Rangers Call On Rookies When Injuries Strike
The Rangers added versatile infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the 40-man roster in November to shield him from the Rule 5 draft. They expected him to remain in the minors in 2018 to continue his transition to catcher.
But during one two-day stretch in in April, second baseman Rougned Odor pulled his left hamstring and shortstop Elvis Andrus' right elbow was broken by an errant pitch. The Rangers needed an infielder, and guess who was on the 40-man roster?
As unexpected as Kiner-Falefa's appearance in Texas was, especially so early in the season, his production was an unexpected plus for the Rangers as they attempted to keep afloat while waiting for Andrus and Odor to return.
Kiner-Falefa brought company from Triple-A Round Rock. First baseman Ronald Guzman joined him in Texas days later.
"We're taking our nicks with the injuries we have right now," lefthander Cole Hamels said. "The young guys are coming, and I'm happy to see them getting playing time. They're trying to do the best they can. You really have to give them credit for what they're able to do right now."
Kiner-Falefa's initial goal was to find his niche as the Rangers' fill-in second baseman and see results after making his major league debut on April 10. He quickly moved in the right direction, collecting his first career hit on April 13, connecting for his first homer on April 14 and piling up four hits on April 17.
"The biggest thing here is getting comfortable and confident," said Kiner-Falefa, 23, a 2013 fourth-round pick out of high school in Honolulu.
Guzman, who signed out of the Dominican Republic as a high-priced international free agent in 2011, also quickly grabbed his first career hit and homer within his first two career games. He showed a knack for making the most of his hits by collecting four RBIs on his first four hits.
2018 MLB Rule 5 Draft Preview (Updated 12/12)
Multiple players eligible for selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft, led off by Richie Martin.
>> One of the factors that drew Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez to the Rangers was the climate in Arlington. "I'm happy that I get to play for a city that has a warm climate just like the one I'm used to," Martinez said after his $2.8 million deal became official April 19.
>> Converted outfielder Jairo Beras held opponents to a .091 average through his first five games at high Class A Down East in what is his first full season as a reliever. He impressed in spring training with his fastball velocity (98 mph) and his ability to throw his slider for a strike.