Notebook: Gallo homers in spring debut

Rangers' first game shortened to six innings with pitching a little short

March 1st, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' Cactus League opener against the Royals was shortened to six innings. It was originally supposed to go seven innings, but an inflamed tendon in pitcher Luis Ortiz’s right ankle kept him out, leaving Texas without enough pitchers.

Instead, six Rangers pitchers threw one inning each in the 3-2 loss, while the Royals continued to play an intrasquad after the sixth inning. drove in the Rangers' only runs, driving an 0-1 pitch over the right-field wall for the two-run homer in the first.

Under the 2021 Spring Training rules, the defensive manager can end an inning early if the pitcher reaches his pitch limit before the team gets three outs. The Rangers ran into that scenario in the second inning. Right-hander threw more than 20 pitches and loaded the bases, causing manager Chris Woodward to end the inning.

The Rangers rolled the inning again in the fifth, when went well over his allotted 20 pitches when he loaded the bases. Woodward said he and pitching coach Doug Mathis are going to slowly roll out a lot of the pitchers.

"We're going to try to limit [rolling over innings] as much as possible,” Woodward said. “I was talking to Doug about how far we can let these guys go, and I don't want these guys in any harm's way. So a lot of these guys' first outing, you know, are more likely to that.”

Lefty Wes Benjamin drew the start for the Rangers on Sunday, giving up two hits and no runs. Benjamin, who made his MLB debut last season, said getting the start gave him confidence going forward.

“He did exactly what we expected of him,” Woodward said. “The reason he was pitching that first inning is that we wanted to kind of set the tone. He’s somebody that would go out and pound his own. His stuff looked sharp right from the get-go, pounding that inside corner.”

Left-field/designated-hitter competition
Woodward said to not read too much into the first starting lineup of Spring Training, but it’s hard not to. The skipper said earlier in the week that he would have established players sprinkled in between unproven guys, and the first game of the spring showed that.

But the designated-hitter competition between and was on display. Calhoun is looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2020 season, and he notched the start in the left field on Sunday.

“It will be earned, absolutely,” Woodward said. “But I want Willie to be the Willie Calhoun we saw a couple years ago, when it didn't matter who's out there pitching them. He was able to adjust and adapt whether it was left- or right[-handed pitching], so he can get back to that form. I'm going to give him every opportunity to do that.”

Calhoun put together a solid day in the field and at the plate, while his competition Davis went without a hit. Davis, who was acquired in a five-player trade back on Feb. 6, got the start at designated hitter and went 0-for-2 at the plate.

Woodward said the Rangers want to give both players every single opportunity to win the starting spot, and he was happy with the pair's at-bats against the Royals.

“He looked fine,” Woodward said of Davis. “I know he got out, but even the flyout to center the second time was a good swing. He just missed it. Early in the count, I felt like Khris got some god swing off a few times.”

Playing with fans again
It’s the first time the Rangers have played a game with real-life fans and not cardboard ones since March 11, right before the league shut down Spring Training last season. The Rangers didn’t play with fans all regular season, but limited capacity was available in Globe Life Field for the playoffs.

There were 2,024 fans at Surprise Stadium for Sunday's matchup.

Benjamin noted that pitching in front of fans was a little weird for him after making his big league debut last season. Even so, he said the energy in the park was high and he was glad to see faces in the stands.

Woodward said it’s good for the sport to have fans back again.

“It's good to just feel the energy of the crowd,” Woodward said. “Just to look around and see actual, real fans instead of the DoppelRanger things or whatever you call them.”