Rangers optimistic after Calhoun's jaw surgery

March 10th, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers outfielder underwent surgery on Monday for a non-displaced fracture in his jaw and club officials are expressing hope that the injury is not as serious as initially feared.

Calhoun did have a single plate inserted to stabilize the fracture, but he did not need to have the jaw wired shut in order for it to heal properly.

“Thankfully the injury wasn’t more significant than that,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “They did a CT scan, as well as a cervical MRI, to rule out any neck injury or something scary like a brain bleed. Fortunately, none of that was the case with Willie.”

Doctors still have not determined if Calhoun sustained a concussion. He was hit in the right side of the mouth by a 95-mph fastball thrown by Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías on Sunday. Major League Baseball, in those cases, operates under the presumption that a player did suffer a concussion until he has been cleared through protocol.

“Based on the impact of the injury, you presume that there is some level of concussion,” Daniels said. “But because of the surgery and being sedated, they haven’t been able to test him for that. If there is one, hopefully it’s on the minor side.”

Calhoun is expected to be discharged later this week and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

“We expect he’ll open on the [injured list] but we don’t know how long that will be,” Daniels said.

Calhoun entered camp as the Rangers' starting left fielder. He was given the job after Nomar Mazara was traded to the White Sox this winter. It is the chance he has been waiting for since being acquired from the Dodgers on July 31, 2017, in the Yu Darvish trade. He was sent to the Minor Leagues five different times in the past two seasons and did not always take it well.

“If it’s any of our players, I’m going to feel the same,” manager Chris Woodward said. “But there’s something about what Willie has done over the last year and a half to two years that kind of deeply affected me a little bit. Knowing how hard he’s worked and how excited he is about the season.”

Calhoun was hit in the first inning of Sunday’s game. He was taken off the field in a cart and transported by helicopter to Phoenix to be examined by a specialist. Woodward left the game to be with Calhoun, leaving Don Wakamatsu to manage the rest of the game.

“Once that happens, I do care about the game,” Woodward said. “But it’s kind of trivial at that point. All my focus goes on my player. If it’s a regular-season game, then obviously we can figure out what we’d do then, but I’d probably do the same thing. It’s so important.”

Daniels and medical director Jamie Reed were there along with Calhoun’s parents, Willie Sr. and Monica, and his girlfriend Kaitlin Faber. Woodward’s wife Erin, a Phoenix-based trauma nurse, was also there.

“My message to him was everybody is supporting you,” Woodward said. “Tons of calls, texts. He feels the love, the support from his teammates and his organization. That’s all we can do and that’s what we have to do. As a leader, I have to be there for those guys. That’s not even a question.”

Joey Gallo was among those who visited Calhoun in the hospital on Monday afternoon.

“He’s doing all right,” Gallo said. “He couldn’t talk, but he was texting and writing on his phone. He’s good. He has all those tubes in him and is tired from the medicine. But he was saying, 'Tell Woody I am playing as soon as possible.' That’s all he could talk about. He just wants to hit. He is in pretty good spirits.”

Calhoun was not wearing a flap with his batting helmet on Sunday. That is optional for players, but Calhoun did wear one last season.

“I don’t know when exactly he stopped wearing it.” Woodward said. “He got a new helmet and he talked about putting one on. Obviously he is going to have to wear one now, but I think all our guys should consider it.”

This is the second straight spring that a Rangers player suffered a fractured jaw. Pitcher Luke Farrell did so on March 2 last year when he was hit with a baseball flush in the jaw off the bat of Giants infielder Jalen Miller. He not only suffered a fractured jaw, but also a concussion.

The concussion was much tougher to overcome. Farrell was not ready for a rehab assignment until July 23, but he did pitch nine games for the Rangers at the end of the season.

“I feel horrible for Willie that he is going through this,” Farrell said. “Never want to see anybody go through it, let alone your teammate. Obviously, whatever I can do for him and his family, there will be plenty of time for that. Hopefully he is OK right now.”