The Rangers announced this afternoon that they’ve activated Hunter Pence from the injured list and optioned outfielder Willie Calhoun to Triple-A Nashville to open a spot on the roster. Texas has also selected the contract of right-hander Taylor Guerrieri and placed left-hander Jesse Biddle on the injured list due to shoulder fatigue.
As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News relays (via Twitter), Calhoun was rather blindsided by the move. “I’m speechless,” Calhoun said after learning of his demotion. “I’ve helped the team win. If me playing every day at Nashville helps team win, then I guess I have to play every day in Nashville.”
Calhoun has indeed been a generally productive bat with Texas, hitting .277/.313/.489 with five big flies in 99 plate appearances. At the same time, he’s struggled mightily to get on base in his latest stint with the team. Since being summoned from Nashville on June 17, Calhoun has homered three times and smacked four doubles in 75 PAs, but he’s also batted just .225/.267/.408 on the whole. He’s walked more than he’s punched out so far in Nashville in 2019, so perhaps a quick trip back down to the minors can help him to bring some of that approach to the MLB level.
That said, Calhoun also seems like a casualty of a roster that simply has too many outfielders at the moment. Delino DeShields Jr. is hitting .326/.377/.442 since his own recall from Triple-A. Joey Gallo (.266/.406/.626) has been sensational all season long. Pence (.294/.363/.608) and fellow veteran Shin-Soo Choo (.291/.389/.508) are both highly productive veterans. Nomar Mazara may not have lived up to his considerable prospect billing yet, but he’s outhit Calhoun over the past couple of months nonetheless (.276/.327/.454 in his past 40 games).
Calhoun seems likely to return in the event of an injury or trade elsewhere in the outfield, and it’s at least possible that the organization takes this demotion as an opportunity to continue getting him some work in the infield. Texas has reportedly been working Calhoun out at second base and even third base of late, and if that experiment continues into game settings in the minors, it’d only enhance his versatility at the MLB level. Calhoun does have extensive experience as a second baseman in the minors, but he was moved to the outfield due to defensive concerns.
As for Guerrieri, the former first-round pick (Rays, 2011) and top prospect will get his first shot with the Rangers after notching a 3.47 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 36 1/3 innings with the team’s Nashville affiliate. He did throw 9 2/3 frames with the Blue Jays in his first big league action last year, allowing five runs on nine hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.