Texas Rangers

‘We don’t want to put any limits on Willie entering camp. He’s earned a real look’

Willie Calhoun showed improvement defensively from spring training until his 2018 Rangers debut after the All-Star break. He has shown more improvement all around this off-season.
Willie Calhoun showed improvement defensively from spring training until his 2018 Rangers debut after the All-Star break. He has shown more improvement all around this off-season. AP

Not to put any extra pressure on Willie Calhoun as he attempts to make the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster this spring, but here’s this from his boss’s boss:

“I’d mention Willie Calhoun as a guy that we’re definitely excited to see how it’s going to play out,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “I’ve seen the work that he’s put in. I’m specifically looking to recognize him here because just because he really committed to his career this off-season. I appreciate that.”

No pressure.

Actually, there might not be.

Daniels is right, which some in the fan base refuse to ever accept actually happening. Calhoun has heard what he was told in the past, including by then-Los Angeles Dodgers third-base coach Chris Woodward when they worked together three off-seasons ago in the Phoenix area.

Woodward, now the Rangers’ manager, wasn’t just hitting grounders to the then-Dodgers second-base prospect, but also imparting wisdom.

Calhoun, now 24, needed to put all his energy into his career if he wanted to be an MLB player.

That’s what he’s done this offseason as he faces another roadblock in his bid for the first MLB Opening Day roster of his career. It won’t be easy.

“There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then, not the least of which is Willie getting a chance to go out and show all the work he’s put in. There are a lot of guys who have worked hard and looked good this winter. Willie might have been, his commitment level certainly, at a level we haven’t seen. He’s taken hold of his career.”

Calhoun became more committed to his fitness, Daniels said, by working closely with strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez and nutritionist Stephanie Fernandes. Calhoun also renewed his commitment to improving defensively after making strides last season.

He said that less weight and more strength will help him be better in left field. The problem is that the Rangers have Joey Gallo ticketed for left field and some center field and maybe even some right field.

Nomar Mazara might play left field. Shin-Soo Choo has designated hitter locked up and will play right field when he isn’t the DH.

Even the bench is no guarantee, especially for a young player still developing who needs regular playing time.

The Rangers also signed Hunter Pence to a minor-league contract, and are encouraged by his energy after playing winter ball and love the teammate and consummate professional he is.

Calhoun has already played two seasons at Triple A. Another could be in store, but the Rangers haven’t counted him out.

“There’s a role on this team for him. It just depends on how we construct our roster,” Daniels said. “Some of the position versatility of some of the guys could impact that, but we certainly don’t want to put any limits on Willie entering camp. He’s earned a real look.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.


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