Texas manager Chris Woodward said emphasis over the final four weeks of the season will be getting his younger players more playing time and start evaluating them for next year.
Shin-Soo Choo will also see diminished playing time (though he was in Saturday's starting lineup, batting fifth and playing right field), but Choo is a free agent after the season. Andrus and Odor are signed for two more years each. Odor is on the 10-day injured list with an infection in his right eye, but he should be ready to return on the upcoming homestand.
The Rangers are clearly evaluating their middle-infield options. Tejeda is getting this chance despite it being a huge leap of faith to believe he is ready for an everyday big league job after not having played above Class A before this season.
"I don't think it's about not playing, just not on an everyday basis,” Woodward said. “We've got to get these [young] guys in games. This is the only way we can do that. You know, lineups will be a little bit different. If guys have good games, I'd like to give them another opportunity. There's going to be a lot of conversations, a lot of learning.”
Joey Gallo was not in the lineup on Saturday with left-hander Justus Sheffield pitching for the Mariners. Gallo is hitting .179/.326/.390, but the Rangers aren’t ready to considerably reduce his playing time.
“He is struggling this year, I get it,” Woodward said. “But ... I’d like to see him have more success this year just for his own personal sake, just to know this isn’t going to spiral and create some disbelief in his mind that he can't do what he did last year. I’m looking up at the baseball gods to kind of getting him going for the last 20 games and finish on a good note.”
The Rangers have more young players at the alternate training site, including catcher Sam Huff, infielders Josh Jung, Davis Wendzel, Andy Ibáñez, Sherten Apostel and Justin Foscue, and outfielders Bubba Thompson and Steele Walker.
The Rangers have already used 15 rookies this season, tied for fourth most in the Majors.
“As we see these younger guys, can they go out and execute the game plan?” Woodward said. “I think that is my biggest question. If we can see that on a consistent basis, then we have something to kind of hang our hat on that we can trust. He can actually contribute to us winning games, especially as we move into next year.”
The danger with all these young players is over-evaluating them in a short span and under unusual circumstances. Woodward said there could be fallout from what happens this season.
“There may be some guys that get some experience this year you're like, ‘Hey, maybe they're ready.’” Woodward said. “And you're going to realize next year, when we get into a longer season, that they weren't ready. We may have that as well. We may have some guys that really make an impact here late. But then we get to next year’s Spring Training and as we get into the season, we realize they need another year of development.”
The Rangers' emphasis on young talent should not impact starters Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Woodward said they need to get as many innings as possible to be ready for next year.
Rangers prepare for Instructional League
The Rangers have begun preparing for Instructional League in October at their Surprise, Ariz., complex. They are hoping to keep it open into November for as many Minor League players as possible and make up for the lost season.
“We haven’t finalized all the details of our camp,” said Paul Kruger, Rangers director of Minor League operations. “But we do anticipate getting our Minor Leagues together and running some sort of an Instructional League in the month of October and potentially November."
• Willie Calhoun (strained left hamstring) is getting at-bats at the alternate training site but is not running the bases. He could return as a pinch-hitter/designated hitter but the Rangers don’t expect him to play the outfield this season.
• Right-handed pitchers Corey Kluber and José Leclerc, both sidelined with torn muscles in the back of their right shoulders, will not pitch again for the Rangers this season, Woodward said. There was a possibility both could have made it back by the end of September, but only in a best-case scenario, and that will not come to pass.
“They are a little bit slow in their progress, and we just decided it doesn’t make any sense at this point to rush them back,” Woodward said.
• Left-hander pitcher Joe Palumbo (ulcerative colitis) and outfielder Danny Santana (right elbow sprain) are also not expected to play for the Rangers again this season.
Rangers recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Day
The Rangers joined Major League Baseball for the fifth consecutive year in raising awareness for childhood cancer during all games on Saturday for a special league-wide day in home ballparks. MLB’s “Childhood Cancer Awareness Day,” held during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), combined a visual and ceremonial demonstration of support for the cause with outreach to local hospitals treating young patients in their communities. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States and Canada.
The Rangers joined all on-field personnel, including players, coaches and umpires around baseball in wearing gold ribbon decals and wristbands during Saturday's game against the Mariners. The Rangers are donating their baseball-themed Starlight hospital gowns to Medical City Dallas and Medical City Children’s Hospital. Clubs also featured ceremonial activities in ballparks. Club activities included pregame ceremonies, cardboard cutouts of pediatric patients in stands at ballparks, virtual patient first pitches, virtual player hospital visits and more.
Childhood cancer awareness efforts in previous seasons have included special pediatric cancer awareness batting-practice T-shirts, online campaigns to empower fans to hold fundraisers for pediatric cancer research and donations to local children’s hospitals. MLB and its clubs have supported the fight against cancer through a variety of initiatives for many years. As Stand Up To Cancer’s founding donor, Major League Baseball has pledged more than $50 million to SU2C’s collaborative cancer research programs, providing invaluable support. Launched in 2013, the work of the Stand Up To Cancer/St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Dream Team has helped to develop new immunotherapy approaches and contributed to the development of two new treatments for difficult-to-treat pediatric leukemias that have been approved by the FDA. MLB has recognized SU2C at its jewel events since the '09 World Series.