Texas Rangers

Tough decisions looming now (and maybe later) for Texas Rangers’ rookie manager

Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward knows some tough roster decisions are looming.

Not only in the next week but by the end of July if the Rangers are still in the wild card hunt.

He has decisions to make with his pitching staff and with his everyday position players with Joey Gallo and Hunter Pence likely to be ready to come off the injured within a week.

A decision on the future of Drew Smyly was put off for another 10 days when Jeffrey Springs was placed on the IL before Wednesday’s 10-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Globe Life Park. Springs (left biceps tendinitis) and Pence are eligible to return on Wednesday in Detroit. Gallo could be back earlier.

A night after Smyly allowed three consecutive home runs, Joe Palumbo surrendered consecutive homers in the first at the Indians struck for five runs. They kept adding in the third and knocked Palumbo from the game. He was tagged for seven earned runs on six hits and three walks in two innings. Jesse Chavez did yeoman’s work with five innings of one-run relief but the damage had been done.

For Woodward, who is in his first season as a big league manager, the immediate decisions are commonplace for a manager. The ones coming in a month, if the Rangers are still contending for the postseason, will be even tougher.

What’s more important? Staying in the hunt for the postseason or preparing your team for bigger success down the road?

“I think you start the season with this idea, ‘Yeah, we want to win, but we also want to make sure our younger guys have every opportunity to develop at the big league level,” Woodward said. “When you have under performers, or mediocre performers, [we must consider] how far are we going to withstand failure as long as they’re doing everything we ask?”

Woodward didn’t claim to have the perfect answer to that question, and said it’s too early to even think in those terms. He said the end of July is a more appropriate time.

Still, the prospect of making personnel decisions that he would rather not have to make next week, had him wondering aloud about the end of July.

“I don’t think I ever sacrifice the long term,” he said. “Everything is geared around long-term, sustainable winning. But if it’s detrimental to our ball club and we have a chance at the end of July … we’re in this to win. That’s the whole goal. I want to win baseball games, not only this month, but next month, two years from now, five years from now with some of these same players. So it’s a constant battle [between] is it about today or is it about five years from now? I think it’s about both.”

In the meantime, he said, his task is identifying players who are winning parts, even despite a lack of production.

“Aside from the stats, who is truly making progress and buying into what this team needs,” he said. “Who is going to provide value even through lack of production? Can we withstand that lack of production and still win?”

The Rangers’ success so far in 2019 is owed as much to the character of the players as it is to their overall talent, he said. A player with sterling statistics doesn’t necessarily translate into a winning part of a team, Woodward added.

“Sometimes those guys are actually the worst players if they’re bad character guys,” he said. “You think they’re good but they don’t really help you win.”

To illustrate his point, Woodward referenced Nomar Mazara’s 10-pitch at-bat Tuesday night with Texas trailing 10-1 in the ninth. He singled and Willie Calhoun followed with a two-run homer.

“That, to me, defines our ball club. Those are the guys I want in the heat of the battle when it comes to August-September baseball when you’re in the hunt,” he said. “Those are the things that knock great pitchers out of games. Those are the things that win ball games.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.