Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Choice in for Choo, batting leadoff
By Eric Gilmore
Special to ESPNDallas.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The last time Texas Rangers outfielder Michael Choice hit leadoff in a game he was a freshman at the University of Texas-Arlington.
Choice's "streak" will end Tuesday night when the Rangers play the Oakland Athletics. He'll hit leadoff and start in left field, taking over both roles for at least one night while left fielder Shin-Soo Choo recovers from a sprained left ankle.
"The way I look at it, once the lineup turns over after that first time, you kind of really don't think about it any more," Choice said. "I'm not going to change too much in my approach, just go out there and try to get on."
With Choo sidelined by an injury he suffered Monday night trying to beat out an infield single, Rangers manager Ron Washington decided to plug Choice into the leadoff spot and let the rest of his hitters stay in their regular places in the order.
"I wanted to keep everything else the same so I put Michael up there," Washington said. "He sees pitches. He could get lucky with one swing of the bat and give us a run. I want the guys where they are to be able to maneuver when the game dictates."
Choice replaced Choo in the bottom of the seventh inning of the Rangers' 4-3 victory over the A's and faced his former team for the first time since being traded to Texas in December. He hit a leadoff single and stole second base in the ninth.
When he learned that he would bat leadoff Tuesday in his first start against the A's, Choice was "a little bit surprised" but not stunned.
"It's not a drastic deal," Choice said. "I think it would be a little more drastic if I was throw in the three or four hole. That would be more of a shocker."
Small ball: When he came to the plate in the top of the eighth inning Monday night with no outs and Kevin Kouzmanoff on second base, first baseman Mitch Moreland had 1,616 major-league plate appearances and only five sacrifice bunts.
Despite those numbers, Washington ordered a bunt, and he kept the bunt sign on even after Moreland fouled his first two attempts against hard-throwing A's left-hander Sean Doolittle.
"I knew he would, and if he didn't, I was going to try to do it on my own," Moreland said Tuesday. "In that situation that's a big spot in the game, late in the game. Had to get that guy to third to give us an opportunity to get him in."
Moreland dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line, moving Kouzmanoff to third. Kouzmanoff came home with the go-ahead run when Donnie Murphy ripped a single to center.
Moreland had zero sacrifice bunts in 518 plate appearances last year, but he already has two this year.
"That's something we focus on in spring training, working on that," Moreland said. "It's a little different in that kind of situation. You got a tough guy on the mound. I was happy I was able to get it down and help out our team."
Rotation in limbo: Washington has yet to set his rotation beyond Friday. He said he's waiting to hear whether right-hander Matt Harrison (back surgery) is ready to be activated from the disabled list and should get that news Wednesday.
The Rangers called up right-hander Nick Martinez from Double-A Frisco to start Tuesday night against Oakland. Left-hander Martin Perez will start against the A's on Wednesday afternoon, and right-hander Colby Lewis will pitch Friday night's opener at Seattle after an off day Thursday. At this point Harrison could be an option to start against Seattle on Saturday, and Robby Ross is a definite option.
With the off day, Yu Darvish will have his next start pushed back at least one day. Washington said Darvish won't start on Saturday, which would be his normal day. Darvish will pitch either Sunday against the Mariners or Monday when the Rangers open a three-game series against the A's at Arlington.