As the Rangers begin interleague play on the road for the first time this season, it is time for the pitchers to step up to the plate and take a shot at offensive production.
Prior to last Tuesday’s home game against Oakland, all but three pitchers took batting practice to prepare them for Monday and Tuesday’s games at Coors Field, a National League Park, against the Colorado Rockies.
“Harrison, Ogando and Soria didn’t hit because they probably won’t get in a situation to hit” said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
A majority of the time was spent on bunting, but the pitchers were allowed to swing away a handful of times, and have a little fun with it. One of the guys (nobody will come clean) even managed to break one of Leonys Martin’s bats.
In all seriousness, the pitchers’ ability to be even slightly productive at the plate could be crucial when it comes down to it. National League pitchers will have more at-bats in one season than most American League pitchers will have in their whole life. Monday night’s starting pitcher for the Rockies, Jordan Lyles, has four hits, one home run, three RBI’s and a .333 OBP, in 14 at-bats this season. Yes, the number of at-bats Lyles has had in the past month is over double the at-bats Martin Perez and Robbie Ross have combined for throughout their entire career.
When it comes to interleague play, National League teams have it easy, as their occasional adjustment involves an extra slugger in the lineup, while American League teams must accept that for approximately 10 games a year, they’ll have to deal with a pitcher as a part of their lineup.
After batting practice last week, Washington had some advice for his pitchers as they step up to bat against the Rockies this week, and the Nationals, Mets, and Marlins later this season.
“They’ll need to get the bunt down” said Wash. “If they get a chance to hit, hit. Don’t try to beat out ground balls and all that. But that’s just words, things change when you’re out there competing.”
Interestingly enough, none of the Rangers’ pitchers we can expect to see at the plate have ever had a sac-bunt during a major league game. I spent some time on Baseball Reference, uncovering each Rangers hurler’s career at-bat totals. The following, is what I found.
Martin Perez - Monday night’s starter will have the chance to earn his first hit, walk, sac bunt, or really anything against the Rockies. Perez has five at-bats in his career, all from last season with the Rangers. In his career, Perez has four strikeouts, but did reach base once on an error in a game against the Cardinals last June.
Robbie Ross - Ross will head into Tuesday night’s game looking to at least double his career at-bat total, which stands at two. Both of Ross’s at bats came in 2012, and while one was a strikeout, one was somewhat successful. On June 10 against the Giants, Ross reached base on a fielder’s choice, and would end up scoring off a double from Josh Hamilton. Additionally, Ross would go on to win that game 5-0.
With Ranger starters struggling to pitch late into games over the last week, the precarious situation of a relief pitcher stepping into the batter’s box could present itself. Should Washington get a short outing from a starter - like the combined 11.1 innings from starters in the Oakland series - he will be faced with the challenge of when to exhaust his pinch-hitters.
Alexi Ogando - Though Wash said we likely wouldn’t see Ogando at the plate, the fact that Ogando has appeared in 17 games this season increases the chances of seeing him at the dish anyway, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Ogando could be labeled the most successful of the Rangers pitchers at the plate, given the three hits he’s had in only six at-bats.
Nick Martinez- Martinez was primarily a second baseman at Fordham University when the Rangers drafted him in the 18th round of the 2011 draft. While in the farm system, Martinez made the transition to pitcher, which has worked out well, but his old hitting habits could be useful in this series. While at Fordham, Martinez maintained a .292 BA, and from what I saw in BP last week, it probably wouldn’t hurt the Rangers to let Martinez hit a little more often.
Neal Cotts- Cotts has two at-bats in his career, and holds a solid .500 BA. In 2004 as a member of the White Sox, Cotts hit a double, giving him the esteemed title of being the only Rangers’ pitcher with an extra-base hit.
Shawn Tolleson, Jason Frasor and Aaron Poreda have each had zero career at-bats.
The Rangers have 13 position players on the 25-man active roster, giving them five options off the bench for pinch-hit opportunities.