Plenty left in tank: Texeira now with Braves’ Triple-A affiliate
This winter, Kanekoa Texeira was about to call it a career in baseball before his girlfriend asked him to give it one more shot.
That meant signing with the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League, long bus rides, cramped clubhouses in small stadiums and less than $150 a week in salary.
Two weeks ago, the former major league pitcher from Kula was signed by the Atlanta Braves organization and assigned to Triple-A Gwinnett.
“I was supposed to start one day (for Bridgeport) and I get a phone call from the manager and he said, ‘Hey, you have got to call the Braves’ and once those words came out, I said, ‘Uh oh,’ ” Texeira said during a phone interview earlier this week. “So, I gave the Braves a call and they told me not to pitch, get in my car and drive down to Gwinnett, I’m going to start today down there.
“So I got in my car and drove 16 hours.”
The Bluefish were in Pennsylvania at the time, so Texeira had to drive to Connecticut to grab his gear and head for Georgia.
“I got in at noon, at 3 went to the ballpark and we got rained out,'” he said. “So I got to go home, sleep and pitch the next day.”
Texeira is 1-0 with a 3.78 earned run average in three appearances with the G-Braves.
“This year is my first time actually being a starter, so I’m trying something new,” he said. “As a reliever, I have been there, done that, so we’ll see if I can start, maybe be a little bit better, maybe open up a few more eyes if I can throw more innings. So far it’s kind of worked out.”
It has been a long and winding baseball road for the 28-year-old Texeira since he pitched Kamehameha Schools Kapalama to a state title as a junior in 2003 at Maehara Stadium.
He was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers, but chose to attend Saddleback (Calif.) Junior College. Texeira was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 22nd round in 2006.
In November 2008, he was traded by the White Sox with Nick Swisher to the New York Yankees for Wilson Betemit, Jeffrey Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. In December 2009, he was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the Rule 5 draft.
After 16 games with Seattle in 2010, Texeira was picked up off waivers by the Kansas City Royals in June. In May 2011, the Yankees acquired him off waivers before releasing him in July and re-signing him two weeks later.
Between December 2011 and November 2013, there were three stints with the Cincinnati Reds organization.
Texeira’s major league numbers – all compiled with Seattle and Kansas City in 2010 and 2011 – are 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA in 49 appearances.
Independent ball has been mixed in here and there in his nine-season odyssey. Now, with the Braves’ organization, he is starting for the first time since high school.
“I used to just go out there and throw as hard as I could,” he said. “Nowadays as a starter, it is about trying to set people up. It’s a little bit more challenging as a starter, but at the same time it is a little bit more easy because you get the opportunity to maybe set somebody up for the next time you see them in a game.
“I think it’s more mental than anything else.”
Injuries have forced the Braves to use 18 pitchers at the major league level this season.
“You never know in this game of baseball what could happen, crazy things happen,” Texeira said. “Atlanta has a great team and a lot of pitchers have gone down, so them signing me is a great opportunity to keep doing what I do.”
This is Texeira’s fourth season in the Triple-A International League. It is a drastic step up from the Atlantic League.
“Oh man, independent ball is a tough business,” Texeira said. “You don’t play the game for the paychecks. You get $260 every two weeks. That’s tough living, but if you love the game and are trying to get back, that’s the way you go.
“I was in the worst spot, to be honest. Bridgeport was just a bad area, bad clubhouse, bottom of the totem pole in everything.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander nearly gave up the game before this season until girlfriend Leoho’onani Reyes, a Molokai resident whom he met at Kamehameha, talked him out of it.
“I was talking about before this year, ‘Hey, if I don’t get picked up this season I was going to retire, come home and do this and do that,’ ” Texeira said. “My girlfriend said, ‘Don’t do it. I think you should still play.’ So, I went to indy ball, otherwise I was going to be done. Now, here I am.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org