ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' Summer Camp is moving quickly with just 10 games left before Opening Day, and manager Chris Woodward said this will be a big week for players trying to make the team.
The Rangers had Sunday off, but the skipper had much to think about and write down while pondering what the final 30-man roster will look like on July 24.
“There's a lot to plan for this week,” Woodward said before Monday’s intrasquad game. “This is a big week for a lot of our guys. Just from a team standpoint, we have 10 games left, including the two [exhibition games on July 21-22] against Colorado. It's big for us to start the season strong and fast. This is a big week as far as competitiveness and getting ready timing-wise.”
Woodward said he needs to start seeing some “consistency” out of Guzman and/or Bird. That’s a polite way of saying one of them needs to seize the day.
“I just need to know, especially in a 60-game season, that I can trust guys to be prepared, give a competitive effort and be productive,” Woodward said. “That’s all we’re looking for. And production doesn’t always mean they’re going to hit a ball in the gap. [It means] they’re staying in the strike zone. They’re getting good swings off. They’re putting balls in play consistently hard. We can live with the results after that.”
Kiner-Falefa and Solak are producing. Kiner-Falefa went into Monday hitting 8-for-21 with a couple of doubles and a home run, while Solak was 9-for-23. It’s not easy to judge players off intrasquad game performances, but …
“Obviously, we have to put stock into it,” Woodward said. “I have told our players this. We have no other way to evaluate you. So, you better find a way to treat this not as an intrasquad game. I think we have done a pretty good job of that. Most of these guys know being on our team is at stake.”
Guzman and Bird aren’t the only ones struggling at the plate. Willie Calhoun, expected to be the Opening Day left fielder, had just one hit in his first 25 at-bats since Summer Camp began.
Calhoun isn’t fighting for a job. The question is if he is struggling to get comfortable at the plate after being hit in the face by a pitch on March 8 in Arizona. Calhoun, who sustained a fractured jaw, is almost at full strength with just some numbness in the cheek and jaw.
Woodward said he hasn’t seen any after-effects or timidity from Calhoun at the plate.
“I really don’t,” Woodward said. “I think his last game he looked a lot better and hit some balls hard. It’s just more getting into the flow of things and getting timing back. I haven’t seen anything … any fear there or anything getting in the way of his at-bat quality. Which is amazing because it’s something a lot of guys have dealt with in the past and can’t overcome it. But it doesn’t seem to bother him at all.”
The Rangers would like to see Calhoun get on a roll and focus their attention to other spots. They need to figure out how to get Solak ad Kiner-Falefa in the lineup if their hitting continues, and they need to decide who is going to catch behind Robinson Chirinos. Other spots on the bench remain open, especially in the outfield.
The bullpen still has some spots to be won, and the Rangers haven’t decided how many extra relievers they will carry on a 30-man roster. But they do know José Leclerc will be the closer, Rafael Montero and Nick Goody will be the right-handed setup relievers and rookie left-hander Taylor Hearn and right-hander Jonathan Hernández have been impressive. So has right-hander Luke Farrell. Left-handers Joely Rodríguez (strained lat muscle) and Brett Martin (COVID-19 positive test) are still unknown for Opening Day.
This will be the week to start identifying answers.