When it comes to genuinely good guys in baseball, Nelson Cruz is at the top of the list. Perhaps at the very top.
The former Texas Rangers outfielder is now swatting homers for the Seattle Mariners, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Cruz is one of the most generous players when it comes to helping the Do It For Durrett Foundation back in Texas.
He was with Baltimore in June 2014 when Richard Durrett passed suddenly. Cruz called two days later and asked two questions:
“How can I help?”
The DIFD board simply has asked for some autographed memorabilia from him and a few of his select teammates. When I stopped by to talk to him about helping this year’s June 16 event, which is sold out, he was checking through his stock of bats.
“Can you take one right now?” he said.
I nodded, and he grabbed a bat, found a Sharpie and signed it.
“Do want some balls from me?” he said.
Next thing I knew, I had two autographed balls from Cruz in my pocket.
He wasn’t done, pledging that he would tell Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez to sign some stuff, too. Cruz said that he would make sure that the foundation had them before the event, which this year takes place during a Mariners-Rangers game at Globe Life Park.
Cruz even lamented that he could make the event.
See? He’s as good as they come.
He’s also a pretty darn good hitter who is riding a 15-game hitting streak. He didn’t have a hit in the Mariners’ seven-run seventh inning Saturday, but he did score against a beleaguered Texas Rangers bullpen.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-2 loss.
1. The bottom of the seventh inning started with a lot of promise for Martin Perez and the Rangers. Ben Gamel was up, and Perez had struck him out twice. Tuffy Gosewisch had struck out and popped to second.
Of course, both managed to reach, and the inning unraveled and there are questions about Perez, the bullpen, the offense and some decisions from the bench.
The offense will be handled below. Here’s a preview: It stinks.
Perez was tagged with his fifth loss of the season and fourth in a row despite having arguably his best game of the season. He didn’t walk anyone, so, yeah, that almost automatically qualifies it as his best.
He wasn’t the problem.
The left-hander pitched well enough to win, though his pitch to first base on a sac bunt in the seventh sent the bullpen wheels in motion. Right now the bullpen is rolling around on a couple flats. Maybe three.
The lefty allowed a sacrifice fly from Cano, acceptable in that situation, and walked Cruz, also acceptable. Alvarez then got Kyle Seager to pop out on a nice play by Joey Gallo in front of the dugout.
Two outs, down two runs, a right-handed hitter coming. Bring in the right-hander.
The Rangers didn’t have a right-hander warming because the bullpen is running on its flat tires while also running on fumes. Manager Jeff Banister had to make a tough decision:
Bring in a third pitcher of the inning and risk not having a bullpen for Sunday or bring in the righty with no guarantees that the offense would score enough to make it a winning move.
Alvarez was left in, and it was 8-1 three batters later.
One of the alleged strengths of the bullpen is that they all have minor-league options remaining. If they are so gassed, the front office should go get a fresh arm. If the fresh arms aren’t any better than the gassed arms, the Rangers’ bullpen is in worse trouble than we all thought.
2. I’m not sure there’s much more that can be written about the offense at this point, though I’ll give it a try.
That’s the state of the offense: Two players who weren’t expected to make the Opening Day roster are now the only two giving the Rangers a chance consistently. Elvis Andrus probably needs to be thrown into that mix, too.
Gallo, who made the Opening Day roster when Adrian Beltre hit the disabled list, connected for his 10th homer of the season in the second inning. DeShields collected hits in his first two at-bats and was the only other runner to reach second base against Chase De Jong.
A frequent top on the Twitter is what the Rangers will do with Gallo once Beltre is healthy. The general consensus is that the Rangers will find a spot for him, but that’s not a 100 percent guarantee.
Gallo is batting .204, albeit with the team lead in homers and the second-most walks (13). Even with all the struggles the Rangers are experiencing, only two batters in the lineup Saturday had a lower average than his.
DeShields has a firm grip on left field, another position Gallo can play, and is getting on base. Gallo can also play first base, where Mike Napoli is struggling but also making $8 million.
If Gallo is going to be in the majors, he needs to play every day. No platoons, in other words. If that’s the best option, maybe the best place for him is Triple A Round Rock.
3. After next season, Cole Hamels will two months shy of turning 35 but will likely still be an above-average pitcher, possibly still an elite left-hander, who could be a winning piece for the Rangers in 2019.
Is that worth $20 million or $6 million to make it go away?
The Rangers could very well be facing that dilemma.
Hamels needs 400 innings this season and next for the $20 million club option on his contract, which includes a $6 million buyout, to vest automatically.
It’s not going to happen, barring 250-300 innings next season from Hamels. He’s out two months with a strain of his right oblique and will be lucky to get 140 innings this season.
Many factors will factor into the Rangers’ decision. For example, they might not be able to afford Hamels and Yu Darvish and Shohei Otani. Another example: They might develop a couple starting pitchers by then.
Yeah, I know. That last one is pretty far-fetched.
The point is that where Hamels pitches in 2019 is now not a certainty because of an injury that he didn’t think would be as severe as it is. But it is, and the Rangers might be looking at only one more year of him in their uniform.