Texas Rangers

DeShields’ revamped swing produces walk-off win, pathway to sticking with Rangers

The Baltimore Orioles are in town, which means it’s reunion time.

The roster crossover isn’t what it once seemed to be, but there are four Texas Rangers players, one former draft choice, and two coaches who returned to Globe Life Park.

Chris Davis is the biggest name, followed by former TCU star Andrew Cashner, but Hanser Alberto had a significant impact in the 2015 American League Division Series after Adrian Beltre was lost with a back injury.

The most obscure Ranger-turned-Oriole is Renato Nunez, who has shown some of the power he had in the Oakland A’s system. Nunez was with the Rangers last season for about, oh, a month.

Richard Bleier was the Rangers’ sixth-round pick in 2008, but he never pitched for them.

Former pitching coach Doug Brocail took the same job with the Orioles after the Rangers opted to not keep him for manager Chris Woodward’s staff. He pitched for the Rangers during his career, as did Orioles bullpen coach John Wasdin.

That’s quite a load of ex-Rangers.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 2-1 walk-off in 12 innings.

1. The Rangers needed that win, Delino DeShields said after his fourth hit of the night drove home the game-winning run.

Mike Minor tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, the bullpen was terrific except for one pitch, and the Rangers didn’t want to drop another one-run game to the worst team in the majors.

“It was a really good team win,” DeShields said.

DeShields needed that performance in that win.

His story is well-documented, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Opening Day center fielder; slow start at the plate; hot starts by Hunter Pence, Danny Santana and Logan Forsythe; no roster flexibility; optioned to Triple A Nashville; and recalled after Joey Gallo hit the injured list.

The Rangers sent DeShields down with the goal of making his swing more consistent. He said that he worked on things with Nashville that will make it easier for him to accomplish that.

The rest is up to him.

“One of the things I was working on was trying to stay connected longer and stay through the ball longer so that I can adjust to certain pitches,” DeShields said. “That’s something I’ve done in the past. I’ve just gotten away with it. I’m just trying to stay there, and hopefully it plays out.”

The Rangers have two outfielders on the IL, Gallo and Willie Calhoun. Calhoun expects to begin a rehab assignment next week, though the Rangers have considered sending him to extended spring training.

The still lack roster flexibility, with Pence now an everyday player and with Santana and Forsythe out of minor-league options. The Rangers also are set on using an eight-man bullpen.

But DeShields can force the Rangers’ hand by continuing to hit, get on base and run his tail off. The Gallo oblique injury could work out for DeShields, if the Rangers thinking that Gallo needs to play left field more and DeShields should play center regularly.

One game won’t do it, even though it was a good game. The Rangers need to see more of that from DeShields.

“All his at-bats were really good,” Woodward said. “It looks so much better and more efficient. He brings an element we don’t have a lot of. When he’s got that swing like that, he puts a lot of pressure from an offensive standpoint, and when he gets on the bases it’s a whole other level of pressure.”

2. Shawn Kelley made a bad 0-1 pitch to Richie Martin with one out in the ninth inning, and even a batter hitting below .200 can hit a bad pitch a long way.

Martin did just that, homering for the second time this season and hanging a blown save on Kelley’s ledger. That’s No. 3 this season, for those scoring at home.

Jose Leclerc, who lost his job as closer to Kelley, followed with two more dominant innings. He looks like the pitcher the Rangers fell in love with last season and extended in spring training.

Kelley hasn’t been nearly as ineffective as Leclerc was earlier this season. Kelley really hasn’t been ineffective at all.

But he might be returning to a set-up role soon. That’s how good Leclerc has been.

“It’s getting close,” Woodward said. “I just love the kid so much. He wants to win so bad. He’s willing to do whatever we ask. He’s been pitching lights out. Just the command with his fastball and getting the weird swings with his changeup. Yeah, it’s getting close.”

That wasn’t the first time Woodward said that he was close to making the move. He nearly did it on the last homestand, but chose to pitch Kelley in the ninth on his first day off the injured list.

Woodward might have to do it out of necessity with the Rangers in the midst of 21 games in 20 days. Being forced to do it might not be a bad thing. Once it happens, Leclerc might be there for good.

3. The Rangers are still in the process of deciding what they are going to do Sunday with Drew Smyly’s spot in the rotation, and a lot of that will depend on what happens Saturday in the doubleheader against the Oakland A’s.

Chances are that either Double A Frisco right-hander Jonathan Hernandez or left-hander Joe Palumbo will pitch the early game. Woodward said that both will be available to pitch, and all those A’s right-handed hitters might play a factor in the final decision.

Bullpen usage will have the greater effect on what happens with Smyly, who has allowed 14 runs in his past two outings. The Rangers could use an opener ahead of Smyly depending on which relievers do what Saturday, but Woodward said that he won’t hold anyone back.

If Jesse Chavez or Leclerc, who have worked as openers this season, are needed in the doubleheader, they will pitch. Woodward wants to use pitchers from the back of the bullpen to have a better chance at a scoreless inning.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

“There are a lot of moving pieces,” Woodward said. “You want to get a zero. You want to make sure that’s a zero and not a three-spot.”

So, it looks like Smyly is going to pitch in some capacity, but the Rangers aren’t ignoring what is going on with him. They are searching for a solution, whether it includes Smyly or not.

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After 12 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.