Willie Calhoun ignored the call at midnight.
Calhoun figured his mom would be on the other end, just wanting to chat. But his phone rang a second time early Wednesday morning, and he didn’t ignore it this time.
Good call on his part.
“I didn’t expect it honestly,” Calhoun said, “So that was pretty cool.”
Calhoun did something pretty cool himself several hours later, homering in his first big-league at-bat this season. That provided a spark and helped the Rangers to a 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
“It felt good,” Calhoun said after the game. “I just feel that I’m back to my old self.”
The Rangers (18-22) snapped a five-game losing streak, and will have a chance to win their second series this month in the three-game series finale against the Royals (15-28) on Thursday.
Rangers starter Mike Minor allowed one run on eight hits over five innings, and the bullpen turned in four shutout innings. Nomar Mazara matched his career-high with four hits, and Ronald Guzman drove in three runs, including a two-run blast in the sixth inning.
But the story of the night was Calhoun making his season debut, taking the roster spot of shortstop Elvis Andrus (right hamstring).
Manager Chris Woodward spent most of his pregame news conference talking about Calhoun and how well he’s been playing at Triple A. Woodward ranked among the most excited to see Calhoun in the clubhouse, and had a simple message for the young slugger.
“I don’t want him to think that he has to dominate for 10 days,” Woodward said. “But I know he’s going to think that because he’s a human being.”
Well, as Calhoun’s thinking may go, the only way dominate 10 days is by dominating Day 1. And that’s what he did batting second as the designated hitter.
Shin-Soo Choo opened the game by reaching on a hit by pitch, and Calhoun stepped to the plate. He fouled off two consecutive pitches before belting a 1-2 curveball from Kansas City starter Jorge Lopez into the right-field seats.
Calhoun added a single in the seventh inning for a multi-hit night.
That, precisely, is what Woodward and the organization want to see from the man acquired two seasons ago in the Yu Darvish trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“If you get a strike, take a rip at it,” Woodward said. “That’s what you’re here to do. You’re here to hit.”
The home run served as a good way for Calhoun to start his 2019 campaign. He wasn’t happy when the Rangers demoted him to Triple A in spring training, but he’s back in the big leagues for now.
Calhoun did his part in Nashville, batting .302 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs. He reached base safely in each of his last 16 games either by hit or walk before his promotion.
Calhoun mentioned studying and replicating his 2017 swing as a reason for his early-season success.
“I think I finally figured something out with my swing, so I think that’s what’s been helpful for me,” Calhoun said. “I just got away from myself the last year and a half, two years. I saw some things I wasn’t doing last year and the year before, and I’ve been doing it in Triple A this year.”
Asked to expand on specifics, Calhoun said: “Without giving it away, I just think I’m swinging at more strikes, not really chasing balls. This is the best I’ve felt since 2017.”
Calhoun had 30 home runs in the minor leagues during 2017, and added another when he made his big-league debut later in the season. But he combined for just 11 home runs with the Rangers and Triple A last season, but has already gone deep nine times this season.
Asked about his approach now that he’s returned to the majors, Calhoun kept it simple and said: “Don’t put too much pressure on myself.
“Just have fun and just play the same game I was in Nashville.”