This isn’t the first postseason rodeo for Jon Daniels, so he realizes there’s no rush to get the Texas Rangers’ roster set for the American League Division Series.
And, truth be told, there aren’t too many decisions that need to be made by 9 a.m. Thursday.
Breaking: Adrian Beltre will be on the roster. So will Cole Hamels.
But the decisions that general manager Daniels and his front-office staff, the coaching staff and the scouting department are mulling over aren’t insignificant.
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They need to collectively agree on the four starters from the five-man rotation who will pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays, beginning Thursday at the Rogers Centre. They must decide if they will go with seven or eight relievers, and, as a result, 13 or 14 position players.
Of those position players, will five of them be outfielders or will three of them be catchers? Who will be the second left-hander in the bullpen? Who will be the bullpen’s swingman?
The Rangers started analyzing the possibilities last week and did so with more earnest Monday.
“We haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk to any of the players that are involved, so it’s a little sensitive,” Daniels said. “We don’t want to release any of that until we’ve had a chance to talk to those guys first.”
Daniels said that manager Jeff Banister could reveal the Rangers’ rotation as early as Tuesday, and possibly the entire roster. Yovani Gallardo and Derek Holland threw bullpen sessions Monday while most players were off, and they appear to be candidates to start Game 1 on Thursday afternoon.
Daniels said that the Rangers are leaning toward 11 pitchers and 14 position players, and the odd man out of the rotation has a good chance of landing in the seven-man bullpen.
The right-handedness of the Blue Jays’ lineup might point to keeping the two right-handers in the rotation, Gallardo and Colby Lewis, while lefty Martin Perez gets pushed out or into the bullpen.
Toronto led the majors in on base-plus-slugging percentage against lefties (.818), but — as the majors’ highest scoring team — they also led against right-handers (.791). The Rangers could be mulling who their best four pitchers are right now.
“The way the team sets up, there really isn’t a ‘fifth starter,’ ” Daniels said. “All these guys have made cases to be included, and that’s a big reason we’re here. ... You also don’t want to try to outsmart the process. At the end of the day, you want your best players out there deciding those games.”
891 Runs scored this season by Toronto. The Blue Jays had a .463 slugging percentage vs. lefties, and a .455 mark vs. righties. All three led the major leagues.
Daniels said that right-hander Keone Kela will be available even though he has dealt with elbow issues and arm fatigue for the past month, so he figures to be a bullpen lock with closer Shawn Tolleson and fellow set-up relievers Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman.
Though right-hander Keone Kela hasn’t allowed a run since July 30, he made only nine appearances in September and October. Just four of those came in the final two weeks.
After that, though, the Rangers will have to decide between righties Chi Chi Gonzalez and Ross Ohlendorf for a spot as a reliever who can work multiple innings, and if they want Sam Freeman or Andrew Faulkner to be the second lefty.
“He was available [Sunday],” Daniels said of Kela. “Barring something unforeseen, our plan is to have him out there.”
Robinson Chirinos (left shoulder) has convinced the Rangers that he can be relied upon behind the plate along with Chris Gimenez. Bobby Wilson would be the third catcher if the Rangers took that route.
Josh Hamilton (left knee) answered any lingering doubts about his ability to be an everyday player during the final week of the season. Injuries are always an issue with Hamilton, so that could cement spots for veteran bench pieces Will Venable and Drew Stubbs as the fourth and fifth outfielders.
Hamilton playing on the Rogers Centre turf, though, isn’t a concern for Daniels.
No more so than making a diving catch and banging into a wall. I don’t think the turf is going to be any more challenging than that catch was.
Jon Daniels on Josh Hamilton playing on artificial turf in Toronto
“At this point with Josh, it’s a health deal,” Daniels said. “Just like everything else with him, it never ceases to amaze you, whether it’s pinch-hitting a week after surgery, playing nine innings two weeks later, or three weeks later making a diving catch into the wall.
“From what I saw this weekend, I saw really good at-bats. He managed the swing-and-miss a little bit. In-game adjustments, the ability to control the strike zone, those are big things for Josh.”
The Rangers don’t have many decisions left to make for their division series roster, but the ones they are mulling over aren’t insignificant.
ALDS Game 1
Rangers at Blue Jays,
2:37 or 3:07 p.m. Thursday, FS1