Woodward's roster rounding into shape

Chirinos, Calhoun play simulated game, increasing their Opening Day chances

July 19th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers sent 19 players, including 14 non-roster invitees, to their alternate training site on Sunday, leaving 39 players in Summer Camp.

The other significant development on Sunday was that catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Willie Calhoun both played in the simulated game, and the chances are increasing that both will be on the Opening Day roster.

Chirinos has a sprained right ankle but was able to catch for the first time since rolling the ankle in last Monday’s intrasquad game. Calhoun, who is dealing with a strained right hip flexor, had five at-bats off Mike Minor. Chirinos batted four times in addition to catching one inning.

“They are better off than I anticipated,” manager Chris Woodward said. “That was a welcome sight to see Chirinos catching and getting some live at-bats. I’m not sure they’ll be ready for Opening Day or we would want them ready for Opening Day.

“But whether it is Opening Day, the second day or the third day, as long as they are ready within the first seven games, we will probably keep them on the roster.”

Pitchers Joely Rodríguez, Rafael Montero and Brett Martin are expected to start the season on the injured list. Martin had been out after testing positive for COVID-19 but has been cleared to work out with the team again.

“He's got to be cleared to like, be on our roster, and available to actually pitch in a game,” Woodward said. “He's not there yet. So we're going to keep monitoring him, have him throw bullpens and maybe some live BPs to get him ready.”

The Rangers have 18 pitchers still in camp, including their five starters -- Lance Lynn, Minor, Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. That leaves 13 potential relievers for what is expected to be a nine- or 10-man bullpen.

Right-handers José Leclerc, Jonathan Hernández, Nick Goody, Jesse Chavez, Luke Farrell and Edinson Vólquez have been told they will be on the Opening Day roster.

The other candidates are left-handers Joe Palumbo, Kolby Allard, Taylor Hearn, Wes Benjamin and Yohander Méndez, and right-handers Ian Gibaut and Jimmy Herget. Méndez is still in camp but is unlikely to be on the Opening Day roster after arriving late.

Palumbo and Allard are considered the two best candidates for the rotation if something happens to one of the five starters, but they have pitched well enough here to put themselves in contention for a spot in the bullpen.

Woodward said both are stretched out enough that they could come out of the bullpen and make a spot start if needed early in the season.

“We would probably look at them to be more of a three-or-four-inning, one-plus through the lineup,” Woodward said. “Anyways, I'm not worried about if they both make our team that we don't have as much starting depth in reserve.”

The Rangers have 18 position players still in camp, including Calhoun. He is listed among eight outfielders remaining along with Nick Solak, Danny Santana, Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo, Adolis García, Scott Heineman and Leody Taveras.

Solak starts in left if Calhoun is not ready for Opening Day, otherwise he takes on a utility role. Rob Refsnyder could win a job as a utility player who can play both the infield and the outfield.

The Rangers are expected to go with three catchers: Chirinos, Jeff Mathis and Jose Trevino.

The six infielders left in camp include Greg Bird and Ronald Guzmán, who are competing for the first-base spot. The other four are Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Elvis Andrus, Todd Frazier and Rougned Odor.

So far none of the non-roster players sent to the alternate training site have exercised an out clause in their contract and elected to become free agents. Four of the six non-roster pitchers sent down had that right: Cody Allen, Luis Garcia, Derek Law and Juan Nicasio. The other two were Wei-Chieh Huang and Alex Speas.

The Rangers have 38 players on the 40-man roster. That limits them to adding just two non-roster players before they have to start taking somebody off the 40-man.

“We were going to have to cut into our own bone,” Woodward said. “Some of those guys came in looking pretty good. Nicasio’s velo was back up. I thought Cody threw the ball well. It was nothing that they did. It’s just really tough to put that many non-roster guys on our Opening Day.”

The non-roster position players sent down were catchers Nick Ciuffo, Blake Swihart, Sam Huff and Tim Federowicz; infielders Josh Jung, Andy Ibáñez and Yadiel Rivera; and outfielder Eli White. Federowicz, Swihart and Rivera all have out clauses. White remains sidelined with a strained oblique muscle.

Five players on the 40-man roster were also reassigned: pitchers Demarcus Evans, Tyler Phillips and Ariel Jurado, and infielders Anderson Tejeda and Sherten Apostel.