The development of young players continued Monday night for the Texas Rangers, who had rookies Michael Choice and Rougned Odor in the lineup to learn how to play while taking a thumping.
Maybe there’s something to be learned from the latest lopsided loss in a game started by Joe Saunders, whose pitching this season has been good enough for the Rangers to win only two of his eight starts.
The past three have stunk to the tune of 20 runs in 13 2/3 innings. He allowed seven, six of them coming on four homers, in five innings as Baltimore opened a four-game series with a 7-1 victory at Camden Yards.
But, hey, only 17 of those runs have been earned runs.
“Miserable,” Saunders said. “It’s a game of, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ And really I haven’t done [anything].”
The problem — check that, one of the problems — with Saunders (0-5, 6.13 ERA) is that the Rangers don’t have much else to replace him.
Scott Baker has performed admirably in a long-relief role and probably deserves another crack at the rotation, and Justin Germano could rejoin the ever-changing 40-man roster to replace Baker.
Saunders, after all, made it abundantly clear in May that he has no interest in a bullpen spot.
Beyond that, though, the options are limited. Top prospect Luke Jackson, for instance, made his Triple A debut only Monday. At least he and Saunders are on the same schedule.
Alec Asher has decent numbers at Frisco, but Nick Martinez is reminding the Rangers of the up-and-down ride that comes with pitchers who should be at Double A.
So, Saunders, it appears, will stick around and wear out the bullpen every fifth day until he either gets worse, which technically is possible, or until he is replaced when Derek Holland comes off the disabled list around the beginning of August.
A discussion about Saunders’ future hadn’t taken place in the aftermath of his latest loss.
“Right now, it’s Joe,” manager Ron Washington said.
Odor, though, isn’t going anywhere. His play has made that clear, and the Rangers made it official by demoting infielder Luis Sardinas to Triple A Round Rock to continue his development and bringing up utilityman Adam Rosales.
Meanwhile, Jurickson Profar is baking in the Arizona sun doing conditioning work as his right shoulder heals from a second muscle tear. He doesn’t expect to play this season.
It’s safe to assume he expects to play in 2015. Probably second base, the position he was supposed to man this year. Which leaves Odor where, exactly?
“I don’t want to go back to the minor leagues,” Odor said.
The Rangers have 80 games remaining, so it’s possible that the shine wears off of Odor the rest of the way. But he has convinced himself that he is a major leaguer after an early May promotion from Frisco.
Forty games later, Odor is hitting .270 from the bottom of the lineup. He is receiving tutelage from veterans Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios on how to play the game and how to respect it, something that comes in handy on nights like Monday.
“For me, it’s the same game,” Odor said. “It’s more professional. Everything is almost perfect, but the baseball is the same.”
The Rangers have taken care of Odor, who is a second baseman by trade. He could probably play elsewhere in the infield, but he hasn’t been asked to do that and won’t be asked.
Instead, he gets to show up every day and know exactly what he’s doing. Profar wasn’t afforded the same opportunity as a rookie last season, and his performance suffered.
“It’s a tremendous benefit,” Washington said.
One that has allowed Odor to prove to the Rangers and to himself that he’s a major leaguer. The Rangers also believe that about Profar.
Something will have to give in 2015 as the Rangers’ infield will again be crowded. For now, though, Odor is getting the chance to grow in what has become a season of development for the Rangers.
He’s not going anywhere. For now, it appears Saunders isn’t either.