Texas Rangers

When it comes to ace pitching, Minor checked all the boxes for Rangers vs. Indians

Mike Minor worked eight innings Thursday afternoon on only 110 pitches, and he carried the Rangers past the Indians.
Mike Minor worked eight innings Thursday afternoon on only 110 pitches, and he carried the Rangers past the Indians. Special to the Star-Telegram

The quarterly MLB owners meetings often provide some news, as was the case Thursday.

The Tampa Bay Rays have been given permission to explore becoming a two-city team, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Montreal.

An immediate reaction? This can’t possibly work. A conspiracy theory? MLB either wants to see if Montreal is indeed ready for baseball again or if the Tampa/St. Pete area will completely abandon the Rays and make a permanent move to Montreal a no-brainer

Moving a franchise takes time. The Tampa Bay Rays/Montreal Expos aren’t happening next season. It might not happen at all, but something needs to change with the Rays.

They’re a very good team playing on a very limited budget that too few people locally want to watch. It’s been that way for a while, too.

A tad more than 18,000 at Globe Life Park sweated out the finale of the Texas Rangers’ four-game series against the Cleveland Indians.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 4-2 victory

1. Mike Minor did the things Thursday that ace pitchers and All-Stars do.

His team had lost two straight and needed a win

His team’s bullpen had been taxed to a degree and needed its ace to pitch deep into the game

It was miserably hot, and his team didn’t need to be on the field for long stretches.

He didn’t have his best stuff, yet he was clearly in command.

Any more doubts about how good this guy has been this season?

Minor allowed one run in eight innings as the heat index scored into triple digits. He didn’t lose his grip on a 2-0 lead in the sixth when the Indians scored their run against him and had the go-ahead run at second base.

Minor got Jose Ramirez and then blew through the seventh inning on seven pitches. That’s what gave him a chance to work the eighth and finish the day at an efficient 110 pitches.

“Just phenomenal, I don’t what else to say, honestly,” manager Chris Woodward said. “It’s every time out. Every time he takes the ball he just gives us a good outing. Especially today when it’s hot out, and to throw 110 pitches. I kept asking him after every inning, ‘How are you doing? How are you doing?’ He didn’t even have like sweat on his face. It was just amazing to me how everybody else looks tired and it’s hot out there, and he’s just, eh, I’m good.”

Minor, as always, wasn’t entirely pleased with how he pitched, and was the beneficiary of some nice plays defensively. But he had done what his team needed, just as an ace would have.

“I knew that it’d be nice to split with these guys,” Minor said. “We won the first game and lost the next two. To split here and kind of salvage a little bit, a day game, a hot one and our regular guys still played. I felt good about it just because some of those guys could have easily taken a day off.”

2. Drew Smyly was shown the door Thursday morning, and that was about two weeks too late.

Outside of one start last month at Anaheim, the left-hander did very little right over 11 weeks of the season and his continued presence on the active roster wasn’t doing the Rangers any good.

He wasn’t helping them win games, and players were growing weary of having to stand on the field behind him.

Long innings. No improvement.

That’s not to say the Rangers didn’t like Smyly or didn’t feel for him after he was designated for assignment. Many players have been in his shoes, and they aren’t very comfortable.

The Rangers also want to win, and that rotation spot hasn’t been working. There was some surprise that Joe Palumbo was optioned after the Rangers appeared to commit to him Tuesday, but there were no complaints that Jesse Chavez will pitch in that spot.

It’s getting hot, for those who haven’t noticed, and the best thing a Rangers starting pitcher can do is work quickly. Chavez does that, when going good or bad.

He also has plenty of experience starting games. Yes, he hasn’t started since 2017 (that doesn’t include his four outings as an opener this season) but had started as least 20 times a season from 2015-2017.

Chavez wanted to start last season with the Rangers as they cycled through starters, but manager Jeff Banister didn’t budge. The Rangers traded Chavez to the Chicago Cubs during the All-Star break.

The Smyly demotion to the bullpen, the Palumbo promotion and now the Thursday moves again suggest that the Rangers are willing to try to solve the things that are holding them back.

Maybe that leads to a trade, either to replace Chavez in the bullpen or for a starter to put him back in the bullpen. But it seems that club brass is starting to embrace the thought of possibly being contenders.

3. Elvis Andrus tripled in the game’s first run in the first inning and homered in eighth to give the Rangers another insurance run after Danny Santana had gone deep before him.

It was Andrus’ first home run in more than a month.

He also made a dazzling defensive play.

But his biggest contribution was after the triple, when he took off from third base on a ball that barely bounded into the infield grass in front of home plate. It couldn’t have been more than 10 or 12 feet, yet he scored easily.

Andrus job was made easier once Indians catcher Kevin Plawecki went for the ball and abandoned home plate rather than waiting for pitcher Shane Bieber.

“Your first reaction as a catcher is, ‘I got to get this ball,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “What it is in my opinion is really good base running because you got to go right now. I thought it was excellent base running.”

Andrus slumped entering the month, so much so that he got rid of Baby Shark as his walk-up music. He was only 3 for 20 the past five games before going 2 for 4 on Thursday to bump his average to .303.

The homer came on a slider, a pitch that has fooled him far too often of late.

“They’re killing me right now,” Andrus said. “I just keep swinging. I’m not really looking to hit a homer. I’m always trying to get on base. Get on base in any way and help the team win.”

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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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