At one point this spring the Texas Rangers had 69 players in big-league camp to cram onto a 25-man Opening Day roster.
To be fair, some guys weren’t going to make the team. Outfielder Scott Heineman, for instance, is going to be out until early May after off-season shoulder surgery.
Also, the Rangers weren’t going to put their top young pitching prospects on the Opening Day roster, barring the injury horrors of 2014 or one of them pitching like Sandy Koufax in 1962.
The rest of the still-massive roster would be given a chance to make a case, and some players did better with theirs than others. Some have done enough to earn a spot on the team.
Alas, only 25 players are going to be on the roster next Thursday, when the Rangers open their season at Globe Life Park against the Chicago Cubs.
Here’s a look at seven players who have done enough but are either going to just miss the roster or have already been told they are opening 2019 in the minor leagues.
The right-hander finished the season in the big leagues but had to come to camp on a minor-league deal. Well, he’s been dealing, posting a 1.93 ERA in five games/14 innings. He has 10 strikeouts thanks to a slider that has become the out pitch the Rangers said he needed. Sampson’s biggest problem is the need the Rangers have for starters at Triple A. He wants to be a starter but would take a long-man role.
The veteran and most experienced big-league starter in camp had a 1.04 ERA entering his start Thursday against the Chicago White Sox. He has declared that he won’t take an assignment to the minor leagues, and that has the Rangers in a bit of a bind. Hammel would be an ideal first man up in case of an injury to a member of the rotation. If the Rangers go with eight relievers, as it appears they will, Hammel could be the guy.
His 37 saves in 2016 for the Philadelphia Phillies might not have always been the prettiest, but he knows how to pitch. Gomez made some changes to his mechanics while pitching sparingly in 2018 and this spring has been one of the Rangers’ best relievers. If the Rangers choose to take only one left-handed reliever in their bullpen, Gomez has a real chance.
The Rangers are trying to decide if Martin will pitch at Nashville or Double A Frisco, where he was optioned after an impressive spring that brought him from deep in the field to the lead pack of left-handed relievers. He struggled badly at Frisco last season both as a starter and a reliever. His spring suggests those woes are way behind him. With a spot on the 40-man roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Martin make his MLB debut this season.
One of the two lefties remaining in camp, but the only one without a spot on the Opening Day roster, Bird has been impressive against lefty hitters. Jeffrey Springs is the lefty with a job, and he will be asked to pitch multiple innings. A second lefty, one who could enter to face Michael Brantley or Matt Olson or Andrew Benintendi, would be handy. The decision could come down to Bird or Hammel, a right-hander.
He lost the weight, improved his lifestyle and became a better player. The spring statistics don’t show the progress the outfielder has made. He deserved to make the team, manager Chris Woodward said. Calhoun, though, doesn’t have the versatility the Rangers need on a short bench, and he’s just another as a left-handed-hitting outfielder in a more experienced, more talented group. That’s why he will open 2019 at Nashville.
Take it from former Rangers manager Ron Washington, who said that Santana can be handy at shortstop and is a great spring player. He has turned in a nice spring and would be an asset as a backup center fielder in case Joey Gallo’s groin strain becomes more of an issue. That doesn’t appear to be the case a week from the season starting, but that is Santana’s saving grace at this point as infielder Logan Forsythe looks to be on the team.