Getting another chance in the majors: Kevin Kouzmanoff


April 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff (6, right) is congratulated by catcher Robinson Chirinos (61) for scoring against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning at Coliseum. The Rangers defeated the Athletics 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

What is it like to be Kevin Kouzmanoff?  Well, lets take a look at him starting in spring training.  The Texas Rangers third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff had one of his best spring training ever at the plate this year.  He finished with a batting line of .370/.443/.593/.1.035.   Pretty impressive for a guy who hasn’t played in the majors in the last 2 years.

No room for Koozie:  At the end of camp manager Ron Washington had the displeasure of telling him he didn’t make the team.  It wasn’t because he wasn’t good enough, but they can only have 25 players on the roster.  Basically, he was the 26th guy, just missed the cut.   For Kouzmanoff, that had to be gut wrenching.   He had done his part, he hit the ball well and played well at third base.  He managed to stay healthy and play in every spring training game, even with a bad back.  With no room on the roster, he was sent to play with the Texas Rangers triple-A team, the Round Rock Express.  Kouzmanoff seemed to keep his head high, and didn’t stop trying.   He took his assignment in triple-A and continued to play very well.

Just an injury away: I wasn’t there, nor do I have any first hand accounts, but I can only speculate how it is in a minor league clubhouse.  At any given time I’m sure the Texas Rangers game is on in the clubhouse.  Players are watching the game to see how the team is doing, but some know, they are just an injury away from making/returning to the majors.  Don’t get me wrong here, no one hopes someone is hurt, but everyone knows that is part of the game.  On April 8th, Adrian Beltre left the Boston Red Sox game with soreness in his quad.  It was later reported that he would be heading back to Dallas to have it examined.

Getting another chance:  For Kevin Kouzmanoff, that meant he’d get another chance to be in the majors.   I would imagine sometime that night the manager of the Round Rock Express called Kouzmanoff to his office and told him he needs to pack up, you’re heading to Boston.  To my surprise, Kouzmanoff was indeed on a flight that next morning and made it to Boston for the April 9th game.  He wasn’t in the starting lineup, but did come in later that game.  The last time Kevin Kouzmanoff played in the majors was on September 28, 2011 when he was with the Colorado Rockies.  That is a long 924 days between appearances in the majors.

924 days:  That’s a long time and a lot of patience to wait to get the call.  During that time I’m sure Kouzmanoff saw many of his teammates called up to the majors.  Things are not as nice in the minors as they are in majors. For any player in the minor league, they stay in cheap hotels, bunk with teammates and are away from the family for extended times.  Several players eventually give up on the dream of making it to the majors, but Kouzmanoff kept on trying.  Yes, he does have back problems since a nasty fall early in his career, but he’s continued to play the game.  For him, that 924 days wait has meant so far, 13 more games in the majors.

A.L. Player of the week: He’s only been in the majors for little over 2 weeks, and he’s managed to be awarded the A.L. player of the week.  He’s had one of the best bats in the majors and has made the absence of Adrian Beltre almost unnoticeable.   Most fans will probably forget about the honor, but for Kouzmanoff it probably meant that 924 days of hard work and perseverance paid off.

Hoping for the best: Kouzmanoff will have an MRI today and the Rangers will decide what they will do with him.  I hope for Kouzmanoff his MRI comes back negative and he’s able to return to the team.  He’s worked very hard and he’s playing very good baseball.  A 25 man bench gets full fast, I would hate to see a healthy Kouzmanoff miss out again.

Not just his story: While I did write this article talking about Kevin Kouzmanoff, it is really an article about any minor league player.  Whether they are playing in the minors and working their way up or have been sent down to “work on things”, they all want to make it to the majors.  Some players don’t finally reach the majors until they are well past their prime.  Others just make it for a day or two.  For those players who stick it out, I have a great appreciation for their hard work and love of the game.