martin Perez getting the start against David Price. The game will see the return of Nelson Cruz, who has now finished serving his 50-game Biogenesis-related suspension. Cruz will likely be the DH against the Rays. If Texas loses tonight, Cruz will be back for one game and then possibly no longer be a Ranger, as he heads into free agency after the season.
Seven days ago, I didn’t think I’d have anything more to write about in terms of play on the field after today’s wrap-up of the week. I am happy to say I will have more to write, at least for another day.
Talk about your must win scenarios. There are three games left in the season. If the Rangers are one game better than the Indians over the last three games, it forces a one-game playoff to decide who gets to go into another one-game playoff.
If Cleveland refuses to lose as they have the last seven games, there’s nothing the Rangers can do about it. One game better and rookie Martin Perez gets to face the Tribe in Cleveland. Do two games better and Perez squares off against the Rays.
I said it Monday and I’ll say it again. Every game is a must win this week and, with only three games remaining, 3-0 could still spell failure. So far, 4-0 this week has only been good enough to tread water.
Time for a miracle, boys.
- Rangers Keep Pace in Wild Card, Astros Lose 108th (abcnews.go.com)
- GM Daniels says Cruz’s playoff status undetermined (mlb.mlb.com)
- MLB Postseason: A.L. and N.L. Tiebreaker Scenarios (outsidepitchmlb.com)
Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 0-6
Overall: 84-71 (2nd Place AL West) (-8.5)
Craig Gentry .571/.600/.786 1 Double, 1 Triple, 4 Stolen Bases
Ian Kinsler .300/.364/.533 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 4 RBI
A.J. Pierzynski .125/.120/.167
Alex Rios .167/.194/.267
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Alexi Ogando 1-0, 0.75 ERA 1 Run on 4 Hits in 12 IP with 9 Strikeouts over two starts
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Joakim Soria 3 Earned Runs on 4 Hits in 2.2 IP
If there were any hopes among Texas Rangers fans of reaching the playoffs for the 4th consecutive year, they were pretty much dashed with a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the tenth inning at Kansas City on Sunday. The Rangers were already no longer controlling their own destiny, entering play a game behind Tampa Bay and a half game back of Cleveland for the two Wild Card slots. With the Rays and Indians already showing wins in the books Sunday, the Rangers needed a win to keep pace. Instead, they failed to score a run for the third time in September and watched the Royals climb back into the Wild Card Race, albeit by an even slimmer thread than Texas.
There are only seven games to go. The teams ahead of the Rangers both swept their weekend series: the Rays took three in a row from the Orioles, while the Indians swept the lowly Astros. Entering the last week of play, any combination of six Rays/Indians wins and Rangers defeats means Texas sitting out the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The good news? Texas is at home for the entire last week, playing host to the lowly Houston Astros and the third place Los Angeles Angels. Texas is a combined 25-6 against the two teams. The bad news? First, Texas has sunk to a paltry 39-35 at home. Second, Texas lost two of three to the resurgent Angels in their last series and the folks from LA are extra motivated with slim hopes of at least finishing .500 on the season. Third, the Indians close their season with six games against the White Sox and Twins, the 4th and 5th place teams in the AL Central.
The biggest glimmer of hope for the Rangers is for the Rays to stumble in the last week. Tampa Bay is on the road the entire week against the Yankees and the Blue Jays. The Rays are 36-39 on the road for the year. BUT Tampa also has a winning record on the season against both the Yanks and the Jays AND they have a winning record on the season at both Yankees Stadium and the Rogers Centre. Trailing the Rays by two games, Texas needs the Yanks and Jays to do them a huge solid to get to the Wild Card.
Elvis Andrus put it best after Sunday’s loss: The Rangers have to win out this week. 7-0 is the mantra for the week, and there’s no guarantee that’ll be enough.
- Maxwell’s slam lifts Royals past Rangers (connectmidmissouri.com)
- The Texas Rangers Hopes of Winning the AL West are Officially Over (rattleandhumsports.com)