- Josh Hamilton felt soreness in his left knee while running the bases in a rehab game today, as Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). Hamilton was pulled from the game and given a cortisone shot, with an eye towards getting back on the field next week. Hamilton’s bothersome left knee has undergone two operations within the last eight months and this latest setback is another ominous sign for the former AL MVP.
- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton began a minor league rehab assignment Saturday in Double-A and totaled two at-bats, per Dave Sessions of MLB.com. Hamilton, who missed all of Spring Training with left knee problems, will need to accrue at least 20 to 30 ABs during his rehab assignment before rejoining the Rangers, manager Jeff Banister said. It’s unclear how Hamilton, who hit .253/.291/.441 with eight home runs in 182 plate appearances last year, will fit into the Rangers’ outfield plans when he returns. In addition to Hamilton, Shin-Soo Choo should come back later this month month from a calf injury to join an outfield that has mostly relied on Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields and Ian Desmond this year.
- An MRI on Friday revealed that Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo’s strained right calf is “80 percent better,” he said (link via Dave Sessions of MLB.com). Choo is aiming to begin a rehab assignment sometime in the next two weeks and hopes to return to big league action by the third week of May. Choo has been out since April 8 because of the injury, and his departure from the lineup led to the promotion of Nomar Mazara. In Choo’s absence, the rookie phenom has batted .344/.403/.475 with two home runs in 72 plate appearances.
- The Rangers have released former top prospect Cody Buckel, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (via Twitter). Buckel, a 23-year-old right-hander, ranked as the game’s No. 87 prospect prior to the 2013 season, according to MLB.com. However, he developed a staggering control problem that season, walking 35 batters in just 10 2/3 innings. Buckel wasn’t diagnosed with a major injury and seemingly never recovered from the yips he encountered that season, as he averaged 6.8 walks per nine innings pitched from 2014-16 in his time between the Rangers’ minor league affiliates and winter ball in Australia.
The Rangers have released right-hander Burke Badenhop, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. The 33-year-old ACES client had signed a minor league deal with Texas early in the season after missing out on a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen as a non-roster invitee in Spring Training.
Badenhop pitched 4 2/3 innings with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate this year, allowing five runs on eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts in that small sample of work. While not a household name, Badenhop has carved out a role as a steadily productive middle reliever over the past seven seasons in the Majors. In that time, he’s averaged 58 games/66 innings per year to go along with a 3.50 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 54.4 percent ground-ball rate. Badenhop hasn’t been on the disabled list since 2009, so a club looking for some durable bullpen depth could certainly give the righty a look on a new minor league deal. Last year, Badenhop posted a 3.93 ERA in 66 1/3 innings as a member of the Reds’ bullpen.
- The Rangers will purchase the contract of southpaw Cesar Ramos on Monday so he can make a spot start in place of the injured Cole Hamels, Texas executive VP of communications John Blake tweets. There is no word yet on the corresponding moves that would create roster space for Ramos; Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram speculates that Keone Kela could be moved to the 60-day DL and Alex Claudio could head to Triple-A. Only ten of Ramos’ 251 career games have been starts, though he made seven starts as recently as 2014 with the Rays. Ramos posted a 2.75 ERA and 2.87 K/BB rate in 52 1/3 relief innings with the Angels last season before being rather surprisingly non-tendered. He signed a minor league deal with Texas in January.
The Rangers have scratched southpaw Cole Hamels from his start Monday against the Yankees because of left groin soreness, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News was among those to report (on Twitter). Hamels also missed a start last year because of a sore groin, but the club doesn’t believe the injury is serious. It’s currently unclear who will start in his place Monday.
- In other news concerning an integral member of the Rangers’ rotation, right-hander Yu Darvish is fully healthy and on track for a mid-May return, general manager Jon Daniels told MLB Network Radio on Sunday (Twitter link). Darvish, who missed the 2015 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery, could begin a rehab assignment May 1 and rejoin the Rangers on May 16, Grant wrote earlier this week.
- Josh Hamilton and Chris Gimenez are both playing games in extended spring training, Rangers manager Jeff Banister told reporters (including MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan). Gimenez could start a rehab assignment as soon as Monday, as the catcher looks to return after being sidelined for a month by an ankle infection. Hamilton faces a longer road back to the bigs, as he’ll play in extended spring games for the next week and then some minor league action. Banister said the Rangers want to see Hamilton get around 35 plate appearances before considering a return to the MLB roster. Hamilton has battled left knee problems all offseason, and has already undergone two operations and a stem cell/PRP injection within the last eight months.
- The Rangers have a solid history of producing good young position players, MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes, and Nomar Mazara is one of the most exciting of them all. The 20-year-old Mazara has made a huge impact in his first taste of big league action, taking a .378/.419/.514 slash line over 43 PAs into Saturday’s play.
- Rehabbing Rangers ace Yu Darvish will throw another live BP session before beginning his rehab assignment, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. The righty hasn’t suffered any kind of setback, but hopes to refine his offspeed offerings before reporting to Double-A to begin his march back to the majors.
10:08pm: Rangers executive vice president of communications John Blake announced tonight that Kela will indeed undergo surgery to remove the bone spur. Kela will have the operation tomorrow, and Wilson tweets that he’ll be out for three months.
4:17pm: Rangers setup man Keone Kela is headed to the disabled list with an impingement in his right elbow, the club announced today. Right-hander Phil Klein will be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to take Kela’s spot on the 25-man roster. Both Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (links to Twitter) and Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (link) have tweeted that surgery seems likely Kela, with Grant suggesting a 12-week timeline for his recovery. That would sideline Kela past the All-Star break and mark a significant hit to the Rangers’ bullpen. Wilson does tweet that the Rangers are confident that there is no damage to Kela’s ulnar collateral ligament, making Tommy John surgery unlikely.
Kela, who just turned 23, had an excellent rookie season with the Rangers in 2015, logging a 2.39 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate. This particular issue dates back to last season, Grant tweets, as Kela was diagnosed with the bone spur in September but elected to undergo a platelet-rich plasma injection to alleviate the pain. Per Grant, general manager Jon Daniels gets the impression that “[Kela] wants to feel 100 percent” this time around.
As I noted in reviewing the Rangers’ offseason, the club has amassed a deep stock of bullpen talent, so the Rangers are at least well-equipped to handle the loss of their outstanding setup man. In addition to closer Shawn Tolleson, the Rangers have Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Tom Wilhelmsen and an intriguing upside play in right-hander Tony Barnette, who was signed out of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball this offseason. The Rangers had enough relief depth that they were rumored to be discussing a swap of a bullpen arm for a fifth starter with the Indians late in Spring Training, although with Kela potentially missing three months, it seems fortuitous that a deal never came to fruition.