Monday Newsletter time: Texas Rangers’ early-season decisions guided by players’ long-term health
Jon Gray opened his Rangers career with three scoreless innings before a blister started affecting him in the fourth (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press).
On Friday night, after the Texas Rangers had lost their season-opener, right-hander Jon Gray said, nope, he wouldn’t miss a start because of the blister that busted open during his Rangers debut.
Some 12 hours later, Gray was on the 10-day injured list.
Basically, the Rangers are just bumping him back in the rotation, from Thursday to next Monday. Putting him on the IL allowed them to add an 11th reliever, Spencer Patton, to the bullpen.
With an off day Wednesday, the Rangers won’t need a starter.
But giving Gray extra time is in line with the Rangers’ approach to health early on this season after an abbreviated spring training. They’re going to err on the side of caution.
“Healthwise is where our eyes are wide open,” manager Chris Woodward said. “We are on high alert just to see how guys recover, how they bounce back. I don’t know if it makes a whole lot of sense to push anything at this point.”
Relievers won’t work back-to-back days just yet, and some of them who would normally pitch multiple innings will stick with one. Starters aren’t going to go over 85 pitches in their first outings.
Taylor Hearn is scheduled to start the home opener Monday vs. Colorado.
Position players are more of an exception. They didn’t play nine innings in spring training, but Woodward said it’s not a big deal for them to play two or three extra innings.
However, at High A Hickory, the Rangers pulled shortstop Luisangel Acuna from the opener after his hamstring tightened up. The Rangers thought it was just a cramp but didn’t want to take any chances with it.
Acuna did not play the rest of the weekend and will be out two weeks.
Jack Leiter’s professional debut was a big deal, even to him.
Double A Frisco had its largest post-COVID crowd (9,233) as Chuck Greenberg, Victor Rojas and Co. geared the weekend around the Rangers’ top prospect. It looked like a lot of people took advantage of the Jack Pack.
“Pretty much every game there’s game-day anxiety,” he said. “And then for me, that first warmup pitch comes out good, feels good, then it’s like the weight is lifted off your shoulders. Now it’s like, just getting into compete mode.”
Through it all, Leiter seemed unflappable. He struck out seven and allowed one run in three innings, and at no point did the moment get too big or did the game speed up.
“You see the energy with which he pitches, with which he does his pretty game, of which the intent and the focus, and you see that and it’s an intensity that he has,” Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews said. “I don’t think it speeds up on him.”
Baseball, from the majors on down, is under way. We’ve been tapping away at our keyboards and filming videos with the best technology we can get hands out — our iPhones. The Rangers Newsletter is also packing up. In the meantime, here’s the latest content in case you missed it.
The Sunday Read: Inside Jack Leiter’s pro debut
Friday on the Farm: Josh Jung and the mental grind
T.R.’s Memoirs: Center of attention
Coming in hot. Enjoy. See you Tuesday.