Texas Rangers: Ron Washington's Best Moves of the 2014 Season
After all, they have led the big leagues in trips to the disabled list, and at one point, they had 16 players on it for one injury or another. And with 13 players currently on the DL and sitting 26 games under .500, the club is just hoping to finish the rest of the season unscathed.
Washington has had next to nothing to work with for most of the season. He was forced into converting two relievers into starters and platooning a handful of players at second base, and his lineup cards soon became filled with prospects and minor leaguers.
And although the Rangers are tied with the Colorado Rockies for the worst record in baseball, Washington has done a decent job with the roster he has.
The eighth-year manager isn’t going to be taking home any awards this year, but he continues to show an ability to lead this team.
Here are his best managerial decisions of the 2014 season. They in no way rank with his back-to-back trips to the World Series, but they do carry some significance considering the team’s current standing.
Moving J.P. Arencibia out of Catching Role
J.P. Arencibia struggled mightily at the beginning of the season before he was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock back in May.
Geovany Soto’s knee injury allowed the former Blue Jay a chance at a larger role this season. That role dwindled, as he managed just seven hits in 56 at-bats, forcing Washington to give another catcher a shot with the club.
However, it worked out well for Arencibia, as he hit .279 with 14 homers in 48 games with the Express. Since his return to Arlington on July 18, the 28-year-old has hit seven dingers and driven in 22 runs.
His batting average is still below .200, but he has shown improvement. Washington has given him more time at first base and as the designated hitter, which seems to be working for the five-year-veteran.
The rest of the season is an audition for the former Tennessee Volunteer, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason. If he keeps hitting like he has since his return from Triple-A, Washington would surely enjoy bringing him back.
Platooning Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas
When top prospects Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas both graced the Rangers’ roster, the club had two of the youngest players in baseball.
It worked out very well from May to the end of June, as both players were finding their stride at the big league level. Sardinas was sent back down after playing June 29 and left Arlington with a .288 batting average.
This came after the failed experiment of platooning Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson.
Now Odor is getting a chance to play every day. He still has a lot of growing up to do, but this is the benefit at the bottom of the baseball cellar. Washington gets a chance to groom players at the major league level, and Odor is getting that chance.
More moves like this are sure to come in the future when rosters are expanded to 40 players in September.
No More Michael Choice
There is no doubt the decision was well overdue, but Washington optioning Michael Choice was the right call.
Choice has incredible pop in his bat but failed to do anything else at the plate. Before making the trip to Round Rock, the 24-year-old was hitting .177 with eight dingers and 50 strikeouts. While a number of his at-bats came as a pinch hitter, Choice was still stagnant when given the opportunity to start every day after Shin-Soo Choo’s injury.
July was his worst month, and consequentially his last, managing just nine hits in 69 at-bats. While five of those nine hits left the yard, the Texas native struggled to make the opposing defense work, routinely popping out and hitting weak choppers.
It is a wonder that it took Washington so long to find another player to put on his roster. However, the result ended with the emergence of Jake Smolinski despite his recent trip to the disabled list.
Naming Joakim Soria Closer
Although Joakim Soria is now in Detroit, Washington made the right call by naming him the Rangers closer at the beginning of the season.
Spring training became the battle ground for Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria for the team’s ninth-inning job. Soria ultimately won and Feliz was sent down to Triple-A after posting a 4.50 ERA during his time in Surprise.
Soria earned 17 saves in 19 opportunities, holding opponents to a .198 average and striking out 43 in 33.1 innings. He was the right man for the job despite the lack of chances with the team with the worst record in baseball.
Despite the losing record, Washington picking Soria as his closer resulted in a trade the Rangers desperately needed. The team was able to send the 30-year-old to Detroit for two of the Tigers' top pitching prospects.
Giving Neftali Feliz Another Shot
This decision stems off of the last one, as picking Soria allowed Neftali Feliz to find his form in the minors.
The Rangers' former closer is finally back in that role for the first time since 2011. He made his 2014 debut back on July 4 and has since converted four out of five save opportunities. His lone blown save came on Aug. 3 when gave up two runs to the Cleveland Indians.
Feliz still isn’t the same guy who was throwing high-90s fastballs by opposing hitters three years ago. However, the 26-year-old seems to be finding a groove and should look forward to being a front-runner for the club’s full-time closer in 2015.
All stars courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com
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