Here’s the latest on the Rangers:
- Outfielder Willie Calhoun rededicated himself during the winter after a subpar 2018 campaign, but it’s up in the air whether his hard work will yield a season-opening roster spot. As Jeff Wilson of the Star Telegram points out, fellow outfielders Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields and Shin-Soo Choo are locks to make the team, while minor league pickup Hunter Pence will likely earn the last spot on the strength of a quality spring. As such, the 24-year-old Calhoun could be ticketed for a demotion to Triple-A Nashville, where he’d receive everyday playing time. Calhoun admitted “it would be really frustrating” to miss out on a roster spot in Texas, adding: “I have so many games played at Triple A. I feel like I’d go there just to get at-bats, but at that point, there’s no getting better for me at Triple A.” The 24-year-old walked back those comments, acknowledging there’s more he could work on at the minors’ highest level, per Wilson. Calhoun batted a so-so .294/.351/.431 in 470 PAs there last year, and fared much worse during a 108-PA audition in the majors (.222/.269/.333). His bottom-line productive hasn’t been any better this spring, albeit over a mere 40 exhibition ABs, with a .200/.298/.250 line. Those numbers notwithstanding, Calhoun has gone “above and beyond,” according to manager Chris Woodward, who said “it would be crushing” to tell the player he’s going back to the minors.
- Woodward also discussed the Rangers’ pitching plans with reporters, including TR Sullivan of MLB.com and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Of note, using an opener won’t be in the cards for Texas, in part because Woodward believes the strategy wouldn’t mesh with Tommy John surgery returnees Shelby Miller, Edinson Volquez and Drew Smyly. “I wouldn’t do it from a health standpoint,” Woodward said. “I don’t want to put Shelby Miller in that kind of situation. I don’t know if he can warm up in the bullpen. They have a long toss routine. You can’t long toss in the bullpen. I want them to do what they normally do, and it’s not fair for them to put them in that situation.” Miller’s likely to begin the season on an 80- to 85-pitch count, Grant reports. Given the uncertainty surrounding Miller, Volquez and Smyly, who are joining Mike Minor and Lance Lynn in the Rangers’ rotation, the club could opt for an eight-man bullpen, Sullivan relays.
- Texas’ 40-man roster is at capacity, but if the club needs to create an opening, it’s possible it’ll designate right-hander Connor Sadzeck for assignment, Wilson suggests. A member of the Rangers since they selected him in the 11th round of the 2011 draft, Sadzeck was the team’s 15th-ranked prospect at Baseball America as recently as 2016. Sadzeck struggled in the minors during the ensuing season, however, and didn’t reach the majors for the first time until last year. He then allowed only a single run in 9 1/3 innings, but with seven strikeouts against 11 walks, that success was largely smoke and mirrors. The hard-throwing 27-year-old was solid in his initial taste of Triple-A action last season, though, as he logged 10.18 K/9 versus 3.79 BB/9 and posted a 4.03 ERA/3.59 FIP.