As you enter the Rangers clubhouse, if you turn about fifteen degrees to your left and look all the way across the room, there is a man with a beard and a right arm that throws just hard enough sitting at his locker. The view of the locker is partially obscured by a support column, just like last year and a half-dozen or so years preceding it. The man is soft-spoken and polite, but meets your eyes with a sincerity and confidence that exudes from those who are not trying to sell you a car or glad-hand your vote, but are simply answering your questions in the most honest way they know how. This has not changed since last year.
What, then, has changed?
For starters, the number on the nameplate has ticked up a digit, from 48 to 49. So, too, has the name. Where once you would see Colby Lewis, now the name reads “Mike Hauschild”.
Hauschild is a Rule 5 draft pick, meaning that he must stay on the Rangers’ Major League roster all season long, or be offered back to the Houston Astros, the team from whence he was plucked. The Rangers have not yet announced whether Hauschild will be on the Opening Day roster, but both front office and coaching staff have admitted they are impressed with his performance this Spring.
We with the microphones are prying, to see if perhaps Hauschild knows something he is not telling us. One reporter asks cheekily: “Let me put it this way… have you bought a house yet?”
“Absolutely not,” Hauschild smiles. “I have no money.” (That much is true: the standard salary for a baseball player in AAA is $2,150 per month, and they are only paid for 5 months out of the year).
That may change as soon as Monday.
Hauschild was considered a candidate to be the fifth starter out of camp, but even if he won that job, it would have been temporary: when Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross return, they will join Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, and Martin Perez to round out the five. It was always going to be necessary for Hauschild to work out of the pen if he planned to avoid a return to the Houston organization. Another reporter asked the 27-year-old Hauschild would he be okay with pitching out of the bullpen if it meant staying in the big leagues.
“Nooooo, I’m not,” Hauschild chuckled as he rolled his eyes and laughed. “I love-- LOVE Triple-A.”
He has worked out of the bullpen before. “In college, I did, and my first year of pro-ball, I was a back-end guy.”
“Did you feel comfortable coming in from the bullpen with guys on base?”
“Well, I had a *lot* of guys on base when I started, so…” he smiles. That hasn’t changed much since he walked into the clubhouse earlier this week.
It was my turn to ask a question. “I know you don’t know whether you’re on the team or not, but… this has been your whole life, right? Making the big leagues has been the goal, and it could be two days away. For kids, high schoolers… shoot, for other minor league guys in this room right now with that same dream… how’s your head right now? Are you letting yourself get your hopes up? Trying not to think about it?”
I am still learning to be succinct in my questions.
“I am trying not to… I mean, obviously, there’s hope. I think I put myself in a good spot, but I’m just going to wait and see.”
I note that his answer was shorter than the question. “I think that’s going to be the norm for me,” he smiles again.
It has been the norm at that locker for awhile.