September, meet June.
As the fans filed home after the Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night, one person was making his way closer to the ballpark. Willie “June” Calhoun (so nicknamed as a shortening of “Junior”) first retweeted his brother, then his girlfriend, both of whom were congratulating him on being called up to the big leagues. A few short minutes later, Calhoun all but confirmed the call-up when he tweeted one word: “Dallas” with an airplane emoji.
Calhoun was the centerpiece of the Yu Darvish trade at this year’s trade deadline. Between Oklahoma City and Round Rock, he combined to hit exactly .300 with a .927 OPS. In 534 plate appearances over 128 games, he hit 31 home runs, drove in 93 runs and scoring 80, and struck out just 61 times, taking 42 walks.
In short: he can hit the ball. That much has never been in question.
As for his defense, that might be another matter. He was primarily a second baseman in the Dodgers system, but once he arrived in Round Rock, he played just three games there, spending the other 24 in left field. Transitioning to a new position is never easy, and Calhoun will be asked to do so not only at the big-league level, but in the middle of a playoff chase.
In conversations with both Jeff Banister and Jon Daniels this week, it seemed that the organization was content to play the rest of the season with the roster they had, giving at-bats to players who had earned them by playing all season. But that was before Nomar Mazara’s quad tightened up, and then so did Robinson Chirinos’ hamstring. Then Carlos Gomez got a high right ankle sprain, and a day later, Rougned Odor got a slight left sprain when he and Mazara collided while chasing a ball down the right field line. Oh, and Mike Napoli was "a little banged up", absent from Monday's lineup, and furthermore, we’ll see on Tuesday afternoon how Joey Gallo’s wrist feels; he caught a wide throw from Will Middlebrooks in the ninth inning on Monday, and upon tagging Guillermo Heredia, Gallo clutched at his left wrist, triggering a visit from the dugout.
Gallo stayed in the game, and Odor, Mazara, and Chirinos were all in the lineup on Monday. After all, the team is in a fight for their proverbial lives, just two games out of the second and final Wild Card spot in the American League with just 19 games left to play. And, as Banister said on Monday: “It’s September. Everybody’s feeling it. I don’t think there’s a player out there on any team that’s not feeling it.”
Be that as it may, it appears that the at-bats for Calhoun might be available now. If he can help the team win games right now, who knows? Maybe we’ll find ourselves thanking June for October.