Willie Calhoun entered Saturday 6 for 10 with his first career homer, and the quality of his at-bats has left an positive impression on Rangers brass. Tony Gutierrez AP
Willie Calhoun entered Saturday 6 for 10 with his first career homer, and the quality of his at-bats has left an positive impression on Rangers brass. Tony Gutierrez AP

Texas Rangers

Rangers prospect is getting most out of late-season playing time

September 30, 2017 11:03 PM

ARLINGTON

The final five Texas Rangers games of 2017 have turned into a tryout camp of sorts for 2018, with young players being given some experience to take with them into the off-season while the coaches and scouts evaluate what they’re seeing.

Chief among them is Willie Calhoun, the prized prospect in the Yu Darvish trade who was called up Sept. 12 but only because Rangers veterans started to break down physically.

That group was shut down Wednesday, after the Rangers were eliminated from postseason contention, and Calhoun has been in the starting lineup to receive regular at-bats since.

For Game 161 on Saturday, he vaulted to the No. 2 spot in the lineup after batting no higher than sixth in any of his first five career starts. A different spot meant a different look for the player who hit 59 minor-league homers the past two years.

Calhoun has been hitting, going 6 for 10 the past three games. In so doing, he has further convinced the Rangers that he is going to hit in the majors and established himself as a bona-fide contender for a spot on the Opening Day roster next season.

“He’s having professional at-bats,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We’ve seen the use of the hands and the barrel. I’ve got to believe that the major-league setting here is for him, there’s high confidence. It took a little while to get him going, but he seems to be in a nice groove.

“Everything that he’s doing now has got to give him great confidence to finish out the year and be able to go into the off-season feeling good about himself and ready to come to spring training and compete for a job.”

Banister: Calhoun coming on, Choo capping strong season

Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister continues to like what he sees from rookie Willie Calhoun and Shin-Soo Choo (video by Jeff Wilson).

jwilson@star-telegram.com

Calhoun still has work to do in other facets to make himself a more complete candidate for the 2018 roster. The Rangers have played him only in left field since acquiring him from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple A team, and he needs to continue to gain experience after playing second base most of his career.

He hasn’t been a liability in his small sampling there. He’s been better than was advertised, though there are concerns about his arm strength.

Of those who might compete with him, Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson, are more accomplished defenders.

“He just started playing the outfield,” said Delino DeShields, another candidate for left field if the Rangers add a center fielder in the off-season. “He got traded over here for a reason. I feel like he’s going to contribute.”

The speed of the game is already starting to slow for Calhoun, who told himself to treat each game with the Rangers as he did games this season at his Triple A stops in Round Rock and Oklahoma City.

Confidence isn’t an issue for a player who was rated as the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect when the Rangers acquired him, right-hander A.J. Alexy and shortstop Brendon Davis. Calhoun is the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect behind center fielder Leodys Taveras.

Calhoun’s promotion following injuries to Adrian Beltre, Carlos Gomez and Mike Napoli has allow him to get to know Rangers coaches and players ahead of spring training, so he will be at ease when he arrives to Surprise, Ariz., in February.

When he didn’t start for 10 games, he told Banister that he was spending his time watching how Beltre went about his business. Calhoun studied what pitchers were doing and would talk about what he saw.

That kind of experience and exposure should give him a boost of confidence and possibly a head-start as he vies for a job.

“I’m obviously going to feel confident regardless of what happens,” said Calhoun, who connected for his first career homer Wednesday against Justin Verlander. “I have no control over that [winning a job]. I’m just going to give it my all and go out there and give it 100 percent every day.”

The Rangers have no complaints about what they’ve seen from Calhoun as the end of their season turned into a tryout camp for 2018.

“He’s going to be a good player,” DeShields said. “He’s a scrappy player. Hits the ball hard, and that’s what you want.”

GM Jon Daniels talks about new prospect Willie Calhoun

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels gives a quick scouting report on Willie Calhoun, the best of the three players acquired from the Dodgers for Yu Darvish (video by Jeff Wilson).

Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com

Oakland

000

002

011

4

8

1

Texas

041

002

10x

8

13

3

Oakland AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Semien ss

5

1

2

1

0

1

.249

Joyce rf

4

2

2

1

0

0

.243

Nunez lf

1

0

0

0

0

1

.200

Lowrie 2b

3

1

0

0

1

0

.277

Davis dh

3

0

2

1

0

1

.246

Healy 1b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.271

Chapman 3b

4

0

1

1

0

0

.234

Maxwell c

3

0

0

0

1

2

.237

Canha lf-rf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.207

Smolinski cf

4

0

1

0

0

1

.250

Totals 35

4

8

4

2

7

 

Texas AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

DeShields cf

4

0

1

1

1

1

.268

Calhoun lf

4

1

1

1

1

0

.267

Andrus ss

5

0

1

1

0

0

.297

Middlebrooks 3b

0

0

0

0

0

0

.216

Mazara dh

4

1

1

0

0

1

.253

Gallo 1b

2

3

2

3

2

0

.209

Robinson 3b-ss

3

0

1

0

1

0

.221

Nicholas c

4

0

1

0

0

2

.254

Odor 2b

4

1

3

1

0

0

.205

Hoying rf

4

2

2

1

0

1

.222

Totals 34

8

13

8

5

5

 

E—Casilla (1), Calhoun (1), Robinson (4), Odor (19). LOB—Oakland 7, Texas 7. 2B—Davis (28), Andrus (44), Odor (21), Hoying (3). HR—Joyce (25), off Bush; Semien (10), off Espino; Gallo (40), off Gossett; Gallo (41), off Castro. RBIs—Semien (40), Joyce (68), Davis (109), Chapman (39), DeShields (22), Calhoun (4), Andrus (88), Gallo 3 (80), Odor (75), Hoying (7). SB—Odor (15), Hoying (3). CS—Robinson (2). Runners left in scoring position—Oakland 3 (Maxwell 3); Texas 5 (Calhoun, Andrus, Mazara, Nicholas, Hoying). RISP—Oakland 1 for 11; Texas 4 for 10. Runners moved up—Healy, Chapman. GIDP—Lowrie, Canha. DP—Texas 2 (Odor, Andrus, Gallo), (Odor, Andrus, Gallo).

Oakland

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Gossett, L 4-11

1 2/3

5

4

4

1

0

39

6.11

Castro

1 1/3

1

1

1

1

2

25

4.38

Smith

1 2/3

1

0

0

1

1

29

6.79

Moll

 2/3

2

1

1

0

1

19

10.80

Dull

 2/3

2

1

1

1

0

8

5.14

Casilla

1

2

1

1

1

0

24

4.27

Brady

1

0

0

0

0

1

15

5.68

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Cashner, W 11-11

6

5

2

2

2

2

99

3.40

Rodriguez

1

0

0

0

0

2

17

6.23

Bush

1

2

1

1

0

1

20

3.78

Espino

1

1

1

1

0

2

18

6.00

Inherited runners-scored—Castro 2-0, Moll 1-0, Dull 1-1. HBP—Bush (Davis). WP—Gossett. Umpires—Home, Tony Randazzo; First, Mike Estabrook; Second, Gerry Davis; Third, Rob Drake. T—3:14. A—32,759 (48,114).

Rangers vs. Athletics

2:05 p.m. Sunday, FSSW

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