Ricky Rodriguez? Ricky Rodriguez!
His MLB debut Monday couldn’t have gone much better. He struck out the first two batters and got a soft liner to first from the third batter for a 1-2-3 inning.
Not to get too carried away here, but when will the Texas Rangers name him their closer?
Rodriguez has been in the organization since he was signed out of Venezuela in 2010 as an 18-year-old. He essentially missed the past two seasons with injuries that resulted in Tommy John surgery.
But he was lights out in 12 games at Double A Frisco, going 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA, after being lights out at High A Down East, where he was 3-1 with a 1.41 ERA in 23 games.
Sounds like closer material to me.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
1. Jeff Banister still had no idea why he was ejected Sunday afternoon, and still insisted a day later that he wasn’t arguing when first-base ump Tripp Gibson ejected him after a hit by pitch in the fifth inning.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch had also left the dugout to see why the umpires warned both benches after Andrew Cashner grazed Marwin Gonzalez’s jersey with a 3-0 fastball to open the inning with the Rangers down 1-0.
Clearly, that isn’t a situation when a pitcher intentionally throws at a hitter. All Banister wanted to know was why did that particular hit by pitch prompt a warning, so he asked plate ump Stu Scheurwater.
Gibson made himself part of the conversation, and soon gave Banister the heave. That was his fifth ejection of the season.
The stunned look on Banister’s face said it all, and also raised a question: Do umpires and Banister have a sour relationship?
“Ejections have no bearing on relationships,” Banister said. “I’ve been ejected three times taking up for our guys. I was ejected for clapping. I think the landscape of today, based on replay, ejections get more press now.
“My relationship with these guys is good. The conversation is good. If we had the same crew today, I promise you it would be handshakes and smiles. When you get inside the competitive atmosphere of a game, there are always emotions.”
Prior to Sunday, Banister was ejected July 26 after Adrian Beltre had been tossed by Gerry Davis for moving the on-deck circle. Banister was run for trying to defend Beltre.
“When he goes, I’m going to go. I can promise you that,” Banister said. “That has nothing to do with relationships with the umpires. I’m not screaming and hollering from the dugout about balls and strikes. There are times when maybe there needs to be a spark somewhere. I’m OK with that.”
Umpires certainly don’t seem to be trying to screw over the Rangers. Calls go against them just as they do all other 29 teams.
Maybe Banister has worn out his margin of error with umpires, as one observer pointed out. If an umpire has a decision to let it go or let Banister go, he chooses the latter.
But with the latest ejection Sunday, one that it didn’t appear Banister had earned and one that he didn’t believe he had earned, his relationship with umps is a something worth considering.
2. Speaking of ejections, Ian Kinsler and Brad Ausmus were tossed by plate umpire Angel Hernandez in the fifth inning Monday after Kinsler took the first two pitches in an at-bat against Martin Perez.
The first pitch looked low but was called a strike, prompting Kinsler to ask Hernandez, “What’s wrong with you tonight?”
The next pitch was also low and more outside, and Kinsler must have asked Hernandez if that, too, was a strike.
Kinsler was gone, and then he got in some colorful words when telling Hernandez just how bad of an umpire he is.
The disruption didn’t disrupt Perez, though. The left-hander allowed a two-run homer to Justin Upton in the first inning but finished by tossing five scoreless innings and earning the win for a second straight start.
He did that in June but didn’t pitch as well as he has the past two, allowing three earned runs in 14 innings.
The roller coaster he usually rides throughout a season is clicking its way to the top of another hill. If the Rangers are lucky, it will get stuck.
They need quality pitching from someone besides Cole Hamels and Andrew Cashner. Perez has the stuff to do it, and it appears his mechanics and mind are both in the right place.
Perez will start Saturday against the Chicago White Sox, Aug. 23 at Anaheim and either Aug. 29 or 30 at Houston. They’re all big at this point with the Rangers trying to remain in the playoff picture, but the one next week could help the Rangers gain ground in the wild-card race.
The Angels, who were without Mike Trout for 39 games because of a wrist injury, are holding down the second wild-card spot and lead the Rangers by three games. That series, four night games to open a 10-game road trip, is looking like a big one.
3. Banister was bullish about the offense, saying the approach the lineup had through the game was the best of the season. Monday’s game was the Rangers’ 117th of the season.
The Rangers showed power, with Joey Gallo hitting homer No. 33. They manufactured runs, using two sacrifice bunts, two steals and a sacrifice fly to produce runs. They had 10 hits that weren’t homers.
Rougned Odor had the best game, going 3 for 4 with three runs scored and two steals. The first hit was a bunt hit, something he did with aplomb last season but has largely abandoned this year.
Nomar Mazara also had three hits, including a broken-bat bloop single to drive in the game’s first two runs. The runners, Delino DeShields and Elvis Andrus, opened the game by drawing walks.
“Just all around probably the best approach we’ve had collectively through the game,” Banister said. “Some things that we’ve talked about going forward is the ability to put runs on the board. That’s what the thought process is. It’s about scoring runs. If that’s the approach we need to take throughout, so be it.”
Imagine that: Quality starting pitching, an offense that can score runs in multiple ways, and four wins in the past five games.
Adrian Beltre, Mr. Optimism when it comes to the Rangers’ playoff chances, said on Sunday that the Rangers haven’t gotten hot yet. An impending hot streak is one of the things fueling his optimism.
Maybe this is it. If so, the Rangers need it to last more than five games.