- Veteran righty Edinson Volquez has begun to play catch, Rangers manager Chris Woodward told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson and other reporters, as Volquez continues to make his way back from an elbow sprain. Volquez made just two starts for Texas before being placed on the injured list, and he even hinted at retirement should his injury be another UCL tear (Volquez has already undergone two Tommy John surgeries). Playing catch is a preliminary step, but nevertheless a good sign that Volquez may have avoided a more serious injury.
The Rangers announced today that outfielder Willie Calhoun is heading to the 10-day injured list with a strained left quadriceps. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by fellow outfielder Delino DeShields.
It’s inopportune timing for the 24-year-old Calhoun, who just got a long-awaited promotion back to the majors. He has been in good form since coming up, slashing .435/.458/.739 with a pair of long balls in two dozen plate appearances.
There’s no reason to think the injury will be more than a speed bump for Calhoun, who was the headlining prospect of the 2017 Yu Darvish trade. But he hadn’t really thrived in his new organization since that swap, struggling especially in limited opportunities at the game’s highest level. Calhoun earned his way back up with a strong beginning to the season at Triple-A.
DeShields was demoted earlier this month after another rough showing at the plate. He just hasn’t hit enough since the start of the 2018 season to warrant a steady MLB roster spot, though his speed and defense remain appealing tools. DeShields wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off of the ball at Triple-A, with a .211/.318/.421 slash in 44 plate appearances since going down, though that was an improvement over his major league output.
The Tigers announced that they’ve returned right-hander Reed Garrett, their pick in last December’s Rule 5 Draft, to the Rangers. Detroit designated Garrett for assignment last week, and he went unclaimed on outright waivers (as was first reported, on Twitter, by Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press).
Garrett, 26, piqued the Tigers’ interest with a combined 2.04 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 61 2/3 innings of work for the Rangers’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last season, but it’s been difficult for the club to trust him so far in his big league debut. He’s tallied just 15 1/3 innings, and during that time he’s issued 13 walks, hit a batter and recorded 10 strikeouts. Garrett has also served up 25 hits, three of which have been home runs.
Even for a rebuilding club like the Tigers, carrying a reliever who’s had such pronounced difficulty throwing strikes would be difficult over the course of a full season — particularly when there are other young arms in the organization to evaluate in that spot. The inability to option Garrett to the minors also limits the day-to-day roster flexibility for general manager Al Avila and his staff, which is particularly troublesome given the large number of injuries the Tigers have experienced in the rotation — all of which combine to put further pressure on the bullpen to soak up innings.
The Rangers, who themselves are in need of all the young pitching they can get, will surely be pleased to welcome Garrett and his 95.7 mph fastball back to the organization. He won’t take up a spot on the 40-man roster unless the club decides to select his contract and promote him to the Majors later this season.
Veteran reliever Koji Uehara has retired, Jim Allen of the Kyodo News reports. The 44-year-old Uehara last pitched in the majors in 2017, after which he returned to his native Japan to join the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball. It proved to be a full-circle move by Uehara, who began and ended his career with Yomiuri.
Uehara was often dominant as a starter for Yomiuri from 1999-2006 before mostly working out of the Giants’ bullpen from 2007-08. The right-hander then headed to the majors in 2009 when he signed a two-year, $10MM contract with the Orioles, who initially deployed him as a starter.
Uehara transitioned to the Orioles’ bullpen in 2010 and began a lengthy run as one of the majors’ most effective relievers. During a six-season, 324-inning span from 2010-15, Uehara’s pristine command helped him place first among relievers in two key categories – BB/9 (1.19) and K/BB ratio (9.56) – as well as seventh in ERA (2.08) and 19th in K/9 (11.42).
While Uehara’s major league excellence began with Baltimore, his tenure there was short-lived. The club traded him to the Rangers in July 2011 for reliever Tommy Hunter and a then-unproven slugger named Chris Davis, who later became the highest-paid Oriole ever and remains with the franchise today. Meanwhile, Texas clinched playoff berths in both of Uehara’s seasons with the team and won the American League the year it acquired him, though it wound up losing a classic seven-game World Series to the Cardinals.
Uehara returned to the World Series in 2013 with the Red Sox, who inked him to a one-year, $4.25MM contract prior to the season. It’s safe to say that deal ranks among the wisest the Red Sox have ever doled out, as it began a fruitful four-year union between the sides. Uehara was never greater than during his first year in Boston, where he logged 74 1/3 regular-season innings of 1.09 ERA ball and 12.23 K/9 against 1.09 BB/9. That brilliance carried into the playoffs, where Uehara earned ALCS MVP honors after combining for six shutout innings in a six-game victory over the Tigers. Uehara then totaled another 4 2/3 scoreless frames during the Red Sox’s World Series triumph over the Cardinals, whom he closed out in Game 6.
Although Uehara was never part of another title-winning team, he remained a quality reliever throughout his major league career – which concluded with a one-year stint with the Cubs. Across Baltimore, Texas, Boston and Chicago, the one-time All-Star produced 480 2/3 innings of 2.66 ERA ball with 10.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and 95 saves, leading to upward of $50MM in earnings.
As great as Uehara was in the majors, he’s even more accomplished in his homeland. Uehara registered a 3.02 ERA and a 112-67 record over 312 appearances and 205 starts with Yomiuri, where he earned a slew of personal and team awards. MLBTR congratulates Uehara on two outstanding decades in pro baseball and wishes him the best moving forward.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Rangers right-hander Jose Leclerc lost his spot as the team’s closer May 1, but he’s already “real close” to getting the job back, manager Chris Woodward said Sunday (via Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram). Woodward made that comment in the wake of a win over the Cardinals, albeit one in which fill-in closer Chris Martin blew a save.
Save situations have been a rare occurrence for Texas since it removed Leclerc as its game-ending option. Martin has converted one of the two chances he has received, while Shawn Kelley – who’s recovering from throat surgery and hasn’t pitched since May 4 – made good on the team’s other opportunity. Meantime, Leclerc has been brilliant since the Rangers demoted him. Over eight innings and six appearances this month, the flamethrowing 28-year-old has allowed one earned run on one hit with 15 strikeouts against four walks. Leclerc was utterly dominant in Sunday’s game, during which he fanned five and generated six swinging strikes in a pair of perfect frames.
Leclerc’s output this month even outdoes the incredible production he posted in 2018, a breakout season in which he logged 57 2/3 innings of 1.56 ERA/1.90 FIP ball with 13.27 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9. Those numbers helped convince the Rangers to award Leclerc a four-year, $14.75MM contract extension shortly before the current season began. Thanks to his slow start, Leclerc has only managed a 5.30 ERA/3.96 FIP with 13.98 K/9 and 6.27 BB/9 through 18 2/3 innings in 2019, but it appears he’s returning to form and living up to the payday Texas handed him.
- Rangers reliever Shawn Kelley, who Thursday underwent a procedure to remove lumps from his throat, is back throwing live batting practice, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who further notes that Kelley could even be activated as early as Monday. Kelley last appeared from the Rangers on May 4, and was subsequently placed on the IL with an infection, though it was unclear just what Kelley was dealing with. Of course, the Rangers will breathe a sigh of relief as they hope to welcome back Kelley, who has been one of the club’s most productive relievers.
The Rangers placed reliever Shawn Kelley on the injured list May 9 (retroactive to May 6) because of an infection, though details of the condition weren’t publicly known at the time. It turns out Kelley had to undergo surgery Thursday to remove at least two lumps from his vocal cords, the right-hander announced Saturday (via Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram and TR Sullivan of MLB.com).
“I went on the IL originally to get them biopsied, and I guess the biopsy wasn’t conclusive enough,” Kelley revealed. “So they removed them. I still don’t know the results of what’s in my throat, but it’s out and I’m going to get back to pitching.”
The Rangers announced that they’ve recalled outfielder/designated hitter Willie Calhoun from Triple-A Nashville and placed shortstop Elvis Andrus on the 10-day injured list due to a hamstring strain. Texas also optioned righty Wei-Chieh Huang to Nashville and recalled left-hander Jeffrey Springs.
Calhoun, of course, isn’t going to step into shortstop duties in Andrus’ absence. He’s in the lineup at designated hitter tonight, while veteran utilityman Logan Forsythe is getting the first look at short in place of Andrus. Calhoun figures to split his time between left field and designated hitter; he played second base earlier in his minor league career but has logged just three games there in 2019 and didn’t play the position at all in 2018.
It’ll be Calhoun’s third straight season of at least partial duty with the Rangers since being acquired as the centerpiece of the trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. At the time, Calhoun was considered to be one of the game’s premier minor league hitters but lacked a defensive home. While the questions about his glovework haven’t subsided, his 2018 struggles at the plate in the Majors (.222/.269/.333) and a decrease in his production in Triple-A (.294/.351/.431) caused his stock to slip a bit.
Still just 24 years of age, however, Calhoun has begun to rebuild his credentials with a robust .304/.416/.557 start to the season in Nashville. After hitting just nine home runs in 470 Triple-A plate appearances in 2018, he’s already slugged eight long balls in 138 trips to the plate so far in 2019. He’s still viewed as a potential long-term piece for the Rangers, and Delino DeShields’ recent demotion to the minors has pushed Joey Gallo from left field into center field, thus creating some room for Calhoun to join the roster. So long as Calhoun hits, today’s promotion could prove to be a move with long-term ramifications.
As for Andrus, it’s not yet clear just how much time he’s expected to miss, but any trip to the injured list is critical for a player with an opt-out clause at season’s end. The 30-year-old had gotten out to a terrific .325/.373/.510 start to the season. Through 169 plate appearances so far, Andrus has tallied six home runs, nine doubles, a triple and eight stolen bases while striking out at just a 16.6 percent clip. He’ll have the ability to opt out of the final three years and $43MM remaining on his contract after the season, though given the fact that he’d receive a qualifying offer in that scenario and would be entering his age-31 season in 2020, exercising that provision could be a long shot.
The Rangers received yet even more terrible news on the prospect front Tuesday, as 2016 first-rounder Cole Ragans will undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his young career, per a team announcement. Ragans underwent Tommy John surgery last March but re-tore the ligament in his right elbow and will now miss a second season of development. The Rangers have already lost 2018 second-round pick Owen White and 2018 fourth-rounder Mason Englert to Tommy John surgery this season, thus wiping out the 2019 campaigns for three intriguing young prospects within the team’s minor league ranks. Ragans ranked as the team’s No. 10 overall prospect, per MLB.com, while White checked in at No. 12 and Englert sat at No. 23.
Some more news and notes out of Arlington…
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News examines the struggles of both Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara thus far in 2019. It’s been a catastrophic season for Odor, who entered play today with an almost unfathomable .137/.212/.253 batting line through 105 plate appearances. Mazara, meanwhile, is in a substantial funk that has dropped his overall line to .227/.287/.417 through yesterday’s game. Odor’s struggles have gotten to the point where an optional assignment almost has to be considered as a means of getting him back on track. He’s signed through the 2022 season but has yet to consistently produce at the big league level. He had a similar run of poor results in 2018 before snapping out of his slump and catching fire for much of the summer, and some work in the minors could help to clear his head and point him in that direction. Mazara likely has a longer leash given his more consistent track record and the need to evaluate him heading into his next arbitration raise. Even if the organization decides it best to shop Mazara this winter, demoting him would tank his trade value, so it seems best to allow him to continue trying to sort things out at the MLB level. It’s worth noting, of course, that as of this writing both Mazara and Odor have a pair of hits in tonight’s game.
- Shelby Miller’s hold on a spot in the rotation would appear to be tenuous, at best. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote yesterday that the organization’s plan was to keep Miller in the rotation but cap him at 70 pitches per start, but he wasn’t even able to last that long in tonight’s outing against the Royals. Kansas City jumped all over Miller on Tuesday, clobbering him for eight runs on seven hits and two walks with one strikeout in just 1 2/3 innings. Grant tweeted shortly thereafter that Miller seemed likely to be moved to the bullpen in favor of the younger Ariel Jurado, who has a 3.57 ERA through 22 2/3 innings in Triple-A and has fired off 9 2/3 scoreless innings out of the big league bullpen. Texas signed the 28-year-old Miller to a one-year deal this offseason in hopes that he could rebuild some stock and perhaps turn himself into a trade chip, but he’s allowed 31 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings with more walks allowed (23) than strikeouts recorded (20).
The Rangers have agreed to a minors deal with righty Josh Fields, per Bob Nightengale of the USA Today. The deal will pay Fields $850K if he reaches the majors, per Nightengale, with a chance for him to earn an extra $200K in incentives.
The 33-year-old Fields opted out of his contract with Milwaukee on April 30 after being released mid-spring by Los Angeles, the club with whom he’d spent the previous two and a half seasons.
Acquired in mid-2016 for now-top prospect Yordan Alvarez, Fields excelled at preventing runs for the Dodgers – he posted a 2.57 ERA with the club over the last two seasons, in addition to the 2.79 mark he put up in 19 innings down the 2016 stretch – but the peripherals never quite aligned. Fields’ xFIP- dropped to a career-low 114 last season, a mark that surely made modern front offices cringe.
He’ll hope to soon join a Ranger bullpen that’s been among the league’s worst this season, and should get ample high-leverage opportunity in Arlington upon arrival.