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Inbox: Who will close games for Rangers?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers questions from fans
@Sullivan_Ranger
July 30, 2020

Who would be the Rangers' closer if José Leclerc is unable to do it? -- Tim S., Fort Worth, Texas Rafael Montero was supposed to be the closer, but he is on the injured list. Right-hander Nick Goody did the job on Wednesday and could do so going forward. He

Who would be the Rangers' closer if José Leclerc is unable to do it?
-- Tim S., Fort Worth, Texas

Rafael Montero was supposed to be the closer, but he is on the injured list. Right-hander Nick Goody did the job on Wednesday and could do so going forward. He is not the hard-thrower usually associated with the role, but he has a swing-and-miss slider to go with an effective rising fastball.

According to Statcast researcher David Adler, Goody threw his slider 47.5 percent of the time in 2017-19, which ranks in the top four percent among pitchers. Opponents hit .177 off his slider and 40.4 percent of those at-bats ended in a strikeout, His 45.8 percent whiff rate on the slider ranked 17th out of 135 pitchers.

For his career, Goody averages 10.81 strikeouts per nine innings with a 1.23 WHIP. Like almost every pitcher, Goody has had some physical issues but when he is healthy, he can be effective in a late-inning role.

Chris Woodward talks about going with the players who produce results. Reading all the notes, it sounds like Scott Heineman had the best camp of any player and yet he doesn’t play. Why is that?
-- John H., New Boston, Texas

Heineman was 19-for-39 (.487) with six doubles, two triples and two home runs in Summer Camp. Hey, Danny Santana was excellent for the Rangers last season, and that can’t be tossed aside. He also has more speed in center. But Heineman is proving he could be a viable option if other players continue to struggle.

It appears to me the (infield) defense is not quite what it should be (so far). Do you think that will get better anytime soon? Or when will prospects arrive to help it?
-- James M., Longview, Texas

Third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa had a bad throwing error on Sunday, but he could be good at the position. He played 46 games at third in 2018 and had a 4.4 defensive WAR, which ranked 12th out of 44 players with at least 300 innings there. That was higher than Todd Frazier (4.0) and Adrian Beltre (3.1) that season. Frazier will be fine at first and an argument could be made that, at age 34, it might be the better position for him.

Josh Jung may be the third baseman of the future, but that is down the road. The Rangers have some promising middle infielders in the system -- most notably Anderson Tejeda. The eternal question for all those prospects is whether the bat will catch up to the glove. Right now, the Rangers may have issues, but shortstop Elvis Andrus’ defense is not one of them.

How does the artificial crowd noise sound during the games?
-- Martha J., Arlington

Personally, I am all in favor it. The Globe Life Field press box is so high -- think International Space Station -- that you really don’t notice the lack of fans. But you definitely hear the “crowd.” The players are the same way. They are so focused, they don’t see the crowd during real games. But they do hear and feel them. They get that same feeling under the current conditions. It’s not what anybody wants, but it seems to semi-create the desired effect.

Is Willie Calhoun affected by his Spring Training beaning? Or is there a possibility that he might not be that good and Nick Solak needs to be the everyday left fielder?
-- Edward R., Dallas

Calhoun batted .269/.323/.524 for an .848 OPS over 309 at-bats. His 14.71 at-bats per home run ranked 27th among 257 MLB hitters with at least 300 at-bats. The guy has not forgotten how to hit, but he may need more time to regain his confidence. The problem is the Rangers don’t have a lot of time.

What goes into the process of being a bullpen catcher? And why are those guys not players (or are they)?
-- Kyle D., Euless, Texas

Rangers bullpen catcher Josh Frasier was an all-state catcher at Rockwall (Texas) High School and all-conference at Northwood University in nearby Cedar Hill. He started with the Rangers as a video intern and eventually took over as bullpen catcher. He has other duties in assisting the coaching staff and also throws batting practice. He has been bullpen catcher for 15 years, and the pitchers trust him. Joe Nathan preferred him over anybody else to catch his bullpen sessions.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.