Welcome Willie, is Beltre back? And has Shohei Otani made a decision?

Date: Tuesday, September 12th, 2017
Record: 72-71
Opponent: Seattle Mariners (71-73)
Starters: Marco Gonzales (0-1, 7.07) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (7-10, 4.48)
Wild Card Situation: 2.0 games behind Twins
Still Behind: Angels

If you’re coming here to read about Willie Calhoun’s call-up, let’s start here. This was the article from last night when the news broke via Calhoun’s own Twitter account that the prospect–acquired by Texas in the Yu Darvish trade just minutes before the non-waiver deadline on July 31st–was headed to Dallas, ostensibly to make his big-league debut. Then this morning, the Rangers sent out a press release confirming that Texas would be purchasing Calhoun’s contract and announcing a 40-man roster move. That move has since been announced: Tyson Ross has been released. Also, Adrian Beltre has been activated from the 10-Day DL. It’s the September 12th Baseball Texas Daily!

BASEBALL STUFF

1. Adrian Beltre
“Woody!” Adrian Beltre yelled toward the screen in front of the pitcher’s mound, and held his mitt aloft. He had just finished taking swings in the batting cage for the first time since injuring his left hamstring on August 31st against the Astros on the turf at Tropicana Field in Tampa in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The initial diagnosis was a grade 2 strain, he was expected to miss four weeks. There were almost exactly four weeks left in the season.

Jason Wood tossed Beltre a ball, and the 38-year-old veteran began slowly walking backwards in foul territory up the right field line as he played catch with Justin Mashore. With each throw, Beltre winced, but the ball still whizzed through the air and popped when it hit Mashore’s mitt.

This is Adrian Beltre’s legacy, or at least one of them. He has battled injuries before, and he is battling this one. He has worn a colostomy bag under his uniform. He has figured out a way to swing a bat with a torn ligament in his thumb and hit .305 with 12 home runs in 92 games in 2015. In the postseason, he pinch-hit and willed his way to first with a back that looked like it was made from a swarm of fire ants super-glued to a sheet of aluminum.

They told him his hamstring would keep him out for four weeks. That was thirteen days ago.

Halfway through his throwing session with Justin Mashore, Anthony Iapoce brought Beltre’s sunglasses to him. With the glasses hiding the squinting eyes, an unwitting onlooker might think that each throw elicited a smile, rather than a wince from Beltre, as if the pure joy of being back on the field was just too much to hold in.

In reality, Beltre was willing each throw to whizz and pop, just as he had willed his back to carry him to first base, just like he had willed his thumb into a compromise.  After about 25 throws, he eased up on the gas pedal, lobbing the last throw to his hitting coach. “Thank you, Mash,” he said as he walked towards the dugout and the small cabal of reporters awaiting his self-assessment. His answers were measured and brief, not out of annoyance, but perhaps out of caution. Beltre has always been one to deliver more than he can promise, and a Grade Two hamstring strain is–iron will notwithstanding–no small obstacle for on-field delivery.

“It went… acceptable,” he answered. “It’s a work in progress. But no update.”

Could you maybe pinch-hit? “If they want me to, yes.”

And then you’d need a runner? “Pretty much.”

Have you run at all? Jogged? “Uhh not really. I did some uhhh… what’s the word? When you walk fast?”

Powerwalking? “Yeah, powerwalking.”

The rest of Adrian’s answers can be seen in this video:


In the manager’s office earlier in the afternoon, Beltre’s manager, himself not one to over-promise and under-deliver, was perhaps even more non-committal in his answers as to Beltre’s capabilities.

“He’s active,” Jeff Banister said.

Do you expect to use Beltre? “Ummmmm,” Banister said, stopping only to breathe in deeply, then sigh as he pondered his answer. “Beltre’s active.”

What is he capable of doing? “Ummm.” No sigh, but a full eight-second pause to consider his words. In the end, the card he flipped over in his mind read “complete honesty” so he answered with no guile whatsoever: “I don’t know yet. We’ll see.”

Is this an indication that he’s making faster progress than expected, or is it just Adrian being Adrian and showing us all that he’s stronger than the rest of us? “No… I-- I think that’s the truth,” Banister said. “I don’t think he needs to show you.”

“I don’t think he’s ready to be an everyday player right now. But he’s an active player right now.”

2. Willie Calhoun
That’s right, we have two (three? four? heck, it's a day) really big stories in one day. Beltre is off the disabled list and Willie Calhoun is a Texas Ranger. Here’s video of Calhoun talking about how he found out he was being called up.

For those of you that can’t watch video, here’s a paraphrasing: he was in Arizona at dinner with his girlfriend and had left his phone at home. His agent called his girlfriend’s phone, and asked to speak to Willie, telling him he needed to contact Jayce Tingler. When he did, Tingler told him he would be boarding a flight this morning to Dallas and playing today.

Calhoun is hitting seventh and playing left field. To make room for Calhoun on the 40-man roster, the team released…

3. Tyson Ross
Ross was an intriguing gamble this off-season, coming off surgery to deal with thoracic outlet syndrome. He had formerly been an Opening Day starter with the Padres, striking out 212 batters in 2015. Had he returned to that form, he could have slotted in as a number three behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Unfortunately for the tall right-hander, he did not return to that form, going  3-3 with s 7.71 ERA and a 1.837 WHIP, losing his spot in the rotation after a dismal stretch from July 18th through August 22nd, in which he allowed 9, 5, 3, 5, and 3 runs in 3⅓, 3⅔, 5⅔, 4⅓, and 3⅔ innings, respectively. He made two relief appearances, but struggled in both of them, allowing 2 runs in  ⅔ of an inning in his first outing and 4 runs in 2⅓ innings in his final appearance as a Ranger.

The active roster did grow to 36 today, however, with the arrivals of Calhoun and…

4. Keone Kela
Kela last pitched on August 3rd. With his return, the back end of the Rangers’ bullpen is back to full strength, now featuring Alex Claudio in the closer’s role, and the triad of Kela, Matt Bush, and Jake Diekman to handle the 7th- and 8th-inning duties. Ricky Rodriguez and Tony Barnette are the other two “regulars” for the later innings, likely leaving Jose Leclerc to figure out his control issues in lower-leverage situations.

The rest of the bullpen looks like this: Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Paolo Espino,  Nick Gardewine, Jason Grilli, Yohander Mendez, and–from the looks of it–A.J. Griffin, as we learned today that Friday’s starter will not be Griffin, but instead…

5. Nick Martinez
Martinez has not thrived in the bullpen role, but has pitched well as a starter in the second half this year, both at AAA and at the big-league level. Martinez will face the Angels in Anaheim to start what is shaping up to be a supremely important three-game series.

6. Mike Napoli
The first baseman is out of the lineup again today. Yesterday, Jeff Banister said that Napoli was “a little banged up,” a phrase he used again today. Napoli was none too enthusiastic about the injury, as you might expect. “When I know, you’ll know,” he said, telling us that he had no results from any tests. Eventually, he did relent and let us know that it had been bothering him since Atlanta, but then in a puzzling turn said that the diagnosis was: “I’m going to play today.”

One reporter paused and looked at the lineup that had been posted on the wall nearby. Napoli’s name was not in the lineup; Ryan Rua was listed as the first baseman. After a somewhat awkward silence as Napoli continued to put on his shoes, he continued softly. “Yeah. I’m gonna play today.”

Later, in his office, Banister was asked about Napoli’s comments. 

“When did he say that?” Banister asked in return. He was told that it had been about ten minutes prior. “Okay.” When it was pointed out that Napoli was not in the lineup that Banister had posted, he nodded with a poker face. “I know.”

“Is it about to change?”

“I don’t see it changing right now.” Banister said.

Silence enveloped the room for twenty-one seconds.

“Is everyone good?” the skipper asked.

7. Shohei Otani (this is the third big story)
The name should not be a new name to you: the two-way Japanese star has drawn attention from a number of MLB teams, and there has been a lot of speculation as to whether he would be coming to the big leagues next season or waiting until later. If
this article from Yahoo! Japan (and Google Chrome’s translating ability) is to be believed, it appears that not only is Otani planning on coming to the big leagues for the 2018 season, but that he already has a preference for which team he would most prefer to play. The Rangers have twice sent front-office executives to watch Ohtani (I’m still not clear on which is the preferred spelling, if I’m honest. Otani? Ohtani? Hopefully he’ll come to Texas next year and I can ask him in person), but they are not the only team to have done so.

Either way, this article seems to indicate that we should know something sooner, rather than later. If the “Babe Ruth of Japan” does end up as a Ranger, here is...

8. The 2018 Rangers’ schedule
The schedules for all thirty teams were released this morning. The Rangers will start their season at home against Houston on March 29th, the earliest Opening Day in franchise history. On that note: if you want to see the Rangers play the Astros, it would behoove you not to wait until they are in the throes of a playoff chase: Texas and Houston don’t play one another after July 29th.

The interleague games in 2018 (because that’s always a point of interest) will be as follows:

June 12-13: @ Dodgers
June 15-17: vs. Rockies
June 25-27: vs. Padres
July 30-31: @ Diamondbacks
August 14-15: vs. Diamondbacks
August 24-26: @ Giants
August 28-29: vs. Dodgers

September 14-16: @ Padres

Other oddities / points of interest:
- The Rangers will finish their season with a seven-game road trip to the Angels (3) and Mariners (4).
- They will be at home on the 4th of July for the second consecutive year, but for the first time since 2015 will be playing someone other than the Boston Red Sox (Astros). Texas will be looking to snap a four-year Fourth-of-July losing streak, having last won on that date in 2013 against the Mariners.
- Their longest road trip will be a nine-games-in-ten-days stretch from May 11th-20th, visiting Houston, Seattle, and the Chicago White Sox
- Their longest homestand will be eight games in ten days, and it will happen twice: June 25th-July 4th against the Padres, White Sox, and Astros, and again from August 28-September 5th, taking on the Dodgers, Twins, and Angels.

You can see the full schedule here.

NOW LISTENING

“Two Mountains” by Ó. I’ve recommended them in this space before, but I think it was a different record. This is good experimental music, the rare non-instrumental-only music that I can listen to when I’m writing.  
(Spotify, Apple Music, Wikipedia)

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 threetwoeephus@gmail.com or a tweet here.

You can follow Levi Weaver on Twitter at @ThreeTwoEephus, or for fewer puns and more straight-forward Baseball News updates, you can follow us at @BaseballTX, or download the app and get in-game updates and notifications by clicking on the logo below!

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