Willie Calhoun, Nick Solak Winter Caravan Chat (www.mlb.com)

It’s not often that two 26-years-olds are considered veterans on an MLB team, but that’s the case with Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun and infielder Nick Solak.
Calhoun and Solak, along with new bullpen coach Doug Mathis, joined a Facebook live chat as part of the virtual Texas Rangers Winter Caravan

It’s not often that two 26-years-olds are considered veterans on an MLB team, but that’s the case with Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun and infielder Nick Solak.

Calhoun and Solak, along with new bullpen coach Doug Mathis, joined a Facebook live chat as part of the virtual Texas Rangers Winter Caravan to discuss the offseason and preparation for a full 162-game season 2021.

On a team with a plethora of young talent, the two are big parts of the Rangers’ rebuilding process this season. Solak pointed out that there were many games in 2020 when 24 was the average age of the starting lineup.

“I feel really good about our team and I understand that we’re young,” Calhoun said. “It’s weird to say that like me and [Solak] are … considered old guys even though we’re still like 26. I think as a group, we’re going to take it as an opportunity to show people that even though we’re young, that doesn’t matter. We have experience and we can go out there and play with whoever’s out there.”

Solak said that because of the closeness in age of most of the roster, players will feed off of each other and learn from each other a lot more.

“It’s just a really good group of guys that you put them all together and everybody can be a leader, everybody can be a servant and help each other out to be better players,” he said.

Calhoun said he is definitely glad to be done with 2020. The left fielder struggled with injuries last year, undergoing surgery during Spring Training

from Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías and then being sidelined for a month later in the season with a strained left hamstring.

Calhoun finished the season with a slash line of .190/.231/.260 through 29 games. He has spent the majority of the offseason working out back home in the Bay Area, making adjustments to his game to return to his ‘19 form.

“The struggle that I went through last season and everything that I’ve been through, I think I learned from a lot of it,” Calhoun said. “And I think me being more mature and even getting wiser is just gonna help me overall as a player, so I think that’s where the biggest change for me is gonna be this year.”

Mathis, who was hired by the Rangers on Jan. 2 to be the bullpen coach, is returning to the organization for the first time since he was a player from 2008-10.

He said he’s mostly been focused on figuring out the workings of each pitcher and what each guy does well.

“It’s been a lot of work — [pitching coach Brendan Sagara] and myself got to work with [Chris Woodward] and [Jon Daniels] and everybody and the whole front office right away,” Mathis said. “We’ve just been putting a lot of offseason plans together for the guys, and just constant communication with all our pitchers and been very detailed with everything we’ve been doing.”

After an American League-worst 22-38 record last season, the Rangers are prepared to take a step forward in 2021.

Solak and Calhoun feel good about the young guys on the team and look forward to everybody continuing to get better this season.

“Absolutely it’s an opportunity for us,” Solak said. “It’s a young group, but it’s a group that’s going to play hard it’s going to play fast, it’s going to have a lot of energy — and a team that’s going to play the game the right way. With the group we’ve assembled, the sky’s the limit.”

Kennedi Landry is a reporter/editor for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @kennlandry.



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