Key in-game adjustment led to Pence’s late heroics for Texas Rangers
Oh, he was their second baseman in the finale of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels, and Odor was on the bench for only the second time since the All-Star break.
Odor will return to his position Thursday after a day off that was planned before Solak was promoted Tuesday for his MLB debut. Solak, meanwhile, will happily do what he’s told until he has more notches on his big-league belt.
But as was evident in the doubleheader Tuesday, change is afoot with the Rangers. It has been since Aug. 1, when Asdrubal Cabrera and Tim Federowicz were cut loose and four players were promoted Aug. 2 from the minors.
Now, though, the Rangers are moving with more urgency in their desire to evaluate young players. They still have nine games to play before rosters expand Sept. 1 and even more players will be added.
Accommodating all of them will require the players who have been around all season, like Odor and Shin-Soo Choo, to see their playing time shrink. Hunter Pence, an All-Star, has already seen that, and so will one of the Rangers’ other All-Stars, Mike Minor.
Yes, Minor and Lance Lynn, the two best starting pitchers all season, could see a reduction in starts over the final month.
That’s life on a team already planning for its next season.
“They understand,” manager Chris Woodward said. “They understand. They’re still playing. Their sacrifice this year has been off the field. They’ve done so much. They all want to play, but they’re also seeing our younger guys take that next step in their development.”
Solak made an impact again in his third career game, an 8-7 walk-off win, by doubling twice and driving in a run. He also scored twice on RBI hits by Delino DeShields.
Willie Calhoun, who has taken the biggest bite out of Pence’s playing time, homered to open the scoring. Pence singled home two in the seventh to move the Rangers within one run, Shin-Soo tied it with a single in the ninth, and Pence won it with a single in the ninth.
Minor opened with three scoreless innings before the Angels caught up to him. They scored twice in the second and fifth to erase deficits of 2-0 and 4-2, and added three more (two earned) to open a 7-4 lead.
Minor, who lasted 5 2/3 innings, and Lynn could lose only one start from their projected pace, and neither sees that as the end of the world. They might also see their in-game workloads reduced in an effort to keep them healthy for the offseason and the 2020 campaign.
The Rangers are flirting with using a six-man rotation in September, primarily so that Joe Palumbo can log more big-league time, if the blister on his left thumb heals in time. Brock Burke, who tossed six scoreless innings Tuesday night in his MLB debut, will stay in the rotation and start Sunday.
The Rangers also bumped fellow left-hander Yohander Mendez to Triple-A Nashville to continue his rehab from a spring elbow injury. Mendez, on the 60-day injured list, is a candidate for a September start.
Woodward said that Jonathan Hernandez, recalled Tuesday to work out of the bullpen, could also get the chance to start. Hernandez made his MLB debut in the seventh inning, becoming the third Rangers player in two days to do that, and he earned the win after 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
A few more MLB debuts are possible before the rest of the season, primarily on the pitching side. Either way, veterans used to the lion’s share of the playing time might have to spare a few games for the youth movement.
“Anytime we’ve had an extra man on the roster, position player-wise, I’ve also told them I need them all to be patient if they’re not playing every day,” Woodward said. “And there’s a reason why. If one guy says, ‘I want to play,’ the other guy is saying the same thing. I can’t make everybody happy. They’ve been awesome this year as far as understanding that.”