Tomas Telis did something Monday in his first major league game that hadn’t been done in more than 18 years, and he’s not even the Texas Rangers’ top catching prospect.
Telis became the first player to catch a shutout in his first career game since Jason Kendall did it for Pittsburgh on April 1, 1996, according to baseball-reference.com. Telis took a condensed game plan and worked with Miles Mikolas and Neftali Feliz to scatter four singles in a 2-0 victory.
Telis endured Tommy John surgery in 2010 and learned the nuances of catching the past few seasons before shooting from Double A to Triple A and to the Rangers this season. But keeping a spot with the Rangers for multiple seasons could be difficult.
Robinson Chirinos has established himself as, at minimum, a capable big league backup. The Rangers’ No. 1 catching prospect is Jorge Alfaro, who has the physical tools to be in the majors now, but is at Double A Frisco still learning the intricacies of catching.
Alfaro will not be among the Rangers’ September call-ups.
“He’s right on track,” catching instructor Hector Ortiz said. “It’s more about maturity now. How to handle it, how to be a pro. He’s not completely ready. I don’t know if the focus of a nine-inning game would be there for, say, 125 games, but bat and arm, all of that is ready to go. Now it’s up to him how he’s doing to handle those tools.”
After Chirinos, Alfaro and Telis is Pat Cantwell, one of six players who will represent the Rangers in the Arizona Fall League in October. Joining Cantwell on the Surprise team are outfielder Nick Williams, one of the Rangers’ top five prospects, and right-handers Lisalverto Bonilla, Cody Kendall, Josh McElwee and Sam Wolff.
With Shin-Soo Choo headed toward surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow, the Rangers need a leadoff hitter. Part of those duties will fall, once again, to Leonys Martin.
Manager Ron Washington said that the center fielder will bat first against right-handed pitchers, starting Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field. Daniel Robertson will lead off against lefties, as he has the past three games.
Martin has had decent leadoff numbers in limited duty this season, posting a .300 average and walking seven times for a .404 on-base percentage. But this opportunity isn’t a reward.
“With the personnel I have in the lineup, he’s the choice,” Washington said.
There is still the concern that Martin is too much of a free swinger to sit atop a lineup, suggested by his overall numbers this season. Washington calls him a slasher, but he also doesn’t want to have to tell Martin to adjust. It should be natural.
“Hopefully, it helps him to think in that box,” Washington said. “I don’t think anything is going to be different. I’m certainly not going to try to convince him to change. I hope that just being there will cause some better focus.”
Colby Lewis was masterful Aug. 5 in shutting out the Chicago White Sox, but in three starts since he has gone 0-3 and allowed 14 runs (11 earned).
Lewis, though, isn’t worrying.
“You’re going to have games when things are going to work out for you and sometimes they don’t,” he said. “I have my approach, and I just try to follow it.”
Briefly• General manager Jon Daniels headed east for a day to visit the Rangers’ Short-Season A affiliate in Spokane, Wash., where he put the finishing touches on a two-year extension on their player development agreement. The Rangers are also at the end of their agreements with Low A Hickory and High A Myrtle Beach.
• Fans attending Saturday’s game at Double A Frisco can bid for the right to douse players in a postgame ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. All money raised will be donated to assist ALS research.