The Texas Rangers are not expecting Curtis Terry to suddenly turn around the club’s fortunes.
But manager Chris Woodward is hoping his arrival in the clubhouse will at least breathe some fresh life into his scuffling, struggling club.
Terry, the 24-year-old prospect, made his major league debut Friday after the Rangers called him up from Triple A Round Rock.
Second baseman Nick Solak, who has struggled for much of the past two months, including a .192 batting average since June 1, was sent down. Veteran catcher John Hicks, who had four homers and eight RBIs in 10 games with Texas, was designated for assignment. That allowed Jose Trevino to be activated. He had been on the injured list since June 29 with a bruised right forearm.
Both of those moves not only underline Woodward’s recent message to the team — earn your spot in the lineup — but also signals to the rest of the organization that all bets are now off, at least when it comes to the major league roster.
The Rangers began their three-game series Friday against the first-place Astros mired in a nine-game losing streak. The were headed for their season-high 10th consecutive loss trailing 7-3 through five innings.
Terry was drafted by the Rangers out of high school in the 13th round in 2015. He struggled, however, and spent three seasons in the instructional league. That’s never a good sign for a player with big league ambitions. In fact, by 2018, Terry was ready to quit.
He called a former coach, whose pep talk offered some perspective and a change of heart.
After showing improvements at High A Down East in 2019, the 2020 minor league season was, of course, wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Terry didn’t have great numbers during spring training, he has been outstanding this season with 69 hits, including 17 homers and 15 doubles, in 65 games with Round Rock.
“He deserves it. We’ve got to see what we’ve got. I’m excited to see what he can do,” Woodward said. “I think we could have done it a week earlier. I didn’t want to wait longer. We’re not performing all that well right now and it’s needed from a roster standpoint, and just from a culture standpoint. Bringing some new blood up here, some excitement some energy; a live bat that we kind of need right now.”
Terry’s mom is flying in from Georgia for Saturday’s game. His dad is making plans to see him play when the team returns to Arlington next week. Terry had no clue why he was being taken out of Thursday’s game in Reno. In fact, he thought he was in trouble for not running out a ground ball. Instead, Round Rock manager Kenny Holmberg pulled him for the best of reasons. Terry’s teammates all took turns hugging him. It’s a far cry from that moment in 2018 when he told his former coach he was thinking of quitting.
“This is not what I envisioned my career to be,” Terry told the coach. “I don’t know what type of player makes it to the big leagues after three years of instructional league. That’s unheard of.”
Terry decided to keep at it and instead of stressing over every at-bat, to allow himself to relax a little more.
That approach “translated onto the field,” he said.
At the moment, that’s the exact opposite place Solak finds himself right now. “That’s something that has been on my mind for a while,” Woodward said. “I think it’s good for him to go down and work on some things with some freedom. It’s best for Nick right now.”
The tougher decision, Woodward said, was Hicks, the veteran catcher. He called it the toughest of his coaching career.
“But it does make sense from an organizational standpoint because we need to see Curt Terry,” he said. “Trevino obviously is part of our future, as is Jonah Heim. So we need to see all of these guys. We tried everything we could to keep John on the roster but nothing made sense. That was tough.”
The clubhouse heard the message, Isiah Kiner-Falefa said.
“If you’re not producing, you’re out,” said Kiner-Falefa, who has also struggled at the plate the past two months. He’s batting .222 with 10 RBIs since June 1. “This is the big leagues. I think we forget that sometimes because we’re losing, and think that it’s OK, but it’s not. I’m not playing well. I’m not scared to get sent down one bit. I’m a good player, I’m just struggling. [Solak] will be back soon. It does shake things up a little bit.”
The Rangers, who are 25-games behind the Astros in the A.L. West, which is the third-largest deficit in the big leagues, aren’t pretending that the rest of 2021 is anything more than a talent assessment.
“Competition is a good thing. It’s good for all of them to know there are guys coming,” Woodward said. “I know Solak doesn’t feel great going down to Triple A right now but he’s going to work his way out of it. We want players to be competitive. To push each other to raise the ceiling of the team. This group really cares. They’re grinding. The shakeup is about interjecting some energy. I want this to be more of a positive energy than a shakeup.”
Rangers sign free agent catcher
The Rangers signed undrafted free agent catcher Konner Piotto from Wright State. He was assigned to Low-A East Down East.