Texas Rangers

Why Willie Calhoun is likely to be Rangers’ odd man out

Willie Calhoun ready to see where opportunity takes him

Willie Calhoun ready to see where Rangers' opportunity takes him
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Willie Calhoun ready to see where Rangers' opportunity takes him

According to the Texas Rangers’ analytics people, Willie Calhoun is one of the unluckiest hitters this spring.

And because of a roster squeeze, his luck is probably going to get worse.

The 24-year-old outfielder might not have the eye-popping spring training stats to show for it, but his bat has been impressive through 15 games. A lot of hard contact line outs belie the fact that he has only three strikeouts in 41 plate appearances.

But will it matter? Barring an injury, it appears Calhoun won’t have a spot on the major league roster on Opening Day.

“I hate to say it’s a numbers thing at times, but it is. It creates a lot of issues trying to get him in there, but I’m doing everything I can,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “It is a challenge. There’s no question I want to get him in there as often as I can.”

The problem is there’s no place to play him. The Rangers outfield will most likely be Joey Gallo in left, Delino DeShields in center and Nomar Mazara in right. Shin-Soo Choo will also be in right when he’s not the designated hitter. Then you add veteran right fielder Hunter Pence, who has surprised some with a successful spring, as a bench option, and it leaves no room for Calhoun.

“It just creates a lot of issues,” Woodward said. “You can’t guarantee anything. Just making the team is tough. There are a lot of guys competing for a limited number of spots. It’s a good problem for us as an organization to have, but it is hard on the players.”

The first-year manager isn’t looking forward to having to tell any player, especially one such as Calhoun who has remade his body and done everything the Rangers have asked, that he’s headed to Triple-A.

“That would be one of the toughest conversations I’d have to have, but we all know the game. I played. I understand it can be a numbers game,” he said. “They put their time and commitment in. Nobody has done it more than Willie. I don’t want to send him down. I don’t think anybody in the organization wants to do that.”

But, unlucky for Calhoun, that’s probably going to happen.

“He’s created success. His performance, physicality, nutrition; he’s creating a very good ballplayer inside and out. He’s in a good place,” Woodward said. “He’s looked really good in the outfield; he’s running really well. It’s been a pleasure to watch. But it also pains me to think where it could be in the future.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.