Rangers' Mike Minor: Still being groomed as starter

Rangers' Mike Minor: Still being groomed as starter

The Rangers are still planning on utilizing Minor as a starting pitcher this season even after supplementing their rotation depth with the February additions of Bartolo Colon and Jesse Chavez, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports.

Along with bringing aboard Colon and Chavez as non-roster invitees, the Rangers signed a pair of veteran starters in Doug Fister and Matt Moore (knee) earlier this offseason on major-league deals and will give hard-throwing reliever Matt Bush a shot at winning a spot in a new-look rotation. Like Bush, Minor plied his trade in the bullpen last season, but the 30-year-old lefty has significant experience working out the rotation, as he racked up 110 starts with the Braves from 2010 to 2014 before shoulder issues prompted a move to relief. Of all the offseason rotation imports, the Rangers have the most money invested in Minor, which could afford him a long leash in a starting role even if he loses some velocity and effectiveness while working more innings than he did a season ago.

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Rangers' Jurickson Profar: Expected to crack Opening Day roster

Rangers' Jurickson Profar: Expected to crack Opening Day roster

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said prior to spring training that Profar isn’t being shopped and is expected to be included on the team’s Opening Day roster, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Once considered the Rangers’ second baseman of the future, Profar has since ceded that distinction to Rougned Odor after shoulder injuries derailed the former top prospect’s development. Profar, who turned 25 years old Tuesday, would likely have an easier path to everyday at-bats if he were dealt elsewhere, but he looks poised to open the season in a utility role for Texas, assuming the team’s projected regulars stay healthy in the spring. Even if injuries open up an opportunity for Profar down the line, he may not make for a particularly attractive pickup in mixed leagues due to the diminished power and stolen-base production he’s displayed with the Rangers and Triple-A Round Rock the past two seasons. Profar will at least have a better shot at sticking around in the majors on a full-time basis this season, given that he has no minor-league options remaining.

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My short list of guys I'd pay to watch take BP; Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo

My short list of guys I'd pay to watch take BP; Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo

Joey Gallo

Few guys can mash like Gallo can mash

I’m the guy that likes to hit the discount rack at a retailer store. It’s amazing how I can convince myself that I can wear just about any shirt so long as it’s priced $4 or less. Joey Gallo is that discounted $4 shirt. He doesn’t have the name recognition the big boppers out of New York, Aaron and Stanton, possess. Rightfully so. However, when it comes to putting the hurt on a baseball, few players mash like Rangers’ Joey Gallo can. Joey was one of three players to hit a ball 490 or deeper last year with Judge and Sanchez being the other two. Simply put, Joey Gallo is a monster with prodigious power. In a bizarre circumstance, he somehow surpassed 40 home runs in 2017 while failing to drive in 100 runs. I do feel the need to clarify that I am not claiming Joey Gallo to be a MVP caliber player in the same manner Judge and Stanton are. However, if I were to pay money to watch a grown man take batting practice, I’m paying to see Joey Gallo do just that. As far a Joey during a real game? You can bet on one of three things to happen; a homer, a strikeout, or a walk.

What sluggers in MLB would you pay to watch take BP?

How optimistic is Eric Nadel that he'll get to call a Rangers World Series clincher before he retires?

How optimistic is Eric Nadel that he'll get to call a Rangers World Series clincher before he retires?

Rangers radio returns at 2:05 p.m. Saturday without Eric Nadel in the catbird seat. Seems privileges are extended when you are a Baseball Hall of Fame Ford Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence and set to start your 40th season in the booth.

Nadel, 66, doesn’t begin his spring training for another week.

Matt Hicks and Jared Sandler will work Saturday’s Rangers spring training opener against the Chicago Cubs on “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3).

Here then is an advance dose of Nadel that will have to suffice until he works the Rangers-San Francisco Giants game March 3.

Do broadcasters need spring training, too?

At this stage of my career, I think a two-game spring training would be perfect. That’s one game to figure out who is on the team and one to remind myself of how to keep score.

What do you use spring training for?

I use spring training to remind myself that my primary job is to describe what’s happening on the field and in the stadium, to paint that picture. I don’t prepare nearly as much as I do during the regular season, which forces me to describe more as I don’t have a lot of fill material to use. I use the time driving around the Phoenix area to listen to CDs of old baseball broadcasters so I can remind myself how those guys did it and steal their best phrases.

When you were first hired back in 1979, how long did you expect this gig to last?

I hoped it would last past the first year, since that truly was a trial season in which I only did 30 TV games. The rights were going to revert back to the Rangers after my third year, and I figured I had a pretty good chance of getting fired at that point. That’s why I kept broadcasting hockey during the offseason, so I could easily fall back into that.

Where do you keep your Ford Frick plaque from 2014?

It’s on the wall of my home office right above my Satchel Paige KC Monarchs bobble head.

Are you optimistic that you will get a “Rangers win the World Series!” call before you retire?

That is a very tough question. If optimistic means hopeful and confident, as Webster’s says, then I’d say I am 50 percent optimistic.

Listen to Barry Horn along with Evan Grant and Kevin Sherrington on Ballzy, the SportsDayDFW podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes.

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Meet the phantom player in Rangers' organization who you'll be rooting hard for all year

Meet the phantom player in Rangers' organization who you'll be rooting hard for all year

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Last summer, in the tornado that was the trading deadline, the Rangers called up a pitcher to replace Yu Darvish. Three days later, they decided to send him back out, even though he hadn’t had a chance to make his major-league debut.

Hey, it’s still a business. Guys come and go. Transactions have to be made.

Manager Jeff Banister had to tell Clayton Blackburn, who grew up a Rangers fan, his dream would have to wait for another opportunity, one for which there were no guarantees.

And that’s when Jeff Banister found out that somebody had already had that conversation with Blackburn.

A year earlier.

“It just killed me,” Banister said. “If there was anything last year that I could do over, it’s that. It’s brutal. Think about that. It’s just cruel and unusual punishment.”

Banister appeared in one game in his major-league career, making him a “Moonlight Graham,” named for the character made famous in the movie “Field of Dreams.” According to baseball-reference.com, there are 856 “Moonlight Grahams” since 1901 who have just the one appearance on their record. But at least they have a record. Blackburn, who will start the Rangers’ exhibition opener against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday in Mesa, is a “Phantom,” a guy with a callup to his name but who never got in a game. There is no official list of how many there are.

“My dad and I tried to look it up after 2016 when it happened the first time,” Blackburn said Friday with a smile. “It’s not an easy stat to look up. He found something that said there had been sixty-something of those guys. It’s not a record you want to hold.”

And when you get down to guys to whom it’s happened in consecutive seasons: even fewer.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there are two other guys in major-league camps this year who had previous callups without ever appearing: Catcher Shawn Zarraga, whom the Dodgers had for a day last year between catching trades, and pitcher Marcus Walden, who was up for five days with Boston in 2012.

Wikipedia actually has a partial listing of phantoms. Among them: A Pittsburgh catcher named Harry Saferight, who was on deck to pinch hit on three different occasions in 1979, when the game’s final out was made.

So, it could still be worse. But not much.

Listen, here’s how baseball-sad the case of Blackburn is at the moment: Even Austin Bibens-Dirkx, the guy who spent 12 years in the minors before he finally got a callup, feels for him.

“He’s still kind of young, but that’s just not fair,” Bibens-Dirkx said. “After I got called up last year, I went a while before I got in a game and I started to wonder like, was that going to be me, too? I mean you get the callup and that’s an awesome feeling and nobody can take that away from you. But that would be pretty miserable.”

Blackburn is only 25, so there is still time to break from the ranks of the phantoms and he’s likely to open the season at Triple-A Round Rock, which means he will be as close as an arm injury or a short start away from joining the Rangers again.

But, so far, the majors have been just a big tease. In 2015, with the San Francisco organization, he won the Pacific Coast League ERA title but never got a callup.

In May 2016, the Giants called him to the majors to replace Jarrett Parker. He joined the team in Arizona and went to reinforce a tired bullpen. His parents, who now live in San Antonio, and a group of 12 family members in all got to Phoenix in time to watch Giants starters Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain combine to allow four runs in 28 innings. The emergency passed, he was sent back to the minors. The call did not come again.

“I didn’t really know how to handle it that time,” Blackburn said. “When it happens to you, it just sucks. You start to think: ‘Well, why couldn’t they just have found a way to give you an out.’ I didn’t really know how to take it.”

Last April, he was traded to the Rangers and was thrilled. Born in Amarillo and reared in Oklahoma City, he grew up a Rangers fan, regularly drove down for games, including a pair of 2010 AL Division Series games. And, yeah, if you are wondering, he’s still not over Game 6 of 2011 either.

Then came the callup. He even got up to warm up on the second night he was up. The Rangers ended up not using him. Two days later, A.J. Griffin was ready to return from the DL. Banister called him into the office.

“It had already happened once, so I think I took it better,” Blackburn said. “It was harder to tell family and friends that, ‘uh, yeah, it happened again.’ It’s not their fault. I said thanks for the opportunity. It actually looked like it really hurt [Banister] and [pitching coach Doug Brocail] to tell me they were sending me down. It seemed like they really cared. It actually gave me a positive feeling; it made me want to stay in this organization.”

He’s here. He may well get another callup this year. And there is no way this can happen a third time, right?

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The return of Elvis Andrus, and how the Rangers are honoring the victims of Parkland, Fla.

The return of Elvis Andrus, and how the Rangers are honoring the victims of Parkland, Fla.

In order to make room for RHP Jesse Chavez on the 40-man roster, the Rangers placed LHP Joe Palumbo on the 60-day DL. Palumbo is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is not expected to be ready to pitch on a rehab assignment before mid-May. … 

SS Elvis Andrus returned to workouts after missing three days with lower back spasms. He took ground balls and hit, but did not do any running. … 

The Rangers will send a lineup that includes major leaguers 2B Rougned Odor, RF Nomar Mazara, CF Delino DeShields and INF Jurickson Profar to Mesa for the spring opener against the Chicago Cubs. … 

The Rangers and Cubs will both wear baseball caps from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., for Saturday’s game as a tribute to the 17 people who died in a shooting last week. Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo is an alumnus of Stoneman Douglas. 

Twitter: @Evan_P_Grant

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