What if the Texas Rangers had an experienced right-handed pinch-hitting option? What if they had a right-handed pinch hitter who was versatile fielder? Those were questions that have come up from time to time in the past. On Friday, the Rangers acquired outfielder Ryan Spilborghs from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations.
The right-handed hitter can play all three outfield positions and is a career .272 hitter in 619 major league games. He played all those games with the Colorado Rockies and played in the 2007 World Series when the Rockies lost to Boston.
“Once you get there, you understand how important it is and how big of a deal it is,” Spilborghs recalled of that World Series. “You’re talking about one or two percent of guys that have ever played baseball have actually won a World Series. We’re talking handfuls of guys. For the Rangers to be close two years in a row, I know it’s eating at them. They want to get back, and they want to win it. Just like it’s been eating at me for years.”
Former Rangers hitting coach and current Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was the manager of that ’07 Rockies team. He played a pivotal role in the 32-year-old Spilborghs becoming a .305 career pinch hitter.
“Without Clint, I probably didn’t get the opportunities that I would have had to establish myself as a big leaguer. He obviously believed in me. Gave me opportunity when I was starting to come up to pinch-hit in situations, you know, with the game on the line,” Spilborghs recalled. “That led to other stuff. Without Clint believing in me the way he did, potentially I don’t have the type of career I have because of the opportunities. He means a lot to me.”
That .305 pinch-hitting average equates to being 53-for-174 with 39 RBIs and 32 walks. He has a .411 OBP and .837 OPS in his career as a pinch hitter.
“I love every opportunity to pinch hit,” Spilborghs said sincerely. “Usually, if you are pinch hitting, you are in a situation that’s important for the game. Those are moments that I live for.”
Currently, Spilborghs is not on the Rangers' 40-man roster. He has played two games for the Round Rock Express, the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate. He’s already 4-for-7 with two doubles, two stolen bases and three RBIs. He’s played left field in both games.
Spilborghs was a guest this past weekend on Rangers Magazine (ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM). Spilborghs also discussed the approach he takes in his new organization, why he was in the Cleveland Indians organization, his relationship with Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine, trade rumors of the past and that 2007 World Series. Listen to the podcast.
Bryan Dolgin hosts Rangers Magazine on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and the Rangers radio pre and postgame shows on the Texas Rangers ESPN Radio Network. Follow him on Twitter: @RangersRadioBD.