Rangers Willie Calhoun on his hot start at plate
With no offense intended toward the the city of Nashville or its fine citizens and baseball fans, Willie Calhoun would rather not return there anytime soon.
Or ever, at least not as a lineup regular for Triple A Nashville.
He wants to remain in the major leagues, like, forever. He has minor-league options remaining and the Texas Rangers have a crowded roster, but so what?
Of course, every player who has ever played in the majors never wanted to return to the minors. Some succeeded. Others, including Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout, did not.
The one way Calhoun can ensure that he stays the next time a roster spot for a position player, likely next Saturday for shortstop Elvis Andrus, is to make himself indispensable.
For Calhoun, that means hitting like he did in his first two games since being called up Tuesday. He went 6 for 12 with two homers, five RBIs and four runs as the Rangers salvaged the last two games at Kansas City to finish their road trip 3-6.
He was back in the lineup Friday as the Rangers opened a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, who were making their first trip to Globe Life Park since the 2011 World Series.
That was his focus, not what could happen.
“I don’t really think too far ahead,” Calhoun said. “I just take it day by day, and go out there and give it your best.”
Calhoun went 2 for 4 with a run scored as the Rangers won the opener 7-3. All seven runs came in the second inning, which included a three-run homer by Rougned Odor and a two-run shot by Shin-Soo Choo.
Calhoun might have learned to not get too far ahead of himself in March after being optioned to Nashville toward the end of spring training, a decision that left him inconsolable for a few days even though he knew it was a possibility.
But he promised then that failing to make the Opening Day roster wouldn’t affect him in the same negative way it did in 2018, and he was true to his word. He has hit all season and has tried to make himself more versatile by playing second base.
“This year I didn’t let it affect me at all,” Calhoun said. “I had a positive attitude just focusing on things I can control. It never went to the field for me. That’s something I learned from last year that I said I’d never let happen again.”
The Rangers have three players ahead of Calhoun at second base, though manager Chris Woodward said he wouldn’t rule out sticking the left fielder in the infield as long as he is getting his work.
Being the fourth-string second baseman won’t be what keeps Calhoun on the roster.
He needs to hit, and the approach he has discovered, the patient one he has taken from his teammates, has been working wonders.
Calhoun posted a .304/.416/.557 slash line in Triple A, where he took three more walks (22) than strikeouts. He left Nashville with eight home runs in 32 games.
“That same approach is something I trying to stick with,” Calhoun said. “That’s something they’ve been preaching. There are a lot of great hitters on this team, and just being able to pick their brains and the approach and being stubborn to hitting your pitch is something as a team we’re really focusing on.”
Woodward said fellow outfielders Choo, Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Hunter Pence might play four of every five games as long as Calhoun is on the roster. That plan can be sustained for the remainder of the season.
“There’s no player that is going to play every single day,” Woodward said. “They’ve all at some point earned the right to be out there.”
The Rangers can create a roster spot for Andrus by optioning one of their eight relievers, which would leave the Rangers with a four-man bench. Woodward prefers having an extra bench player.
But the Rangers’ rotation continues to put a burden on the bullpen, one that is best alleviated by an eight-man bullpen. The Rangers can make seven work, with timely call-ups from Nashville or even Double A Frisco.
They could option Odor, though Woodward said he’s inclined to give the second baseman the chance to keep working through his slump. They could also designate utility players Logan Forsythe or Danny Santana, though that seems improbable considering the impacts they have made this season.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Woodward said. “We have too many good players.”
And a lot of optimism.
Calhoun is included in the good group. He could force the Rangers to keep him in the majors as long as things remain that way.