Texas Rangers

Jurado, Mazara and minor-league coaches part of a 2020-themed day for Rangers late in 2019

Watch Rangers’ Heineman talk about first MLB homer, meet kid who caught it

Texas Rangers rookie Scott Heineman hit his first MLB home run Tuesday against the New York Yankees, and he got the baseball back from a 15-year-old fan.
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Texas Rangers rookie Scott Heineman hit his first MLB home run Tuesday against the New York Yankees, and he got the baseball back from a 15-year-old fan.

The way things were going Tuesday for the Texas Rangers against James Paxton, some writers were on no-hitter alert.

The New York Yankees left-hander, formerly of the Seattle Mariners, was mowing down the Rangers with little difficulty through the first four innings. They had no hits and he had 10 strikeouts through 4 2/3 innings before Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled to right field.

Some pieces were in place for a big game for Paxton.

The Rangers are on the road, where they haven’t hit for a couple seasons now.

Eric Cooper was the plate umpire, and his strike zone is one of the widest around.

But the Rangers had only two left-handed batters. Kiner-Falefa was one of the seven others. The Rangers know Paxton from his time in the American League West, so they should have had an idea of how he would pitch them.

Kiner-Falefa did. That was the only hit against Paxton, and the Rangers had only three total.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 10-1 loss.

Good, then gone

Ariel Jurado and his sinker looked like a good matchup for four scoreless innings against the Yankees. The right-hander didn’t give up much hard contact, and he didn’t walk anyone.

Then came his fifth inning, which was the sixth after Edinson Volquez worked the first inning as an opener. The Yankees quickly figured out Jurado.

They scored five times against him, four on back-to-back homers by Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez. Jurado was yanked after an Edwin Encarnacion infield single, and Brett Gardner followed with two-run shot off Jonathan Hernandez.

The outing was more of the same up-and-down ride that Jurado has given much of the season. He just packed it into one outing.

“He’s had a little trouble controlling those innings at times,” manager Chris Woodward said. Until that point his sinker was nasty.”

The Rangers will need to find a right-hander this off-season for their rotation. They don’t want to go with Lance Lynn as the only righty in 2020, and Jurado will be in the mass of candidates next spring.

But a more likely route is to secure a veteran right this off-season via free agency or a trade. Jurado will have is work cut out for him in Arizona, especially if he can’t find more consistency.

Saying the right things

Conversations with Nomar Mazara the past six weeks have been different than the previous 3 1/2 seasons.

He’s still laid back when he talks, but the messaging is different. It’s real talk about his hitting. Where he’s gone wrong. What he did wrong. What changes he has made.

Slumps in the best were often met with, “That’s baseball.” There seemed to be little worry that they would last.

But the one he went through to open the season lasted about a month, and dropped his average to .188. He remembers it well, at Oakland, and said that was a wake-up call. So was the frank July discussion he had with Woodward, the one in which Mazara was told the Rangers considered sending him to Triple A.

Why the change? It could be he’s concerned about his future with the Rangers, though they have no plans of not tendering him a 2020 contract. They would listed to trade offers for him, but it appears as if he’s going to be part of the picture next season.

The change of tune could be a realization by Mazara that what has worked in the past isn’t good enough. His eyes have been opened, and maybe he likes talking about his great awakening.

How about just “awakening” until he shows whether it leads to great things.

But it’s refreshing to hear such direct talk about where he’s been and where he thinks he’s going.

Minor-league shakeup

The entire coaching staff at Triple A Nashville won’t return in 2020 and Double A manager Joe Mikulik won’t return to Frisco as part of a significant overhaul the Rangers are making to the minor-league coaching staff.

General manager Jon Daniels said that the decisions weren’t about anything the coaches did wrong, but more about where the Rangers want to go.

Jason Wood was the Nashville manager and had been in the organization 11 seasons. Pitching coach Brian Shouse and bullpen coach Eric Gagne, both former Rangers relievers, are out; Geno Petralli, a former Rangers catcher, will be an instructor next season; and hitting coach Howard Johnson could fill a different role in the minors.

Their replacements will likely come from within the organization. Expect High A Down East manager Corey Ragsdale to get serious consideration for the Nashville and Frisco openings.

So why the changes if the coaches didn’t do anything wrong. Daniels said to not pin an unwillingness to dive into analytics on the coaches, as they were open to it. What Daniels didn’t say is that they might not have been as well-equipped to adapt as others.

The cream of the Rangers’ minor-league talent will be rising to the top the next few seasons. Leody Taveras is already at Frisco, and players like catcher Sam Huff and third baseman Josh Jung could be joining him in 2020.

Bubba Thompson and Julio Pablo Martinez and Sherten Apostel should be there in 2020, too, if not higher.

The closer they get to the majors, the bigger the priority becomes to get them dialed in on the way the big-league staff expects them to play.

The players need coaches who are more dialed in, too.

Daniels didn’t say that, but it certainly seems plausible.

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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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