Texas Rangers

Rangers trying to develop young starters. Will using The Opener in front of them hinder that?

Yovani Gallardo allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings, but it could have been worse if not for Connor Sadzeck putting things together with the bases loaded.
Yovani Gallardo allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings, but it could have been worse if not for Connor Sadzeck putting things together with the bases loaded. The Associated Press

By the time the sixth inning rolled around at 9 p.m. at Oakland Coliseum, the TCU-SMU football game should have been over.

But lightning delayed the start of the Battle for the Iron Skillet two hours, and as the second half of the Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics was starting, so was the second half of TCU-SMU.

It was closer than the Rangers-A’s, and that meant it was time to listen to the TCU radio team of Brian Estridge and John Denton.

Full disclosure: They’re both my buddies. During the first of my two seasons covering TCU, they once saw me order a steak salad and a steak for dinner. That was 12 years and 45 pounds ago.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that they do a terrific job. The awards they keep piling up say so much more than I do.

They had plenty to talk about in Dallas, more than Rangers radio guys Eric Nadel and Matt Hicks.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-4 loss.

1. The Opener was a possibility Saturday for the Rangers, but a short outing by Yovani Gallardo put the bullpen to work early. More specifically, it put Connor Sadzeck to work early, and he was one of the candidates to start ahead of Yohander Mendez.

The Rangers need to see Mendez develop into an option for the 2019 starting rotation, and his ability to do that is one of the biggest September questions. It would seem that the first inning would be a critical inning for a starter candidate to pitch.

The same goes for Ariel Jurado, who entered after the Rangers’ first round with an opener Monday with Jeffrey Springs. That same combo might be used Sunday.

Not necessarily, manager Jeff Banister said.

“I think development comes with throwing pitches and seeing hitters,” he said. “Both of these guys know what it’s like to start games.”

The Opener concept dominated Banister’s pregame media session. More theories about the theory promoted by analytics proponent Brian Kenny and put to use by the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rangers, Minnesota Twins and A’s have tried it, too.

Note that the list does not include the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and all other contenders and teams who have committed resources to their clubs this season.

That seems telling.

For the rest of this season, and possibly into 2019, the rebuilding, short-on-starters Rangers will be experimenting.

2. Sadzeck replaced Gallardo in the fifth and promptly walked Marcus Semien to load the bases. Sadzeck then fell behind Chad Pinder 3-1.

But Pinder struck out and Jonathan Lucroy bounced into a fielder’s choice to end the A’s threat. It was a big moment for Sadzeck as he harnessed his control issues and turned in some nice pitching.

Pinder struck out on a curveball after a series of fastballs. Lucroy bounced a curveball to Adrian Beltre.

“It was one of those early grow-up moments on a major-league diamond,” Banister said. “For him to be able to do that and not let that inning get away from him I thought was a really solid moment for him.”

Sadzeck could have done without the walk, granted, but he ended up doing what the Rangers asked of him. He got them out of the inning with the score 5-2 instead of worse. They were still in the game.

Accomplishing that might give Sadzeck a boost of confidence as he also auditions for 2019.

3. Ronald Guzman’s night in the field was eventful, and uncharacteristically difficult for the slick-fielding, splits-doing first baseman.

He did the splits early, drawing the typical gasps from the crowd, but he also had a tough sixth inning. He committed only his fifth error of the season on a wide hopper that he probably should have let second baseman Rougned Odor take, and a few batters later was eaten alive by a hopper toward the line.

That one was scored a single, as it took a bad hop, but Guzman’s adventures in fielding helped fuel a three-run inning for the A’s.

“That’s Odor’s ball,” Guzman said of the error. “I guess I think I can get everything.”

Guzman is clearly the Rangers’ best first baseman. He catches almost everything thrown his way by infielders, splits or no splits, and he ranges to balls better than expected.

His bat has been inconsistent, which isn’t surprising for a rookie, but he atoned some for his error with an RBI double in the seventh. He missed his 15th homer of the season by about six inches.

While he has been sat in favor of Jurickson Profar at times in the second half, in part because Profar is having a nice season, Guzman looks to be locked in as the primary first baseman next season.

There’s a question that as been answered for 2019.

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