Date: Friday, September 1st, 2017
Opponent: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (69-65)
Starters: Tyler Skaggs (1-4, 4.25) vs. Cole Hamels (9-2, 3.78)
I won’t use a baseball article to preach, but I was reminded yesterday about an Old Testament story that was one of my favorites as a kid. There was a guy named Gideon who was supposed to lead a battle against the Midianites. As the story goes, God thought that if Israel defeated the Midianites with their ~32,000-strong army, they would be inclined to take all the credit themselves, so --fast forward-- Gideon goes to war with just 300 men, each of whom was given a torch, a jar, and a trumpet. They smashed the jars, blew the trumpets, and yelled a lot, and all the ruckus scared the Midianites into one of the biggest self-owns in history.
Perhaps you’re seeing the parallels: The Rangers came into Spring Training with high hopes and a team that looked poised to compete for a playoff spot. As of the 7th inning last night, Adrian Beltre joins Yu Darvish, Sam Dyson, Jonathan Lucroy, Jeremy Jeffress, Keone Kela, Matt Bush, Tanner Scheppers, Dario Alvarez, Ryan Rua, and Jurickson Profar (and sure, you can add Pete Kozma and Mike Hauschild if you want) on the list of players who will not be on the field tonight when the Rangers attempt to defeat the Angels in head-to-head competition and gain ground on that elusive A.L. Wild Card spot.
This is always the busiest day of the year, so settle in for a long read. Torches and trumpets, everyone: it’s the September 1st Baseball Texas Daily!
1. Of course the biggest news of the day is that Adrian Beltre has a Grade Two hamstring strain, which is expected to cost him four weeks. Perhaps you’ve noticed that there are about four weeks left in the regular season. Here’s the write-up on the injury, and here’s video of Beltre breaking the news to the media.
“Obviously we’d much rather have Adrian out there,” Jon Daniels said in the foyer of the clubhouse on Friday afternoon. “I think we’re starting to play our best ball the last couple of weeks with a healthy Adrian and getting Joey back, and a bunch of guys playing well. Elvis has taken his game to another level. You had Choo getting on base, Delino getting on base, some catalysts in the lineup were really starting to take shape. There’s not much we can do about that. We’ll try and get Adrian healthy, but in the meantime the guys out here will be focused every night."
“The tough part of losing Adrian is when you look at the numbers, and start stretching those numbers out over a whole year: those are MVP numbers,” Jeff Banister admitted. “So that's the impact he was having on this team. It wasn't just the leadership, it was the production that he was getting. You don't replace that. What we have to do as a group, as a team is: 'I have to coach better, I have to manage better' and our players have to play better. We've played (earlier) this season already without him in the lineup. We even went on a run without him in the lineup. We're capable of playing really good baseball. We'd much rather do it with him in the lineup, but we don't get to do that right now. A player goes down, a player steps up, and everybody else needs to pull their weight a little bit better. We have zero time to lick our wounds and think about it. At all. Period.”
Speaking of the team, there have been a lot of roster moves in the last 24 hours, so let’s get to those. First of all,
2. The Rangers have acquired Miguel Gonzalez from the White Sox for minor league infielder Ti’Quan Forbes. Gonzalez has gone 7-10 with a 4.31 ERA in 22 starts with the White Sox this season, striking out 85 and walking 47 in 133 innings.
“He’s throwing really well the last two months,” Daniels said of his new right-hander. “Veteran starter. Quite a bit of time in the American League. Five pitches, more of a pitch mix than an overpowering type. He’s pitched in pennant races before. I was glad we don’t have to face him because he always seems to shut us down. Really highly regarded makeup, teammate, gives us a veteran rotation-stabilizing presence.”
Gonzalez pitched well against the Rangers recently, throwing six shutout innings en route to picking up the win in Arlington on August 20th. But Daniels said that wasn’t what put him on the Rangers’ radar.
“I’ve been following him. Midseason he struggled a little bit, and then he bounced back. Had a little shoulder deal, bounced back from that really well. Following him since then. It’s been what, eight or nine straight good starts… He’s always been a pitcher that’s given us fits.”
3. Jake Diekman has been activated, returning from a series of surgeries to remove his colon. All hail the return of the father of dragons, fashioned of Nebraska dust devils and the blood of a thousand crows, devourer of fire and summoner of locusts, cruel to the cruel, bane of the club-wielding mortals.
Here’s Jake talking about his long-awaited return to the big leagues.
On the subject of bullpen arms...
4. Matt Bush could throw off a mound as early as this weekend as he continues to rehab the MCL that he injured in a collision with Joey Gallo on the last game of the homestand (the aforementioned 3-2 loss to the White Sox on August 20th). “I feel alright, I’m just not ready yet,” Bush said in the clubhouse on Friday. “It just takes time; I gotta give the ligament time to heal. I get back to (long tossing from) 120 feet, nice and easy. I can throw harder up closer, because I don’t have to use as much torque on my back leg.”
Daniels said that the best-case scenario for Bush’s return was probably next weekend, which puts him ahead of...
5. Keone Kela, who does not sound very close to returning, though he has been rehabbing at TMI in Frisco as well, recovering from tendinitis in the front of his shoulder, where it connects to his bicep.
6. September call-ups! Oddly enough, only one of the additions was already on the 40-man roster: Paolo Espino, who the Rangers acquired from Milwaukee on August 26th. In addition, the Rangers purchased the contracts of infielder Will Middlebrooks and catcher A.J. Jimenez. To make room for Middlebrooks, Jimenez, and Jake Diekman, the Rangers have designated Jhan Maríñez and Joely Rodriguez for assignment. There will be one more player removed from the 40-man roster before gametime.
These won’t be the last call-ups, Daniels said. “There’s probably one decision we’re still making. We’ve got, especially on the position-player side, a group here that’s going to play. So I don’t see there being a lot of opportunity for there to guys to come up and get at-bats. It’ll factor into the guys that we call up in the position player side. It’ll be kind of more of the role player, bench player sort.”
Instead, it is likely that the Rangers will bring in a few more bullpen arms. Beyond that, the logical guesses would be Jurickson Profar, Jared Hoying, and Ryan Rua, all of whom have spent time at the big-league level this season. Rua wasn’t recalled because it hasn’t been ten days since he was sent down, though if Beltre is placed on the 10-day DL, that would enable him to come back immediately.
Back to Middlebrooks for a sec: the former Red Sox, Padres, and Brewers third baseman is happy to be back in the big leagues, even if it wasn’t exactly as he would have drawn it up. “I never really draw it up a certain way anymore. Once you’re around for a certain amount of time, you realize: however you draw it up, it’s probably not going to happen that way. I’m just happy to be here and hopefully will be able to contribute and help us win.”
Middlebrooks had a good year in AAA, despite missing significant time with a broken hand. In 78 games, he hit 28 home runs, driving in 64 runs, and earning an .857 OPS.
But if you’re thinking Middlebrooks might end up at third base regularly in September, I have a quote for you: Jeff Banister’s one-word response to his plan for third base in September:
7. Banister helped design a t-shirt, one the team wore today for batting practice. It says "No matter where we ball, Texas stands tall", and includes the logos of both the Rangers and Astros.
Banister explained the inspiration for the shirt, the proceeds of which will go to benefit the neighborhoods where Banister and his family used to live:
“When they go on sale, proceeds will go to Clear Creek Relief - an organization that will directly impact the Houston community, but (more specifically) the communities that Karen and I and the kids lived. The hard-hit areas, Dickinson, League City, Friendswood, La Porte. A lot of people, family that we know, some of them have lost everything, some of them have lost a lot. It's an area that–like most of Houston–the landscape has changed forever.
The saying on it stems from our two teams–us and Houston–having to go to Tampa to play. A.J. (Hinch) and I talked about having two teams that stripped away everything and just played hard, a really good brand of baseball without thinking about all the things that were swirling around us. Two teams that could stand up proud, no matter where they played, and go play. So I think it's a pretty good representation of two teams that did exactly that: put a rivalry aside and played for a community. So I was pretty proud of that."
Thanks to my friend Brandon, I have discovered the greatest website in the world: Radio.Garden. It's a zoom-able map, much like Google Earth, and every little neon green dot is a radio station that is currently streaming live. You can listen to classical Chinese music, Pakistani folk music, Cuban jazz, or Russian, uh... okay, Russia is all crappy techno. I sat and listened to some woman tell me a story I didn't understand, just because the Icelandic language is so beautiful. I listened to the news in New Zealand because the Kiwi accent always makes me giggle. I killed an hour on this website today, and it's amazing.
During the regular season, these recommendations occasionally come from Rangers players, broadcasters, or other people around the team (here’s a complete list). If there’s a player or person you’d like Levi to ask for a music recommendation, shoot him an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet here.
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