Willie Calhoun, the key prospect acquired in the Yu Darvish trade, said that he was on his way home to California before getting his call to the majors (video by Jeff Wilson). Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com
Willie Calhoun, the key prospect acquired in the Yu Darvish trade, said that he was on his way home to California before getting his call to the majors (video by Jeff Wilson). Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com

Texas Rangers

Here’s why the Rangers called up Calhoun and what will keep him in the majors

September 12, 2017 09:31 PM

UPDATED September 12, 2017 10:37 PM

ARLINGTON

Willie Calhoun wasn’t called up Tuesday by the Texas Rangers to sit and watch the final 19 games of the season and get his feet wet for spring training next year.

The prospect, the centerpiece of the Yu Darvish trade, is going to play and play regularly.

The Rangers think he is going to hit and hit regularly, so much so that they told him Monday night while he was in Phoenix that he would make his major league debut Tuesday.

And he did, batting seventh and starting in left field against the Seattle Mariners.

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“Obviously, getting the call-up is very exciting,” Calhoun said. “It’s a dream come true. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about ever since I was a little kid. Being able to get that call was very exciting for me. I couldn’t be happier and I’m happy to be here.”

Only a week ago, Calhoun thought his season was done. No at-bats, the Rangers said. But injuries to multiple regulars have created some openings, and Calhoun is in the majors now.

The No. 1 reason — probably reasons 1 through 10 — he received the call is his left-handed bat. That will be what keeps him with the Rangers.

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“There’s a reason why he’s here, and it’s what he does there,” said Triple A manager Jason Wood, pointing to the batter’s box at Globe Life Park. “He’s going to give you a good at-bat just about every time. He’s got good discipline both with right-handers and left-handers.

“He knows where his barrel’s at at all times. He studies pitchers. He knows what he needs to do, and he’s got a ton of pop.”

Calhoun’s stroke is compact and quick. He gets through the ball. It’s going to play, as it did as he singled and drove in a run in his first career at-bat.

Right-hander Nick Martinez spent some time at Round Rock with Calhoun and couldn’t wait to talk about what he saw in the 22-year-old, who is listed at only 5-foot-8. But there’s a lot of athlete in that frame.

“He’s got some real natural, natural tools, and it’s impressive,” Martinez said. “Just with the few weeks that I saw him play, the at-bats he puts together are real impressive. His hand-eye coordination is plus-plus, and he trusts his athleticism. It’s pretty special.”

The main concern with Calhoun is his defense and where he will play in the majors. At the time of the Darvish deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 31 trade deadline, some said that Calhoun might be limited to being a designated hitter.

General manager Jon Daniels, though, called Calhoun’s defense in left field “better than advertised.” He would play second base for the Rangers, who stuck him in left field at Round Rock.

Wood said that Calhoun gets a quick jump on balls and that his arm, while not plus, is accurate and has a quick release. Calhoun said that he is pleased with the way he played there over 24 games after the trade.

“I’m gaining a lot of confidence out there,” he said. “That’s something that I play off of a lot, is confidence.”

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The Rangers wanted Calhoun over Jurickson Profar because of the need for an extra outfielder, Daniels said. Carlos Gomez remains out because of a sprained right ankle, and Nomar Mazara was the DH for the second straight game as he copes with a sore left quadriceps.

The newest injury belongs to Mike Napoli, who has an ankle injury that required an MRI on Tuesday. The results were pending, but Napoli felt like he could have played and went so far as to inform the media that he would be in the lineup after one had already been posted.

He and manager Jeff Banister spent time during batting practice discussing the situation, almost as if they hadn’t communicated at all before the lineup was set.

Napoli did not start, and his status going forward might not be known until Wednesday.

But his woes added to the need for Calhoun.

“Our intent was to call him up and let him play,” Daniels said. “We’ve had a number of guys banged up, some more than others, but there’s definitely an opportunity for at-bats and felt that he was the natural guy to call up and fill that spot.”

The Triple A season ended Sept. 4, but he swung a bat Sunday at the Rangers’ complex in Surprise, Ariz., while in the Phoenix area visiting his girlfriend’s family. After batting .300 with 31 homers and 93 RBIs this season — .310 with eight homers and 26 RBI in 29 games with Round Rock — he said that he’s still dialed in.

That bat is why he’s in the majors and what is going to keep him there.

“You can tell just in the way that he swings,” Wood said. “It’s not thou shall not pass. He’s got a pretty good idea of what the strike zone is, and he gets his pitch to hit. He has quick hands, and he can get to a ton of balls in the zone. He’s got instincts. He’s not just up there hacking. It looks like it, but he’s got an idea every time he goes up there.”

Jeff Wilson: 817-390-7760, @JeffWilson_FWST

AL wild-card standings

Team

Games back

x-NY Yankees

+3.5

x-Minnesota

LA Angels

1.5

Texas

3

Kansas City

3

Seattle

3.5

Tampa Bay

4

Baltimore

4.5

Note: Top two teams, marked with x, would make the playoffs if season ended today.

Seattle

043

011

100

10

15

1

Texas

012

000

000

3

10

0

Seattle AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Segura ss

4

0

0

1

1

0

.295

Motter ss

1

0

0

0

0

1

.199

Haniger rf

5

2

2

0

0

1

.280

Cano 2b

5

1

3

1

0

0

.283

Beckham 2b

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Cruz dh

5

2

2

0

0

0

.285

Hannemann pr-dh

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Seager 3b

4

2

1

3

1

0

.255

Alonso 1b

4

1

2

0

1

0

.264

Zunino c

4

1

2

2

1

1

.242

Gamel lf

5

1

3

3

0

2

.279

Heredia cf

5

0

0

0

0

1

.257

Totals 42

10

15

10

4

6

Texas AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

DeShields cf

4

0

1

0

1

2

.282

Choo rf

5

1

2

0

0

0

.265

Andrus ss

3

0

0

0

1

1

.304

Mazara dh

4

1

2

1

0

1

.261

Gallo 3b

4

0

1

1

0

1

.208

Chirinos c

3

0

1

0

0

1

.268

Nicholas c

1

0

0

0

0

0

.282

Calhoun lf

4

0

1

1

0

1

.250

Odor 2b

3

0

1

0

1

1

.213

Gosselin pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

.140

Rua 1b

4

1

1

0

0

1

.224

Totals 35

3

10

3

3

9

E—Simmons (1). LOB—Seattle 9, Texas 8. 2B—Haniger (20), Cano 2 (33). HR—Gamel (9), off Gonzalez; Seager (24), off Gonzalez. RBIs—Segura (40), Cano (88), Seager 3 (77), Zunino 2 (56), Gamel 3 (52), Mazara (94), Gallo (74), Calhoun (1). Runners left in scoring position—Seattle 6 (Haniger 2, Cruz, Zunino 2, Heredia); Texas 2 (Mazara, Chirinos). RISP—Seattle 5 for 12; Texas 3 for 7. GIDP—Odor, Rua, Nicholas. DP—Seattle 3 (Alonso, Segura, Gonzales), (Cano, Motter, Alonso), (Motter, Beckham, Alonso).

Seattle

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Gonzales, W, 1-1

5

8

3

3

1

6

66

6.82

Pazos

1

0

0

0

0

3

15

3.53

Altavilla

1

0

0

0

2

0

21

4.70

Simmons

1

0

0

0

0

0

7

0.00

Lawrence

1

2

0

0

0

0

11

6.97

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Gonzalez, L, 7-11

2 1/3

7

7

7

0

1

44

4.86

Gardewine

 2/3

1

0

0

1

0

17

1.93

Bibens-Dirkx

3 1/3

5

3

3

1

1

54

4.85

Leclerc

1 2/3

2

0

0

2

2

36

4.09

Espino

1

0

0

0

0

2

15

5.68

Inherited runners-scored—Leclerc 2-1. WP—Leclerc. Umpires—Home, Jeff Nelson; First, Vic Carapazza; Second, Stu Scheurwater; Third, Laz Diaz. T—3:09. A—20,557 (48,114).

Rangers vs. Mariners

7:05 p.m. Wednesday, FSSW