DeMarcus Evans Rises To The Challenge
DeMarcus Evans isn’t big enough to block out the sun, but he makes it pretty hard to pass through a door if he’s standing in front of it.
And, yes, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound righthander had a chance to play football at a couple junior colleges after his senior season at Petal (Miss.) High. He played defensive and his job was to beat blocks and bruise quarterbacks.
But he had learned by then that his arm might give him a chance to make a living playing baseball.
In 2018, three years after the Rangers made him their 25th-round pick, Evans blocked just about every South Atlantic League team’s comeback attempt and bruised a bunch of hitters’ egos as a reliever for low Class A Hickory.
"It was kind of fun,” Evans said. "It was real fun.”
Evans was one of the best relievers in the minor leagues. The 22-year-old used a power fastball and high-spinning curveball to strike out 103 hitters in 56 innings and hold them to a .149 average. He recorded a 1.77 ERA and converted all nine of his save opportunities.
Evans was so good, especially in the second half, that the Rangers wanted him to keep it going in the Arizona Fall League. In nine AFL appearances he ran up a 6.30 ERA and 1.70 WHIP, but the Rangers believe the 22-year-old learned what it will take to succeed as he moves through the system.
Evans moved into a more prominent bullpen role at Hickory when teammate Alex Speas had Tommy John surgery in June. He picked up his first save on June 24, and from that date forward he allowed just two runs and struck out 62 in 31 innings.
"Something clicked in my head to where I was going to go out there and compete,” Evans said. "Everything went uphill from there. I started not trying to make perfect pitches and started throwing the ball over the plate. I just challenged hitters. I said, ‘This is my best pitch, and if you can’t hit it, it’s going to be a bad day.’ ”
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• The Rangers shut down outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez in the Arizona Fall League after he was slowed by a groin injury. In 52 at-bats he hit .327/.397/.519 and even hit for the cycle in an Oct. 21 game.
• The Rangers probably will implement the "opener" in the minor leagues in 2019 after flirting with it in the majors in September. "What is the direction we’re going to take from above?” director of minor league operations Paul Kruger said. "We want to emulate that as much as possible. Exposing our guys to a bunch of situations . . . (which is) good for any pitcher.”