Texas Rangers

Rangers hitters already had enjoyed a big day. It got better, but here’s why it shouldn’t have

Paul Molitor had reason to complain to plate ump Alan Porter for ejecting Matt Belisle, but Rangers Reaction has reason to complain about Molitor using Chris Gimenez to pitch the eighth.
Paul Molitor had reason to complain to plate ump Alan Porter for ejecting Matt Belisle, but Rangers Reaction has reason to complain about Molitor using Chris Gimenez to pitch the eighth. The Associated Press

Alan Porter must not have had a flight to catch.

The plate umpire felt compelled to eject Minnesota Twins right-hander Matt Belisle in the sixth inning Sunday afternoon after he hit Adrian Beltre. It came threw pitches after Nomar Mazara connected for a two-run homer for a 10-0 Texas Rangers lead.

Belisle was stunned. Everyone was stunned.

One Rangers official called the ejection “asinine.” Belisle is a respected veteran and wasn’t trying to hit Beltre, the official said.

Manager Jeff Banister said afterward that he saw no intent.

Belisle made his case, manager Paul Molitor made his case, and then the new pitcher had all the time he wanted to warm up.

Amount of time wasted: 10-12 minutes.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 18-4 victory over the Twins.

1. It goes without saying that the 18 runs were the most by the Rangers this season, so were the six homers, and the 13 extra-base hits set the single-game franchise mark.

Four of the six homers were two-run shots, by Elvis Andrus, Robinson Chirinos, Jurickson Profar and Mazara. The other two came in the eighth — a solo homer by Mazara and a three-run shot by Drew Robinson.

They connected against catcher Chris Gimenez, who has had a second career of sorts as a position player pitching in blowouts. Generally speaking, a position player pitching is acceptable.

It’s even fun, and baseball should be fun.

But Molitor’s use of Gimenez wasn’t acceptable Sunday, and here’s why: The Twins have 17 pitchers on their roster.

September enables teams do a lot of things with their expanded rosters, and never having to use a position player to pitch should be one of them. Granted, five of the 17 are starters and six of the 17 had already been used.

That still left seven pitchers available to get three outs.

Even Mazara was surprised to see Gimenez, the former Rangers catcher. Mazara started the eighth and was putting on all his protective gear, until he saw Gimenez.

“I was like, ‘OK,’” Mazara said. “It’s September. Crazy. But if he wants to do it ... .”

The Rangers have used position players to pitch 16 times in club history, including two in one game earlier this season. That was in a blowout, but with 25-man rosters.

The Twins had 17 on Sunday, yet still used Gimenez.

That’s not right.

2. One thing new about Yohander Mendez on Sunday: He did his postgame interview in English for the first time.

I marvel at how well players from other countries come to the U.S. and learn English while I know only the basics of Spanish, only a few words of Japanese and no Korean after 11 years covering the Rangers.

He also was a different pitcher on the mound, not nibbling, on the attack and forcing hitters to put the ball in play early in counts. Banister didn’t have an exact number, but said Mendez had 11 to 14 at-bats with three pitches or less after only 25 all season in the minors.

The kid appears to be a quick learner.

He has to be after what happened in June in Kansas City. The Rangers (re)booted him all the way down to Down East, where he got with their new plan and progressed back to Sunday.

Mendez knows what is at stake. While he doesn’t want to think about 2019, he knows that he is out of minor-league options and must make the team to avoid being designated for assignment.

Players who are out of options often clear waivers, but 6-foot-4 23-year-old left-handed pitchers with plus changeups probably would be fairly attractive to a number of teams. They are attractive to the Rangers, so much so that it’s not inconceivable that they would keep him around even if he struggles going forward.

General manager Jon Daniels is a big believer in the notion that players blossom at different times. Look at Nelson Cruz, the greatest example of a late bloomer in Rangers history.

Mendez will still be young next year. The Rangers will still be rebuilding and short on arms.

September, the off-season and spring training will still be important for Mendez. He should tempt the DFA gods, but the Rangers might not want to tempt them either.

3. The Opener is coming to the Rangers’ rotation, with Jeffrey Springs starting Monday against the Los Angeles Angels and with Banister leaning toward the concept again Wednesday.

There is statistical evidence to show that The Opener can be an effective tool, as the Tampa Bay Rays have shown. The Twins tried it Sunday, and Gabriel Moya coughed up Andrus’ two-run homer.

The Oakland A’s did it Saturday, and also lost. The Angels have had several “bullpen games,” but they don’t qualify as using an opener.

The A’s rotation has been overcome with injuries and their bullpen is the club’s strength, so it seems as if it’s been done out of necessity. The Angels have also had their fair share of injuries.

But those two, along with the Rays, didn’t invest heavily in starting pitching in the off-season. Clearly, neither did the Rangers, and it doesn’t appear as if they will for 2019. The Twins did, but their season has gone in the toilet and injuries have also hit.

So, if nothing else, The Opener is a way for A) low-budget teams a way to maneuver, B) rebuilding teams to experiment and C) teams with injuries a way to survive.

Maybe that’s a cynical way to look at it, but until an opener is used in a World Series game, many are bound to be skeptical.

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