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Calhoun eyes mental break after trying year

@Sullivan_Ranger
September 25, 2020

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' season is over on Sunday, and then the healing process can begin for outfielder Willie Calhoun. Physically, he can play. Calhoun hit his first home run of the season on Thursday night in a 12-4 loss to the Astros, and he's going to finish the season

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' season is over on Sunday, and then the healing process can begin for outfielder Willie Calhoun.

Physically, he can play. Calhoun hit his first home run of the season on Thursday night in a 12-4 loss to the Astros, and he's going to finish the season in the Rangers' lineup.

“That was probably my favorite homer because I haven't hit a homer since last year,” Calhoun said. “It felt good.”

Not much else has felt good for Calhoun, 25, who came into this season with such high hopes and expectations, only to hit one roadblock and obstacle after another.

“It has been kind of a depressing year for me,” Calhoun said.

That's why his next stop will be his home in Northern California. There were some discussions about Calhoun going to instructional league to make up for lost at-bats. Instead, he wants to go back to his hometown of Benicia in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I just feel like I've been in my own head a lot this whole year, ever since Spring Training,” Calhoun said. “So, I haven't fully gotten over it, but [I'm] slowly getting over it. It's been depressing, for sure. Like I said, I'm going to detach for a while after the season and just kind of go dark for a while.”

The fractured jaw in Spring Training started the downward spiral. Just when he was starting to get healthy at the end of Summer Camp, Calhoun strained a right oblique muscle. A strained left hamstring later cost him almost four weeks on the injured list. He had two hits on Thursday, but that left him hitting .193/.232/.273 over 26 games and 88 at-bats.

Through it all, Calhoun was keenly aware of the racial/social injustice issues and protests that were taking place across the country. He and Taylor Hearn are the only two Black American players on the Rangers. Calhoun made his feelings about the issues known through social media, at a time when MLB players are also working to complete a 60-game season amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“This offseason, I'm going to focus more on mental health, more than [anything] on the field,” Calhoun said. “That's going to be my biggest thing. Just clearing my head. The biggest thing for me is just mentally getting there.”

Manager Chris Woodward, asked about it on Thursday, said he was worried about Calhoun's psyche after all he had been through.

“Absolutely, I think we all are,” Woodward said. “Willie, of all the guys on our team, I am probably most worried about. He does need to reset and regroup. Some of this stuff was forced on him, some of it he couldn't control. Some of it was performance-based. How he handled issues he had to face this year from all different angles.

“I am definitely worried about it, and we need to help him. We have issues like this sometimes, especially in 2020, a lot of people are going through similar issues at this stage in their life, and Willie is no exception to that. We all have to be there for him and help him.”

Hernández likes relieving
Rookie right-hander Jonathan Hernández has turned into a potent weapon out of the bullpen, and right now, that’s where he wants to stay. The Rangers have long envisioned Hernández moving into the rotation and have discussed it with him.

Hernández said his preference is to continue as a reliever. Going into Friday night, he was 5-1 with a 2.51 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 25 appearances.

“Right now I just feel comfortable going out of the 'pen, and I like the competition,” Hernández said. “I like how hard I had to be with myself to go out there and compete. So, I just like that. They ask me if I want to start right now, I will say maybe no. I think I will just stick with my bullpen guys.”

Rangers beat
• Infielder Yadiel Rivera, who played in four games this season, has undergone surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow. Rivera had an internal brace inserted; a new procedure designed to cut down the recovery period to 5-6 months. Outfielder Danny Santana had a similar operation earlier this month.

• Infielder Andrew Romine made his Rangers debut on Thursday night. Romine, a 10-year veteran, was making his first Major League appearance since Sept. 30, 2018, while with the Mariners.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.