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Options.

He had a shockingly strong rookie campaign, but his sophomore season got off to a start that went from rocky to worse.  He wasn’t hitting, he was sloppy and unreliable defensively, and then he was sitting. 

And on May 11, he was optioned for the first time, shipped to AAA.

That was Rougned Odor, one year ago today.

Batting an anemic .144/.252/.233, Odor went down to Round Rock, took the demotion as a challenge rather than as a sentence, hit .352/.426/.639 over 30 games, and returned to Texas on June 15. 

Odor hit .292/.334/.527 the rest of way for the Rangers, and then put up an .881 OPS in the ALDS.  All told since his five-week trip to the Pacific Coast League that kicked off a year ago today, he’s a .297/.335/.534 big league hitter.

When Odor was optioned last May 11, Texas purchased the contract of journeyman Tommy Field to help hold second base down.  The move was clearly designed to get Odor going, not to get Field to the big leagues.

But when Odor returned in mid-June, the move was made, at least in part, based on something other than his own timetable.  Delino DeShields had strained a hamstring, forcing a DL move.

It’s May 11 again, and today’s report is not about Rougned Odor.  It’s about the other guy.

It’s May 11, and I’d like to see DeShields optioned for the first time, shipped to AAA.

For the good of the team and, hopefully, of the player.

The way you keep Nomar Mazara’s bat in the lineup when Shin-Soo Choo returns from his rehab assignment is to put them on the outfield corners, and make Ian Desmond the everyday center fielder.  

You won’t lose anything defensively in center.  Desmond — whose experience in the outfield isn’t that much less than DeShields’s — is the better defender of the two right now, in just about every category.

The arrival of Drew Stubbs, a capable center fielder for the bench, means you don’t need to wait for Choo to farm DeShields out.

And I promise: This is the report I planned to write this morning well before Ryan Rua obliterated righthander Matt Albers’s two-out, 1-2 fastball over the center field fence to give Texas its most dramatic comeback moment of the season, and its largest since August 1, 2012, when Rua was in his first full pro season, playing third base for Short-Season A Spokane, and DeShields was in his second, playing second base for Low A Lexington and High A Lancaster.

Coming into last night’s eighth, which Texas entered down, 11-6, Albers had allowed one earned run in 15.2 2016 innings.  He’d held righthanders to a .189/.250/.216 average in 40 plate appearances.   

Rua, largely called upon against left-handed starters this year, had hit .160/.192/.200 off righties in 26 trips.

But he got the chance in the eighth, almost out of necessity, and he took advantage of it.

I’m more than OK letting Rua face anyone for a few days, while Choo rounds back into game shape.

But this report isn’t about Ryan Rua, either.

I would option DeShields this morning.  I’ve been leaning that way for a couple weeks.  

He’s taking third strikes and bad routes.  He’s swinging for the fences when that’s not his game.  He’s tentative in the field and, suddenly and stunningly, tentative on the bases.

Call Andrew Faulkner up, and designate Anthony Ranaudo for assignment — I have doubts as to whether he’d be claimed on waivers, and regardless, given his five-walk fourth (immediately after Bryan Holaday’s three-run homer tied the game), the manager and pitching coach aren’t going to trust Ranaudo to get any pivotal outs anytime soon.

(Opposite case with Alex Claudio, who was sensational in what looked like mop-up duty and ended up absolutely earning the improbable win and the trust of the manager.  If he gets optioned today to get a second fresh arm up here — hopefully not necessary given that Cole Hamels is starting and the team is off tomorrow — he’ll be back.)

Moving Ranaudo off the 40-man roster allows you to purchase either Jared Hoying or James Jones, neither of whom in on the 40-man.  

While Stubbs’s presence doesn’t make it as important to get another center fielder up here if DeShields is sent out, you do want another outfielder available aside from Stubbs, and while putting Hoying on the roster, especially if it’s just for a few days (until Choo returns), means he could end up taking up a spot on the 40 all season, the 26-year-old (27 next week) can leave as a six-year free agent this winter if not on the roster.  He’s had a very good start to his fourth AAA season (.279/.391/.532, 15 extra-base hits and 19 walks in 30 games, plus seven stolen bases), plays all three outfield spots, and I’m not sure what DeShields does — right now, at least — that Hoying (who’s played all three outfield spots this year, and primarily center) can’t.

Hoying will be gone this winter anyway if he’s not rostered in advance.  He’s earned an opportunity to compete for big league work, whether it’s here or somewhere else.  If he comes up here and, as 60-day DL players like Robinson Chirinos and Tanner Scheppers and Keone Kela and Josh Hamilton need reentry onto the roster, eventually gets designated for assignment and lost on waivers or traded, then his departure would be accelerated by a few months.  OK.

Or maybe he does enough good things here in the meantime, and he stays.

But this report isn’t about Jared Hoying.

It’s about a player whose actions look tentative, whose confidence looks shot, whose body language suggests that he’s not so sure he’s the player he was a year ago, and whose production suggests just that.

Challenging DeShields with a AAA assignment could pay dividends down the road.

Hope so, at least.

That’s what this report is about.

Desmond in center, Mazara in right, Rua in left.  Stubbs and Hoying on the bench.  One of them starting against certain lefties, with Rua moving to first base. 

Mazara to left, and Hoying back to AAA, when Choo returns to reclaim right field.

Delino DeShields in Round Rock, leading off and playing center field every day.  Asked to get bunts down.  Running again.  Taking charge defensively.  Refinding the edge he played with last summer, when he was so important to this team’s success.  

The league has adjusted to DeShields.  It’s his turn to respond, and that process should start in the Pacific Coast League.

DeShields can return when the time is right.  In the meantime, if a stint 200 miles south motivates the second-year player and gets him going again, much as a reassignment to AAA a year ago today did for another second-year player, then the big club will be better off for it in the long run — and, the way things have been going, may not suffer for it in the meantime.

Daydreaming.

On Friday . . . . 

Richardson High School righthander Jose Padilla: Complete-game win (one earned run) in the Eagles’ playoff opener, a 13-4 win over Irving Nimitz.

Low A Hickory righthander Erik Swanson: Goes 5-1-0-0-1-7, improving his record to 3-0, 1.03 with 14 hits — all singles — and six walks allowed in 26.1 innings (.151/.202/.151), with 26 strikeouts.  He’s making himself a legitimate prospect.

High A High Desert righthander Cole Wiper: Pitches into the fifth inning, holding Rancho Cucamonga to two runs in a 7-2 Mavericks win.  Not his cleanest effort of the season, but he’s pitching in a tough environment and working toward rehabilitating his prospect status.

AA Frisco righthander Connor Sadzeck: Improves to 4-0, 2.60 (.179/.263/.299) with a dominant 7-2-1-1-3-9 effort in San Antonio, punching out a career-high nine and helping to push the RoughRiders’ record to 21-6.  He’ll pitch in the Major Leagues this summer.  For someone.

AAA Round Rock righthander Yu Darvish: Ramps up to three innings, throws 50 pitches, sitting 94-96, touching 97.  Looks great.  He’s going to return to the big league rotation, soon.

Texas Rangers lefthander Cole Hamels: Seven strong.  Allows a hit to the first batter he faces (an Ian Kinsler single to right), and that’s it (7-1-0-0-2-9).  Season-high nine strikeouts.  Career-best 11-game win streak in the regular season, which is the second longest active streak in the big leagues.  Team undefeated the five times Hamels has pitched after a Rangers loss (4-0, 3.15, with one no-decision).  

Seventh time in franchise history a Rangers pitcher allows one hit in seven-plus with at least nine punchouts.  

The previous two were turned in by Darvish.

Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, together for the first time.

Won’t be long.

Daydreaming.

Paranoid fans.

Wednesday I was cleared to drive, for the first time in almost two months.  It was weird and it was awesome.  

The second time I got behind the wheel was yesterday afternoon.  On my way to physical therapy, I flipped around XM Radio — which had been one of the casualties of having to rely on others to drive me around all this time — and the song that came on Channel 26, as I pulled into a parking spot, was “Destroyer” by the Kinks.

I smiled at the randomness of that 1981 song, which I’d wager I hadn’t heard in 10 years (and which I always thought was called “Paranoia”), finding me a few hours before I’d be heading to an event hosted by the good folks at Paranoid Fan.

The gathering last night at the Blind Butcher was super cool and helped take the sting out of the most lopsided Rangers loss of the season.  By time the Blues scored 10 minutes into Game 4 to take a 1-0 lead on the Stars, Derek Holland was already done for the night in Toronto, handing an 11-1 deficit off to Cesar Ramos with the third inning still going. 

Stop.

Hold on. 

Stay in control.

It’s been such a great hockey season.  But when St. Louis stole Game 2 in overtime to tilt home ice advantage in its favor, and then in Game 3 took it to Dallas with more decisive force than the Jays’ assault on Holland, the sense that the series and the season were slipping away was sorta tough to dismiss.  Blues 6, Stars 1 felt uncomfortably conclusive.

And then, last night, 45 minutes after Cody Eakin and Patrick Sharp each missed point-blank opportunities to give Dallas a lead in the third, the same two connected three minutes into overtime.  Dallas 3, St. Louis 2, home ice back in hand.

Ye (we) of little faith.

The hockey team washed Game 3 off, even if most of us couldn’t.  

Texas draws the insanely dominant Jordan Zimmermann in Detroit tonight.  

But the Tigers draw Cole Hamels.

New day.  

Zimmermann and Hamels were in the NL East together for seven seasons.  Zimmermann faced Hamels’s Phillies 14 times but matched up with him just once.  

That was four years ago today.  Hamels went eight strong and got the 9-3 win.  Zimmermann went a decent six and took the loss.   

That Phillies-Nationals game, you might argue, has as much bearing on tonight’s Rangers-Tigers opener as Toronto 12, Texas 2.  Game 4 in St. Louis wasn’t exactly the foregone conclusion that Game 3 promised.

Getting around the great Jonah Keri last night made the baseball game easier to endure.  No matter how much you think of that guy, and I think a whole lot of him myself, there’s another level that he’s headed toward.  Fired up.

Same with Jake Kemp.  Sky’s the limit.

And the folks who launched Paranoid Fan.  They’re doing things that haven’t been done and that should be, and they have the right people executing the vision.

Don’t mean to leave you out of this, Sean Bass, but you can be strong to quite strong already and that’s hardly a knock.  #Elvisball

The baseball team has another gear, too.  It’s in the thick of the race, there are impact players close to returning, and there will be impact help arriving in July, too, as there always is around here.  

The offense can be better.  The rotation can be better.  The bullpen can be better.

And yet, with all the warts, Texas is in a virtual tie for a playoff spot this morning.

This isn’t the Astros, sporting the second-worst record in the league, or the Angels, who just lost their ace (and possibly another promising young starting pitcher as well) for the season and have baseball’s worst farm system to turn to for help, either that kind or the other.

Things are good here, and there’s all kinds of reason to believe there’s another gear.

So much to live for.

So much to aim for.

So much to try for.

You’re blowing it all with paranoia.

The song is older than Eakin and it’s older than Sharp.  It’s older than Hamels and it’s older than Zimmermann.  I’m pretty sure it’s older than Jake.

It’s helpful this morning.

Paranoid Fan > paranoid fans.

Game 3 in St. Louis didn’t spill over into Game 4.  Lots of us worried it would.  The local team didn’t. 

There’s no reason Toronto 12, Texas 2 — or the two walkoffs that preceded it — should affect Texas-Detroit tonight, or this weekend.  You know: slam dunk, two points, move on.

If there’s one thing this hockey week has taught us as far as this baseball week is concerned, it’s that washing the bad stuff off should be a whole lot more difficult for the players and coaches than it is for you and me.  We’d be well advised to follow their lead.

Stop, hold on, stay in control.

Hang in, hang out.

Yes, Texas could have pushed another couple runs across, and that would have been better.  

See just about every other competitive game the Rangers have ever lost.

The pitching staff, relying on the back half of the rotation and, necessarily, on the back half of the bullpen, could have issued fewer than a relatively acceptable three walks and would like to have one of its 135 pitches back in particular.

OK.

It’s no fun to see a newly hated rival like the Blue Jays bounce around on the field after the final ball put into play.

But it’s pretty cool to be a fan of a team whose rivalries go beyond geography.

That usually means you’re pretty good.  

The defense was good and the baserunning didn’t crack and four of the lineup’s nine reached base twice, including the reunited catcher whose arrival (and the AAA ticket that resulted for another player) seemed to bother some fans.

There was more evidence of what might just be an unexpected leadoff answer.  An aging starting pitcher who needed to go deep, and rescue the pen, did.  The one reliever who had pitched himself out of a key role over the first month looked really good.  The cleanup hitter whose slug is lowest among the club’s regulars is starting to square up the opposite way a little bit, and that’s good.

It was a close game, well played on both sides, and, yes, you can point to a few moments, that if they’d just gone a different way . . . . 

The other team, had they lost, would have been able to say the same thing.

Relax.

Or don’t.

The best teams in baseball history lost a third of their games.

That, for me, was as untroubling a walkoff loss as I can remember.

Derek Holland against J.A. Happ tonight, presumably a bullpen back at full strength, and a chance to split a road series with a good baseball team.

Come hang out and watch it with Jonah Keri and Sean Bass and Jake Kemp and me tonight.  There will be free things to drink and free things to read and a ballgame on TV between two good clubs with a chippy recent history who have played three really tight games this week.

If Toronto 4, Texas 3 still has you worked up this morning, knock yourself out, I guess.  

But don’t be afraid to hang in there.  It’s cool.

Pained relievers.

The Rangers have that really shiny stat, the one about the starting pitchers logging at least five innings in every one of the club’s 27 games, the longest season-opening streak in franchise history.  

That’s really impressive and very good.

Texas has 20 Quality Starts in those 27 games.  Last year, the club’s 20th Quality Start came in Game 44.

Outstanding.

The Rangers rotation sports an ERA of 3.06.  Only the White Sox have a stingier mark in the American League.

Awesome.

All this, without Yu Darvish.

Exceptional.

No rotation in baseball has generated more double play groundouts.  They’ve held baserunners well — they’ve allowed only four stolen bases, with five other attempts thwarted.  They’ve been healthy, needing only one start from someone other than the regular five.  

Excellent.

Here’s the problem.

In those 27 starts, each of which has lasted at least five frames, only three times has a Rangers starter completed the seventh inning.  

Cole Hamels went seven on Opening Day.

A.J. Griffin went eight a week ago.

Colby Lewis went seven two days after that.

Seven times those standard 5.0+-inning efforts failed to complete six.

In 27 games, Texas starters have logged 162 innings.

That’s a clean six frames per start.

Easy math.

Uneasy otherwise.

There’s residual damage, unsurprisingly.

The Rangers bullpen, believed to be a strength coming into the season — and objectively speaking, there was and is no reason to think of it otherwise — has the American League’s worst relief ERA (4.95) and worst opponents’ batting average (.278) and worst WHIP (1.44 baserunners per inning) and worst OPS (.846). 

Texas is right in the middle of the AL pack as far as straight reliever workload is concerned, but a rotation ballyhooed thus far for not yet putting up a clunker hasn’t really saved the pen like you might think.  

Pick a Rangers reliever, any one of them, and you can point to a drop in velocity or a dip in command in the last handful of games, if not both.  Losing Keone Kela to injury hurts, without a doubt, but really, outside of Tony Barnette and Phil Klein (last night’s 10th notwithstanding), the men in the Texas bullpen haven’t been as sharp lately as we’re accustomed to seeing.

Sometimes it’s been difficulty throwing strikes.  Other times an inability to put hitters away, resulting in long at-bats and high pitch counts.  

Last night, six Rangers relievers went a combined 4.1 innings.  Before Klein’s final pitch, the pen line was 4.1-4-1-1-3-7.  Too many baserunners but ultimately effective in run prevention (though, of course, the one run, off Shawn Tolleson, extended the game) — still, in getting those 13 outs the pen needed 99 pitches, only 57 of which were strikes.

That’s far too many pitches (nearly 23 per frame), and not enough strikes (an uncharacteristic 58 percent).

They’re better than this.  But they’re getting worked hard, and when they’re needed for a third of the game nearly every night, it adds up.

There are reinforcements who should be called on for help at some point, but none is banging the door down at the moment.  

Luke Jackson is missing bats (14 strikeouts in 8.1 AAA innings) but he’s issued seven walks and still hasn’t been asked to work back-to-back nights, likely because his spring training was abbreviated due to a lower back issue.  

Andrew Faulkner is getting straightened out (3.1-1-0-0-0-4 in his last four outings) but has had at least two days down between Round Rock assignments.  

Matt Bush hasn’t worked consecutive days since his first two Frisco appearances, and while he’s been outstanding overall (.163/.245/.326, with 14 strikeouts and four walks in 13 innings), his readiness for the big leagues is being evaluated not only between the lines.  

Plus he’s not on the 40-man roster, an issue that’s going to get stickier once Darvish comes off the 60-day DL.

Same goes for non-roster candidates like Michael Roth, Francisco Mendoza, Jefri Hernandez, and Carlos Fisher, each of whom has had an interesting start to the season out of the Round Rock bullpen. 

Jose Leclerc, shifted to the Frisco bullpen a week and a half ago, has been more effective in that role, but he’s getting three days of rest between outings as the transition takes hold.  He’s on the 40-man roster but not ready to help.  The big league bullpen, under the circumstances, can’t afford middle men who can’t yet work more than once every three days (let alone two).

Connor Sadzeck, also on the roster, made a Sunday relief appearance for the RoughRiders after four starts — but that was only because he took the ball after Darvish’s two innings were done.  Some think Sadzeck’s future is in relief, but he’s being groomed as a starter for now.

Tanner Scheppers will eventually be an option, presumably, but he’ll need a rehab assignment before returning to Arlington, and there’s been no signal that that’s imminent.

The Rangers rotation is on a healthy streak of not getting chased early, and that’s cool and that’s good.  But every once in a while, a 7.1 or 8.0 would be really helpful, because the bullpen is on a workload streak of its own, and while consistently chewing innings up is what you want from your starters, it’s the last thing you want from your relievers, especially as a unit.

Present, tense.

The Rangers rolled into Rogers Centre and took Game One of the series in what was, to date, the game of the year.

True on October 8.

True again, 207 days later. 

Texas 2, Toronto 1, two days into May, had moments of mid-October intensity, palpably ratcheted up because of what happened the last time the teams took the field together.

At that time, Nomar Mazara hadn’t played a baseball game in nearly a month, and was a month and a half away from getting a text letting him know he would be going to his first big league camp the next spring.

Brett Nicholas, who finished his Round Rock season with Mazara a few weeks before the Rangers-Jays ALDS, was days away from reporting to Estrellas de Oriente for what would be his first taste of the Dominican Winter League, as he was doing everything in his power to make his case for a big league chance.

No telling what A.J. Griffin, who hadn’t thrown a professional pitch in four months (and even then, hadn’t thrown many since 2013), was doing.

None of them were in Toronto for Game One, or Two, or Five.

Nobody was bigger last night than those three.  If this were the Stanley Cup playoffs, no question who the Three Stars would have been as the Rangers took the opener of this four-game set.

There was Griffin on the mound, scattering five baserunners in six innings while punching out a career-high-matching nine (over 52 starts).  Were it not for a brutal baserunning decision by a player whose greatest weapon is supposed to be his baserunning — all things considered, I’d be all for an assignment to Round Rock for Mr. DeShields, in hopes that he’d respond to it the way that Rougned Odor did when he was optioned last May 11, with Ian Desmond sliding over to center field and either Jared Hoying or James Jones coming up to give the team a fourth outfielder capable of playing center — Griffin might have earned another victory.

Those are just numbers, though, and instead the win went to Tony Barnette, his first in the big leagues, while Griffin’s win-loss held at 3-0 and his ERA ticked down to 2.32.  

Barnette, in mid-October, was getting ready for the Yakult Swallows’ Japan Central League playoff series against the hated Yomiuri Giants.

There was Nicholas at the plate and behind it, giving Texas a one-run lead with a second-inning home run, helping preserve a one-run lead with a sensational play on the back end of a crazy-great 9-2 double play in the eighth, and catching Griffin, Barnette, Sam Dyson, and Shawn Tolleson as they combined to hold Toronto’s formidable offense in check.

And there was Mazara at the plate and in the field, owning the eighth inning as he took Gavin Floyd deep to lead off the frame and gunned Michael Saunders down at home to end it.  

Slow heartbeat.

Mazara’s, that is.

Not mine.

I mentioned on Twitter last night that there are times I hate sports for making me love it so much — and that, at least as Texas took its 2-1 lead to the ninth — that wasn’t one of them.  

That was sports at its near-best.  

The American League’s Rookie of the Month for April — slightly unforeseeable as he was busy singling twice and homering in a 9-3 Express win over the Iowa Cubs on April 9 — may have just played his best baseball game yet.  In May.

Three days after the Rangers signed Mazara for a controversial $4.95 million as a 16-year-old Dominican, he was in Arlington taking batting practice with Josh Hamilton.  I was there, and I wrote this about it.

Two weeks after that, I wrote this feature on Mazara for MLB.com

I’m prone, you might agree, to getting overly excited about prospects.

I wasn’t excited enough about Nomar Mazara.  

Which is not the same as being unexcitable, a really cool aspect of the Rangers’ right fielder and number two hitter’s game.

Not yet part of mine, not when the game is at its tense, intense, electrifying best, which doesn’t always line up with the relative significance of its position on the calendar.  

Prologue?

Since the last time Texas and Toronto met, a full 40 percent of the Rangers’ 25-man roster has changed.

Since that ineradicably memorable meeting, a full 40 percent of the Blue Jays’ 25-man roster has changed, too.

David Price has moved on, as has Yovani Gallardo, and if you think those two don’t belong in the same sentence, think back to which pitcher had the other team’s number last season.

J.A. Happ and A.J. Griffin are in, and while their handedness and their groundball tendencies and their initials are opposites, their records (3-0, 2.76 and 3-0, 2.52) and their place among the league’s early surprises line up nicely, though it’s not as if they hadn’t done it in the past.

The Jays have replaced Mark Lowe with Drew Storen in set-up relief, and so far that hasn’t gone as well as the shift of Aaron Sanchez from the pen to the rotation, while Texas has been forced to elevate Tony Barnette on the heels of the injury to Keone Kela, whose absence in this series eliminates at least one interesting storyline.

No Chris Colabello (the most productive hitter in the teams’ October series) or Ben Revere, but Michael Saunders and Darwin Barney have given the Jays an early boost.

Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton out.  Ian Desmond and Nomar Mazara in.

Until yesterday, the only time the Rangers had lost a Cole Hamels start in his last 16 times to take the ball was Game Five in Toronto on October 14, which ended one team’s season.

Nobody’s season is ending this week.

Marcus Stroman pitched yesterday, too, and so the Game Two and Game Five matchup doesn’t get restaged this week, and in fact Hamels and Stroman will be the only starters to miss the four-game Rangers-Jays set that kicks off tonight at Rogers Centre, which now has a real dirt infield cut into the artificial turf, and if that were the case in October, specifically on the 14th, particularly in the seventh inning, especially in the bottom of the frame . . . . 

Never mind. 

Speaking briefly of which, new year, new rosters, new meaning to this matchup: Is the response to what happened in that ineradicably memorable B7 a simple “Never mind”?  

Regarding the flip: What’s past is prologue?  Or is the focus these next four nights squarely and solely on playing good enough baseball to win an early May series against a solid team on the road, or at least come away with a split?

Flip the calendar?

Is all now forgotten, at least in a plausible deniability kind of way?

We will see.

Along with Cole and Marcus, and Kela and Colabello, we will watch.

And we will see.

Some hither, others yon.

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Hank Blalock:

The best development of the first month of the Rangers season is not the streak of five-inning starts or Adrian Beltre’s health and production or the first-place perch or Nomar Mazara.  It’s Elvis Andrus playing as well in the field and at the plate as he’s ever played, whether you base it on the numbers or what the approach looks like.  Especially given how his 2015 season ended, it’s just huge.  He’s not only gotten past October 14 — it appears at age 27 he’s found a new level . . . . I’m not sure it’s the second-biggest story, given that it’s happening a couple hundred miles away, but the adjustments Joey Gallo’s made in his own approach and execution at the plate in Round Rock are up there . . . . one of the best writing tips I ever got was when T.R. Sullivan encouraged shorter paragraphs . . . . so, oops.

* * *

My surgeon and P/T and at least two readers have given me the following advice in the aftermath of my quad injury: Do no more than your doctor tells you.  And do no less . . . . I think that probably applies to what Elvis Andrus is doing right now, and it really fires me up . . . . The Rangers’ team ERA since the Robinson Chirinos injury: 3.22.  Slow clap, Bryan Holaday and Brett Nicholas.

* * *

What if even half of Ryan Rua and Ryan Cordell and Andy Ibanez and Travis Demeritte and Ronald Guzman and Pedro Payano and Yohander Mendez and Brett Martin and Connor Sadzeck and David Perez and Jairo Beras and Richelson Pena, each of whom is showing signs of taking that next step, have moved onto those lists other teams’ pro scouts are responsible for keeping?  None of them is going to carry a deal (and I don’t mean a Yovani Gallardo-type deal — I mean a Cole Hamels-level deal), but neither could Jerad Eickhoff or Alec Asher or Blake Beavan.  You have to have secondary pieces like that to close big trades, and a few weeks in, there just might be some Rangers prospects moving themselves into that range.  That’s good . . . . There’s a reason I don’t include Luke Jackson or Matt Bush in that list.  Their value, at least during this season, is probably greater here than as trade chips . . . . It’s early, obviously, but Houston is in a dead heat for the second pick in the June 2017 draft, though at the moment San Diego and Minnesota would draft ahead of the Astros because their 2015 win-loss records were worse.

* * *

Interesting usage pattern as far as Bush goes.  Used on back-to-back days to open Frisco’s season but, a week later, transitioned strictly to two-inning assignments, every four days . . . . Jackson, meanwhile, is getting one-inning assignments, but has yet to pitch on consecutive days (or even on just one day’s rest) . . . . the opening to the syndicated “Tarzan” show was, by far, the best part of the show.

* * *

If Chi Chi Gonzalez is settling into a groove anywhere close to what he’s shown in his last two AAA starts (13-5-2-2-5-10), then you’d feel better keeping A.J. Griffin in the big leagues once Yu Darvish returns, assuming the rest of the current rotation is all healthy at that point . . . . and assuming the club doesn’t experiment with a six-man rotation, an idea Jeff Banister apparently addressed in a radio interview this morning on 105.3 The Fan . . . . the lead competitor for Griffin’s rotation spot in camp, veteran Jeremy Guthrie, is 0-4, 11.50 (.342/.395/.539) in four starts so far this season — for San Diego’s AAA club . . . . Why don’t kids make salt maps in elementary school anymore? . . . . If I were a team in the AL East, AL Central, or National League, I’d rather play Texas in April, May, June, or July.  That has nothing to do with the weather.

* * *

Ian Desmond before his three-day break (one day out of the lineup, one team day off, one rainout): .109/.180/.109.  Desmond since: .379/.486/.759 . . . . Prince Fielder just got two days off (one day out of the lineup, one team day off), and there’s heavy rain in the forecast in the Metroplex tonight . . . . Every single Progressive Insurance commercial is wince-terrible, except the “Sprinkles are for winners” one, and this extension of it makes me happy . . . . I think I’ll be happy with a split of these first two at home with the Blues . . . . I say that now, of course.

* * *

Our neighbor Jones probably doesn’t miss Progresso pizza sauce, Thomas Harris novels, Halleck’s Chicken, those Dr. Haledjian two-minute mysteries, Jellyfish, Shasta soda, or Dan Wilson’s bat flip nearly as much as I do, but I’m only guessing . . . . I will never miss that heavy-plastic thingy I had to wear over my entire quad-mangled leg while showering, which I hate at a level that would prompt me to welcome Rich Harden back to the rotation as an alternative, with apologies to the rest of you . . . . ESPN’s Adam Schefter says Dallas offered its second- and third-round picks (number 34 and 67 overall) to Seattle, presumably to take quarterback Paxton Lynch, but were outbid by Denver’s offer of a late first (31) and a third (94).  That’s gonna be interesting to track, for Denver and Seattle and Dallas, for a long time, especially once we see who was taken (and who was available) in those second- and third-round slots tonight . . . . the Dallas offer appears to have greater value than the Denver offer, of course, but one difference between the picks at 31 and 34 is that teams are allowed to guarantee one extra year (five rather than four, I think) with a first-rounder . . . . in the 302 regular season games between now and the end of the 2017 season, who will start the most games in center field for Texas, and who the least, among Delino DeShields, Desmond, and Lewis Brinson?

* * *

Not unrelated and in a more immediate context: Interesting that the frequency of the versatile Jared Hoying’s center field assignments have increased lately at Round Rock . . . . if it’s all the same, I’d like to see Jurickson Profar leading off for the Express . . . . I’ve mentioned this before, I know: I always thought Deion Sanders leaned toward returning punts to his right rather than his left because of his baseball experience.  (I bet Apolo Ohno would take a punt return the same way.)  Try one day to run from home to second clockwise, that is, rounding third instead of first — see which gets you to second faster . . . . Did you see last night’s Ronald Guzman home run?  You should see last night’s Ronald Guzman home run.

* * *

The Rangers’ farm clubs’ records: 11-8, 15-4, 17-4, and 14-7.  Meaningless to a very large extent — the Rangers’ Low A club at Gastonia went 58-82 in 1987 with Juan Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa, Dean Palmer, Wilson Alvarez, and Roger Pavlik — but it’s not like Texas sends 25-year-olds to leagues where the competition is three years younger.  While development is a thousand times more important in the minor leagues than win-loss records, winning at that silly a rate is a lot more encouraging than losing . . . . One person cannot make a “concerted” effort . . . . Hope Cody Buckel gets another chance somewhere, if he wants it.

* * *

Speaking of that 1987 Gastonia club, two of its competitors in that season’s South Atlantic League, the Macon Pirates and Charleston Rainbows, had a bench-clearing brawl that spring.  One of Charleston’s pitchers, a first-round pick playing his first full pro season, says of Macon’s catcher, a 25th-rounder playing his first full pro season: “I didn’t know him personally, but I knew what his fists felt like” . . . the Rainbow pitcher was Doug Brocail . . . the Pirate catcher was Jeff Banister . . . . journeyman catcher Jerry Goff played with Brocail on the Astros’ AAA club in 1995 and was a fellow catcher in the Pirates’ system with Banister in 1993 . . . Goff also played alongside Spike Owen and DeShields’s father in the big leagues in 1990 and 1992, and with Tony Beasley in 1993 (Pittsburgh/AAA).

Godspeed, Beas.

Goff caught Brian Shouse in 1993 and 1994 (Pittsburgh/AAA) and Keith Comstock in 1989 (Seattle/AAA) . . . he was teammates with Rangers wormhole Esteban Beltre in 1990 (Montreal/AAA) . . . Goff was chosen by the Mariners in the third round of the 1986 draft, 63rd overall, four spots after Texas selected Palmer (whose goings-on I know more about these days than Blalock’s), and 558 spots before Pittsburgh took Banister. 

Goff’s kid Jared was born in October of 1994, three years before Jerry retired from the game, and 22 years before Jared would be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.

I know nothing about Carson Wentz’s dad.

* * *

Three with the Angels.  4, 2, even, or –2.

Let’s go.

* * *

There’s going to be a really cool game-watching party (Rangers/Blue Jays and Stars/Blues) next Thursday night at The Blind Butcher on Lower Greenville, hosted by Paranoid Fan.  Acclaimed baseball columnist Jonah Keri is the featured guest.  At least a couple personalities from The Ticket will be there, and I plan to be there, too.  You should go.  Details: here and here . . . . Max has started falling asleep on schoolnights with Eric and Matt’s radio call whispering from his nightstand, to which I suggest: My work here is done.

* * *

He used to finish his “Scattershooting” columns with a joke, so here’s one:

The Angels’ farm system.

* * *

RIP, Mr. Sherrod.

Bam! Pow! ZZZZONK!!

He’s 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts, logging 25 innings.

That’s Cole Hamels’s line.

It’s A.J. Griffin’s line, too.

Opponents are hitting .227/.340/.409 off Hamels, compared to .189/.263/.333 off Griffin, who made the club’s lengthiest start of the year in last night’s hammering of the Yanks, and now owns the big league’s third-longest active streak of starts lasting at least 5.0 innings (32).

Now, the point of the above is that I’ll take both of them, thanks.  

But what happens to Griffin when Yu Darvish returns in a few weeks?

Nomar Mazara: Another two hits last night, on his 21st birthday, ratcheting his line up to .365/.426/.519.  

What happens to Mazara when Shin-Soo Choo comes back, even setting aside Josh Hamilton’s own return?

Four of Brett Nicholas’s hits have gone for extra bases (including the only home run — and only earned run — Dellin Betances has surrendered all season), and he’s been really solid behind the plate.   

What happens to Nicholas when Chris Gimenez, who is now playing on a rehab assignment in Frisco, is ready to rejoin the big club?

Could Delino DeShields (2 for his last 27 — a bunt single and an infield single — and 8 for 41 with 12 strikeouts and two walks since his April 13 home run) and Jurickson Profar (.324/.387/.471 at Round Rock) be teammates for the first time very soon . . . and not in Arlington?

Joey Gallo: .270/.413/.683 at Round Rock, with 16 walks (second most in all of AAA), 19 strikeouts (23.8 percent frequency, compared to 39.4 percent in AAA last year), three multi-homer games already, and significantly longer at-bats.

When?

Where?

What got into Phil Klein (6.1-2-0-0-0-9)?

Have you taken a look at Tony Barnette’s numbers since his debut outing?

Is this the real Ian Desmond?

Is this the real Elvis Andrus?

This feels like the end of an after-school “Batman” episode.

They’re are real questions.  Nothing rhetorical about them.

I don’t know for sure who left the note on Mike’s windshield (I have a good idea), but I can’t wait to find out once “Better Call Saul” comes back around.

I have no clue what Radiohead’s new album in June will sound like, but I’m on the edge of my seat.

These things will all sort themselves out.  

Can’t wait.

A chance to help.

Eduard Pinto is a 21-year-old outfielder in the Rangers minor league system.  He signed a pro contract with the organization the same day that Nomar Mazara did.

No teenager had ever signed a contract out of Latin America for as much as Mazara got.  Most of them fortunate enough to sign get a fraction of that.  Pinto got a fraction.

The Venezuela native doesn’t hit for power and isn’t a burner on the bags.  If he makes it to the big leagues, it will be because he’s able to square up on the baseball.  He’s a career .305 hitter in five seasons on the farm, with more walks than strikeouts.  One of his heroes is Endy Chavez, and if Pinto makes it to the big leagues, that could be the kind of player he turns out to be.

Pinto has left his teammates in Hickory to be with his family in Venezuela.  Maria was expected to give birth to their first son in July.  Five days ago, Gael was born — three months premature.  He was born with respiratory complications that were too much to overcome.  Gael passed away yesterday.

Minor league baseball players make very, very little money.  Pinto is in his fifth year in the system, and his third in Hickory.  His road is long, and in the meantime he and his family are faced with sizable medical bills for Maria and Gael’s care and treatment.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help raise funds to help Eduard and Maria out.  I’d encourage you to read this.  If you’re inclined to help out with a few dollars, every little bit would help.  

I hope you’ll give some thought to helping out a member of the Rangers family.

Thanks.

Tracy Proffitt

Tracy Proffitt

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