Calhoun looking to 'finish this season strong'

Remaining few weeks vital for the outfielder's future with Texas

September 17th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Nobody in the Rangers' organization has had worse luck over the last few years than Willie Calhoun.

In March of 2020, Calhoun was hit in the face by a pitch in a Spring Training game against the Dodgers, which sidelined him for more than half of the already-shortened 60-game season.

And just as he was getting into a groove in 2021, he was once again hit by a pitch, this time on his forearm, causing a fracture that required surgery. And until Wednesday night’s game against the Astros, he hadn't played in a Major League game since June 26.

Now Calhoun said he’s as close to 100 percent as possible, and he is hoping to get more plate appearances these last few weeks of the season. On Wednesday night, he went 2-for-4, including a double, in his first game since coming off the injured list.

“I know we got beat, but it's nice to see Willie get a couple of hits there, especially the way that last ball came off his bat [for the double] to left-center [field],” manager Chris Woodward said after the game. “It’s a good thing moving forward.”

Calhoun said he was admittedly a little nervous in his first at-bat against the Astros. He struck out on three pitches against Houston starter José Urquidy and felt like his next chance may be over before it even started.

“After I settled down, I felt like ... I picked up right where I left off,” Calhoun said. “I felt like right before I got hurt, I was starting to see the ball well. I was starting to make adjustments to offspeed pitches, because I feel like they've given me some troubles this year, but I figured out some things. I think after the last two at-bats and going into today, I hope I can build off that.”

The outfielder noted that he’s run into obstacles like this everywhere he’s been in his baseball career, from struggling to find his footing while spending a year at the University of Arizona and early in his professional career with the Dodgers' organization.

“I just feel like my career is in another cycle right now,” Calhoun said. “I'm just trying to prove something to myself. I haven't been healthy for two years. So when I was finally ... healthy for the first time this year, I got hurt. So just trying to find my feet again and just settle in, get settled down and finish this season strong.”

So what does all this mean for Calhoun’s future with the organization? The Rangers are entering an offseason where vital decisions await them, and the front office will need to make a number of calls as they continue to rebuild.

So will Calhoun be part of that? He enters his first arbitration year after the 2021 season and has a lot to prove in these last few weeks. Calhoun knows it, Woodward knows it, and the front office knows it.

Entering Thursday’s series finale against the Astros, Calhoun has a career slash line of .249/.305/.419 with a .724 OPS. Injuries, whether they were out of his control or not, have hampered his development within the organization.

Woodward didn’t mince words when asked of Calhoun, calling the cards he had been dealt “unfair.”

“He’s had a rough go of it,” Woodward said. “We obviously haven’t seen him a ton, so I don’t know. I just want to see him have some success, get out there and get some hits. ... Unfortunately, he hasn’t played enough for us to really evaluate him. We may have to make a really tough decision one way or the other. We’re going to have to kind of go out on a limb.”

No matter what the situation is, Calhoun is singularly focused on controlling what he can control and stay healthy for as long as possible.

“I’m gonna just go out there and just try to have as much success as I can the last three weeks of the season,” Calhoun said. “The last three weeks are gonna be huge for sure. I can't sit here and lie and say they're not. I can’t make up for the time I’ve missed. I think for me, it's just going out there and having fun and just taking each game day by day.”