A visit to Oakland wouldn’t be complete without a visit with Ron Washington, the former Texas Rangers manager and current third-base coach for the A’s.
He was out working with infielders before the game Wednesday, shorter work than he does before a night game but enough to make sure that the fielders are ready to go the first time a ball is hit their way.
Washington was dripping with sweat on what locals were calling a hot day. I think it was 72 at first pitch. But the fact is that Washington is now 64 and was working harder than any coach on either club.
He’s getting results, too.
His main project when hired was Marcus Semien, who committed 27 errors last season. But only six of those came in the second half, which started six weeks after the A’s hired Washington, and Semien has two errors so far this season.
Yeah, Washington is proud of that. I’m guessing he was also proud of the A’s three-game sweep of his former team.
They played well. The Rangers? Not terrible but not great, at least in the first two games.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-1 sweep-inducing loss Wednesday:
1. Work out the numbers, and Martin Perez is having a nice season. His job is to keep his team in the game, which he has done in seven of his nine starts. Wednesday’s outing was one of the two when he didn’t.
Stick with me here. He allowed four runs on seven innings and left trailing 4-1. Not an insurmountable deficit at all. He needed only 67 pitches over his final six innings, allowing a run on yet another Khris Davis homer.
But the other three runs came in a 31-pitch first inning, and the Rangers didn’t show any life the rest of the way. Rich Hill silenced the offense’s inconsistent bats, and the bullpen blew up in the eighth inning.
“The story really is the first inning,” manager Jeff Banister said.
The labor-intensive inning continues to get Perez. Two starts ago he had a 38-pitch inning at Detroit, allowing two runs — the only two he issued in six innings. He left trailing 2-0 before the Rangers rallied late. He knows those innings are an issue.
Ian Desmond continued to be the Rangers’ best player of the last week or 10 days, collecting half of their four hits against Hill and two relievers. He scored the run on (gasp!) an RBI single by Prince Fielder.
Fielder had three singles in the final two games. That doesn’t sound like much and ordinarily isn’t. But for Fielder, who is batting .195 and hasn’t homered in 26 games, it’s something.
“I haven’t gotten any hits,” Fielder said. “I’m going to enjoy these three hits. Baby steps.”
2. Sam Dyson didn’t get a chance at a save in his first official game as Rangers’ closer, but the big news outside of what happened on the field was that he has replaced Shawn Tolleson in the ninth inning.
The move become necessary and obvious after Khris Davis hit a grand slam Tuesday night in the ninth inning to send the Rangers to an 8-5 loss and Tolleson to his second straight blown save and fourth of the season.
“It wasn’t anything that surprised me,” Tolleson said.
Among the problems Tolleson identified was a bit of shaken confidence and a decline in the effectiveness of his changeup. Banister said that the bullpen’s workload so far this season has taken a toll.
Tired relievers don’t execute as well as they have in the past.
Tolleson wasn’t making excuses, and he’s OK with the decision if it helps make the Rangers better. At the heart of it all is that Tolleson wants to win. He likes his team, and if Dyson closing games makes them better, he’s all for it.
The bullpen’s current woes make it seem likely that the Rangers will seek help from outside the organization. The farm system remains plenty deep, and ownership always seems to find some loose change to pick up a contract in a July 31 trade.
By July, though, Keone Kela should be back. He’s been missed. The Twitter was clamoring for Matt Bush to be the closer, after a whole three big-league appearances. They’ve been good. He’s the only reliever in club history to retire at least three batters while allowing no hits and no walks in his first three career appearances.
But let’s check back in after his 10th appearance before giving him the closer’s job. There are big outs to be had — sometimes the biggest outs in a game — in the seventh and eighth, too.
3. Banister is hopeful that the inconsistencies the Rangers have experienced across the board are about to be remedied by players who haven’t been around much of the season or all of the season.
Shin-Soo Choo is first up. He is expected to return Friday at Houston and he will do so as the leadoff hitter and right fielder. Nomar Mazara, who has been working in left field, will move across the outfield.
Yu Darvish could be in the rotation by next weekend. He is going to make another rehab start Sunday at Double A Frisco, and it is believed it will be his last. He could pitch for the Rangers as soon as May 27.
Kela isn’t on the radar yet as he recovers from surgery to remove a bone spur. Catcher Robinson Chirinos made the road trip and will begin to swing a regulation bat Monday after swing a fungo for a week. It seems like he will be back sooner than anticipated after breaking his right forearm April 9.
Yeah, Rougned Odor is going to be down a stretch, possibly beginning Friday. There’s still no word on when his appeal of an eight-game suspension will be heard or if Jurickson Profar will be summoned.
Profar should be. As much as the Rangers like Hanser Alberto’s defense, his bat has been mostly inactive, while Profar has been seeing pitching every day and, in theory, wouldn’t need his bat to be jump-started.
If Fielder starts hitting — and his slump has been a huge issue for the offense — and Choo gets going quickly once off the DL, the offense will start to find its consistency.
Friday is going to be a pretty big day.