Rangers overcome injuries to post two walk-off wins
Washington pleased with Texas' ability to battle through tough 10-day stretch
ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington had some advice for any pitcher wondering what is going to happen in the next month or so.
"Think about the job right now, not what the job is going to be a week from now or a month from now," Washington said. "Stay in the moment."
That seems like sage wisdom after 10 days that shook the Rangers, when injuries piled up in the waning hours of Spring Training, when a roster seemed to be put together on the fly and decisions weren't made until the last possible transaction had moved across waivers. There were three players on the Opening Day roster who nobody had even thought about a week before, and a fifth starter not even on the big league Spring Training roster who was pulled from the anonymity of Texas' farm system.
Even with the regular season officially here, this is a team that seems stuck in the Spring Training decision-making mode, what with the first transaction made on the second day and a starting rotation locked into a perpetual state of suspense. When four starters from the 2012 Opening Day rotation are still in the organization, yet none are active on Opening Day, it does reaffirm the notion that nobody is quite sure what will happen next.
The Rangers do seem fairly confident Yu Darvish will start on Sunday, but nobody has said yet what will happen with Colby Lewis before his April 10 opt-out date, and there is still Matt Harrison making inexorable progress toward a late-April return. Derek Holland, whose fall over a dog on the stairs in January seemed to serve as the keynote address for all this madness, hopes for a return sometime in June.
What all that means to converted relievers Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross Jr. remains a mystery, and veteran Joe Saunders pitches Friday night with the idea he can be a stabilizing innings eater, at least until some familiar names return. Nick Martinez starts on Saturday, a cameo appearance before Darvish returns, and Martinez almost certainly will go back to the Minor Leagues to resume his development.
But if Martinez and Chris Gimenez -- the Opening Day third catcher now in designated-for-assignment limbo -- only spend one day on the active roster, they're still eligible for a World Series ring. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has an American League championship ring for one day of service with Texas in 2010.
Yet through all the extraordinary developments, the Rangers walked away from their first homestand with two exhilarating walk-off wins over the Phillies. They open a three-game series with the Rays on Friday night with a 2-1 record, giving them hope of being able to stay with the undefeated Mariners and Astros for the rest of the summer.
Though silence often echoes from beyond center field at Globe Life Park, Washington remains the stabilizing voice for the Rangers, and the "tremendous winning culture" -- as general manager Jon Daniels referred to it -- the manager has established continues to keep the team on course through the turbulence.
"There's no panic here," Washington said as the Rangers got ready to leave Arizona without their starting catcher, second baseman, former All-Star closer and 2012 rotation. "Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We're going to show up with 25 guys on Opening Day and win some ballgames."
The Rangers don't have catcher Geovany Soto or second baseman Jurickson Profar until June. But there was backup catcher Robinson Chirinos, undefeated as a starter behind the plate, deftly guiding Martin Perez through his start on Tuesday night and Donnie Murphy drawing a big four-pitch walk in Wednesday's wild ninth inning. Josh Wilson began the homestand as the surprise starting Opening Day second baseman and ended it with three more RBIs than Prince Fielder.
Then there was Jim Adduci, a left-handed-hitting outfielder with over 3,000 career Minor League at-bats who seemed to have no chance of making the team out of Spring Training. The Rangers kept saying they needed a right-handed hitter -- Kevin Kouzmanoff seemed a lock -- for the last spot on the bench.
Even if they wanted a left-handed-hitting outfielder whose best asset is speed, Engel Beltre seemed the logical choice. That was before anybody realized that Beltre played the entire spring with a crack of the tibia bone in his right leg as the result of getting hit by a pitch in winter ball.
But Adduci made the team because the Rangers wanted a left-handed hitter and speed off the bench, a move that now seems positively prescient after his pinch-hit infield single was also crucial in Wednesday's ninth-inning rally. Somebody upstairs is thinking this through.
Rule 5 Draft pick Seth Rosin was with the Dodgers on Opening Day in Australia, then he was plucked by the Rangers off the waiver wire and put on their Opening Day roster. Two Opening Day rosters in one season may be unprecedented in Major League history, but he now has three scoreless innings and his first big league win.
Rosin still has to stay on the big league roster or be offered back to the Phillies for $25,000, which could be a tricky proposition for the Rangers. After what happened this week in Arlington, the Phils would gladly write that check and make Rosin their No. 1 setup reliever.
That's a decision for a later date. "Just stay in the moment," Washington said. One moment, Mitch Moreland is rolling over a sinker and grounding into a rally-squelching double play, the next moment he is flying headfirst into third base for a triple that awoke the offense or lining a double into the right-field corner off of Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning on Wednesday.
Moreland scored on a single by No. 8 hitter Leonys Martin, who now leads Texas with four RBIs. Ten days shook the Rangers, and who knows what's to come. But two walk-off victories against the Phillies show they might be able to withstand almost anything, including their undefeated division rivals.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.