Texas Rangers

This difference from last season has helped Minor emerge as Rangers’ best starter so far

The rain finally started falling Friday in the 10th inning, seconds before Asdrubal Cabrera struck out with the winning run at third base for the Texas Rangers.

It was still falling, at times with purpose, as Brett Martin worked a scoreless 11th that was capped with Delino DeShields catching a Rowdy Tellez liner just before crashing into the center-field wall.

The Rangers missed another chance to win it in the 11th, after which fans were told to take cover because lightning was withing 3-5 miles of Globe Life Park.

An ominous announcement? Why, yes it was.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 1-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in 12 innings.

(It is the first time the Rangers have been shutout in an extra-innings game in Globe Life Park history and the first time since 1992. Good thing they got that one in the books before moving across the street.)

1. Mike Minor isn’t getting too far ahead of himself.

He understands that the Rangers have 132 games remaining and that he has 25 starts left to do. So, he isn’t patting himself on the back too much despite his start to the season.

The left-hander dropped his ERA to 2.40 after working eight scoreless innings. He struck out eight, and his scoreless night was preserved when Joey Gallo easily threw out Freddy Galvis at home to end the eighth as he tried to score on a Randal Grichuk single to left.

Minor allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings on Opening Day. He has allowed seven runs in the 44 innings that have followed.

“I hope that I keep it going,” Minor said. “I made the comments earlier in the year, especially after that first that, that’s it’s the body of work. I could have a good month, but it doesn’t matter if I don’t keep it going or help the club win as many games as we can.”

One big change from last season (no, not the fact that he is no longer on an innings limit) is that he is better suited to make in-game adjustments because he has more pitches to fall back upon if one isn’t working. His fastball wasn’t working in the first inning, when the first two Blue Jays reached second and third with no outs.

“If I don’t have a pitch or two, I feel like I still have enough to get through the game,” Minor said. “As we went on, the fastball got a little better and we starting mixing everything else after that.”

The body of work is far from complete, but what has been completed has Minor among the best in the American League. The ERA ranks third in the AL, his 48 strikeouts are tied for sixth, and his .190 opponents average is tied for seventh.

“He’s making it look easy,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s picking up strikeouts and the innings. It’s fun to watch.”

The winning run scored on a throwing error by Ariel Jurado, who might have been dealing with a wet ball as he threw wildly to third after picking up a sacrifice bunt. The run was unearned, meaning the Rangers pitched 12 innings without allowing an earned run.

You don’t see that very often.

2. A team’s closer typically pitches the ninth inning in a tie game. Woodward’s choice wasn’t going to be Jose Leclerc, who is temporarily out as closer.

It was Chris Martin, who worked around a couple singles to keep the game scoreless.

That’s not a departure from how Woodward had been aligning the back of the bullpen. Shawn Kelley and Martin posted holds ahead of Leclerc on Tuesday before he blew a 3-0 lead and lost his job.

Both will get their chances until Leclerc is deemed fixed.

It might rate as a surprise to some that Martin was the choice. Kelley has been the Rangers’ best reliever and has some experience at closing games. But because he has been so good, Woodward might want to have the luxury of using his best reliever whenever he’s needed instead of saving him for a save chance that might never come.

He pitched a scoreless 10th, stranding a runner a third.

Martin has whittled his ERA down to 3.65, and, as is often the case with a reliever early in the season, has pitched better than that figure. His issue of late has been efficiency, with 20-plus pitches in his past two one-inning appearances.

The Rangers noticed quickly in spring training that his velocity was up, and the fastball he threw to strike out Teoscar Hernandez for the last out in the ninth was 97 mph.

Right now, Martin and Kelley are better options than Leclerc.

3. Overlooked, especially by the Star-Telegram’s Rangers beat writer, was the Rangers’ signing of Seth Maness, formerly a serviceable pitcher in the National League who was done in by an elbow injury.

He did not have Tommy John surgery, but the Rangers signed him anyway to a minor-league contract. He allowed four runs in six innings Thursday in his debut with Triple A Nashville.

The addition of Maness, who was pitching in independent ball, helps with starting pitching depth and keeps the Rangers from having to adjust any of their minor-league rotations dramatically to fill voids at Nashville.

Two members of the Sounds’ Opening Day rotation are in the majors (Adrian Sampson, Jurado) and another is on the major-league injured list (Taylor Hearn).

Will Maness ever make a start for the Rangers? That seems unlikely, though perhaps he eventually pitches as a long man who would allow Jurado to return to Triple A to resume starting games.

Maness would required a spot on the 40-man roster, and that’s a problem. The Rangers don’t have any openings, have no candidates to be transferred to the 60-day IL and eventually will need 40-man spots for outfielder Scott Heineman (left/non-throwing shoulder) and left-hander Yohander Mendez (elbow).

Heineman should begin a rehab assignment soon and can spend 30 days on assignment before the Rangers have to do something with him. Mendez is a couple months away.

The Rangers are going to need a spot on the active roster by May 9 at Houston. That’s when first baseman Ronald Guzman (hamstring) is expected to be reinstated from the 10-day IL and when the Rangers will have to decide between (deep breath):

Designating Logan Forsythe or Danny Santana, trading Forsythe or Santana, optioning DeShields or putting someone else on the IL.

Knowing the Rangers, someone else will get injured before Guzman is ready to go. If not, DeShields might draw the short straw.

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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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