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Calhoun waiting to learn Opening Day fate

@Sullivan_Ranger
March 18, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The agonizing wait continues for Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun. He did everything the Rangers asked him to this offseason. The noticeable loss of weight is only one visible sign of Calhoun’s renewed commitment and dedication that has impressed just about everybody in the organization.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The agonizing wait continues for Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun.

He did everything the Rangers asked him to this offseason. The noticeable loss of weight is only one visible sign of Calhoun’s renewed commitment and dedication that has impressed just about everybody in the organization.

Now he waits to see if all of that will pay off with a spot on the Opening Day roster. The Rangers have not made a final decision, but the tea leaves are not in Calhoun’s favor, and that puts him in a tough situation with 10 days go before Opening Day.

“I’d say between yes and no,” Calhoun said. “It can go either way. I can either be in [Triple-A] Nashville or Arlington. I am kind of in between right now. I’m stuck in the middle.”

He was an early cut in Spring Training last year and admitted he didn’t handle it well. Calhoun hit .225 in April at Triple-A before pulling his act together and hitting .332 over the next 69 games. This decision could go right down to the last day.

“I don’t know how I would react,” Calhoun said of potentially returning to Triple-A. “Obviously I’d probably be OK, but it will take a little bit. That’s probably the biggest one to swallow because … I showed I am committed to the organization. I think I should be OK.”

The Rangers have a set outfield of Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara, plus Shin-Soo Choo as the designated hitter. Calhoun has been competing with veteran Hunter Pence for the fourth spot.

Pence is likely to win the job because he is a right-handed hitter who can offer balance to a lineup loaded with left-handed power. Pence is coming off a subpar season with the Giants in which he hit .226 with a .332 slugging percentage.

The Rangers were only willing to give him a Minor League contract and he has shown signs that some offseason adjustments to his swing are working. Pence was 15-for-39 (.385) with three home runs going into Monday night's game against the Dodgers.

“Obviously, I wanted to see if what he has been working on from a swing standpoint was going to hold up,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He has obviously done really well.”

It would be difficult for Pence and Calhoun to be on the same Opening Day roster, even if the Rangers go with seven relievers and four backups. One backup would be catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The Rangers would also have a greater need for a backup corner infielder (Matt Davidson) as well as someone (Logan Forsythe) who could play up the middle more than a fifth outfielder.

“It’s definitely a hard situation for me and my mental state,” Calhoun said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think they know what’s going to happen. I trust they know what they want to do.”

Woodward said it will be a tough call as well as a difficult conversation if the Rangers decide to send Calhoun to Nashville.

“Whether he has to go back to Triple-A and prove it again, not the worst thing in the world,” Woodward said. “But to sit there and sulk and stop working and prevent yourself from being successful would be foolish. I trust in who he is and what he has become. He will be with us -- whether in the beginning or at some point -- he will have a significant impact on our ballclub.”

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.