The Texas Rangers’ roster is in a state of flux.
Willie Calhoun is eligible to be reinstated from the 10-day injured list Saturday.
Khris Davis is likely a month away from being ready.
Leody Taveras is thought to be the center fielder of the future, despite his sluggish start and the push Eli White is giving him. Neither is tearing it up, and both have minor-league options remaining.
Those four outfielders seem to be standing in the way of Adolis Garcia receiving the first extended stay of his career in the major leagues.
Garcia joined the Rangers on Tuesday after Ronald Guzman (knee) was placed on the 10-day IL and started in left field in an 8-3 victory over Tampa Bay. Garcia was back in there Wednesday, this time batting in the cleanup spot.
That seems to be quite a leap for a player who entered the day with 27 career at-bats, but that’s just where the 2021 Rangers are. They are rebuilding and need to learn about players.
“This kid is a special player,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I can’t wait to just let him go out and see what he can do. It’s a really good opportunity for him right now. I want to see this kid play.”
So, there was Garcia, back in the thick of things after a terrific spring in which he nearly cracked the Opening Day roster. But there’s much more to Garcia than just being a ballplayer.
He might be the most interesting player on the Rangers’ roster.
Here are five things to know about Jose Adolis Garcia
Defected from Cuba
Garcia was allowed by the Cuban government to play professionally in 2016 in Japan.
He didn’t go back to Cuba, though, after the season.
Garcia defected and eventually gained residency in the Dominican Republic. He held a tryout there for MLB teams after being declared a free agent, and signed for $2.5 million with the St. Louis Cardinals.
He spent three seasons in the Cardinals system, making his MLB debut in 2018, and was traded to the Rangers late in 2019 for cash considerations after being designated for assignment.
Seeing other Cuban players, as he has this week at Tampa Bay, is always a treat for Garcia. The Rangers brought Cuban Andy Ibanez on the trip as part of the taxi squad, and Tampa Bay has two Cuban players, Randy Arozarena and Yandy Diaz.
Garcia and Arozarena were teammates in the Cardinals system and grew up playing together in Cuba.
“It’s always good to have Latinos on the team, but to have somebody from Cuba, from my own terrain, from my home, to have the same culture, the same talks, to like the same food, it always makes you feel more comfortable.”
Played in Japan
Garcia was a star player in Cuba, winning the MVP of the Serie Nacional in 2015 after batting .319 with a .922 OPS, 14 homers and a league-best 71 RBIs. He even played for the Cuban team in an exhibition against Tampa Bay, going 2 for 4.
He then signed with the Yomiuri Giants for the 2016 season..
Garcia was still raw and inexperienced, and spent much of the season in the minors before spending four games with the Giants. Among his teammates was former Rangers right-hander Miles Mikolas, who would sign with the Cardinals late in 2017.
Garcia spent only one season in Japan and had some difficulties picking up the language, he said, but enjoyed his time there.
“I love Japan,” Garcia said. “I love the culture, I love the food and I love the way people treated me, but I couldn’t pick up the language. It’s tough, when you go from one culture from another. But at the end of the day, you have a job to do.”
It’s doesn’t take much imagination from looking at Garcia, who is 6-foot-1 and a muscular 205 pounds, that he was a very good wrestler growing up. Not professional wrestling, but freestyle and Greco-Roman varieties that will be seen in the Olympics later this year.
Garcia said he could have had a future in the sport, perhaps even making the Cuban Olympic team. His father, though, intervened.
“I loved to do it and was very good at it,” Garcia said. “But my dad wanted me to stop wrestling, so that’s where it ended.”
The athletic ability that made Garcia good on the wrestling mat also has him dripping with baseball tools.
He can run, he has a double-plus arm from the outfield and can cover serious ground, he has hit for average and hits for power. Those are considered baseball’s five tools, and Garcia showed in spring training that he has them all.
Woodward gushed that Garcia was the Rangers’ best player in spring training, and they would have a star on their hands if Garcia can put the tools together and execute in the best baseball league in the world.
He needs to get going with that.
At 28, he is two years older than Arozarena, who was the Rays’ hero in the 2020 playoffs with a record power performance. But the ability is there, hitting coach Luis Ortiz said.
“He has the package,” Ortiz said. “If we are able to tap into that, watch out. He could be the next Arozarena.”
Big brother plays, too
Maybe the reason Garcia’s father wanted him to focus on baseball is because of the success older brother Adonis had on the diamond.
Adonis Garcia played for the Atlanta Braves from 2015-2017 and has since played in Korea, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
A third baseman and corner outfielder, Garcia hit 29 homers in parts of three seasons with the Braves. He is eight years older than Adolis, who looks up to his brother.
“My brother is my example,” Adolis said. “I’ve looked to him, and he’s helped me throughout my career and guided me. He’s given me the talks I needed to hear to stay disciplined and continue working hard so I’m able to be successful in the big leagues.”