Three storylines from Rangers' Game 1 win

In MLB debut, Palumbo solid until 4th; Federowicz, Valdez play key role

June 9th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- There were several notable firsts for the Rangers in their first game of a doubleheader against the Athletics on Saturday afternoon.

Starter Joe Palumbo and reliever Phillips Valdez both made their Major League debut, and catcher Tim Federowicz hit his first home run in a Texas uniform to help lift the Rangers to a 10-5 victory at Globe Life Park.

All three are interesting stories:

The starter
Palumbo was called up out of necessity because of the doubleheader. He began the day with three scoreless innings before giving up four runs in the fourth. All four scored after two were out, and only after the first hit of the inning came when second baseman Rougned Odor couldn’t read a ground ball off the bat in the bright sunshine.

“I thought it went really well,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I know the line is going to show four runs in four innings, but honestly up until two outs in the fourth that was as good as I’ve seen, especially for a kid making his Major League debut. It’s unfortunate it ended up that way, but that was really, really impressive in my eyes to see the start of the game.”

The beginning consisted of retiring 11 of the first 14 batters he faced before the Athletics got to him with two outs. The big hits were a two-run home run by Matt Olson and a two-run double by catcher Josh Phegley, who had to replace Nick Hundley (back spasms) during the course of the at-bat.

The Rangers were still leading, 5-4, when Palumbo got the final out of the fourth. Woodward decided at that point 66 pitches were enough.

“I was definitely nervous before the game,” Palumbo said. “Pregame bullpen, I was getting a little ahead of myself. Towards the end, I slowed things down. But once I got on the mound, it was all about competing. I felt like I was supposed to be there, and I felt good the whole game.”

Palumbo was optioned to Double-A Frisco after the game so the Rangers could call up right-handed reliever Pete Fairbanks. This almost assuredly won’t be Palumbo’s last start for the Rangers.

“It was just awesome,” Palumbo said. “I'm kind of speechless about it. It was great to get out there, get the first one out of the way; I'm looking forward to the future and seeing what I can do.”

The catcher
Federowicz has played in parts of seven seasons in the Majors with five different teams. But he was stuck at Triple-A Columbus in the Indians' organization before the Rangers made a quick trade late Thursday night after Isiah Kiner-Falefa went down with a sprained ligament in his right middle finger.

All he did on Saturday was hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning that gave the Rangers a 10-4 lead. He had a single and a walk as part of a 2-for-3 afternoon, but he also had to work behind the plate with three rookie pitchers. Two of those were in the Majors for the first time.

“The biggest thing is just kind of sticking to what they’ve been doing,” Federowicz said. “I know I didn’t really know them, but I’ve worked with a lot of young pitchers, especially coming from Triple-A. Kind of know how to work with them a little bit more, but they both did a great job, threw a lot of strikes. It stinks for Joe that he kind of ran into a little bit of trouble. But he’s got great stuff, and is going to be very successful here.”

The reliever
Valdez was in Rangers camp this spring on a Minor League contract, but with no chance to make the team. He has been in the Minor Leagues for 10 years. It took the first four before he ever got past the Dominican Summer League.

He was 1-6 with a 6.19 ERA in 13 games at Triple-A, but the Rangers needed somebody who could pitch multiple innings if there was a blowout. This was not. Valdez took over in the eighth after Jeffrey Springs, the eventual winning pitcher, gave the Rangers three innings.

The score was 10-5, and Valdez gave them two scoreless innings. That allowed Woodward to save the bulk of his bullpen for Game 2.

“Not only do we have a second game today, we have that day game tomorrow,” Woodward said. “You want to have a bigger lead so you can use different pieces. The game was still in doubt. It’s not like those were easy innings.”

Valdez will likely go back to Nashville after the doubleheader. Who knows when, if ever, he will get back. But he was a Major Leaguer for one game and played an important role in a win.

“I feel very happy, but I also thank God for giving me an opportunity after such a long time for me to come here and do good,” Valdez said. “I always kept my faith. I never gave up, I never laid my head down. I’m happy to be here.”