Texas Rangers: Jurickson Profar

Rangers brass meets to address issues

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
8:46
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The timing of Thursday’s meeting of the Texas Rangers brass couldn’t have come at a better time.

Heading into the evening, the Rangers had lost a season-high seven consecutive games and were trying to avoid being swept by the Detroit Tigers at Globe Life Park.

It’s been a season filled with injuries and inconsistent play. Hitting and pitching have been inconsistent.

Ron Washington said the meeting was held to make sure everybody is on the same page.

“We haven’t thrown in the towel,” the manager said.

“Just making sure that we stay the course that’s all,” Washington added. “Nothing changed; making sure we stay the course. And we all wanted to know what we’re thinking, that’s what this is.”

Washington said the Rangers will continue to play young players because ... well, let’s be honest, there isn’t anybody else around.

Washington’s roster is limited.

Prince Fielder isn’t returning this season. Derek Holland won’t return until July. Matt Harrison is done for the year. Jurickson Profar is getting ready for winter ball.

The roster general manager Jon Daniels put together in the winter is vastly different at this stage of the summer.

“The challenge for us, we can’t keep talking about the injuries. We can’t focus on that,” Daniels said. “There are a lot of things we need to do. The story of the year can’t be the injuries; it’s very real.”

Daniels is right about forging ahead with the season.

In terms of a trade, Daniels said his staff has fielded calls but nothing solid is going to occur right now.

Whom do you trade, anyway?

Adrian Beltre, who has a limited no-trade clause?

Alex Rios?

Elvis Andrus?

Yu Darvish?

Joakim Soria?

Daniels said the season has been hard to watch. Both he and Washington like the effort from this club and said that after the success the Rangers have achieved the past few years, this down period is strange.

“Listen, we’ve struggled the last week or so. And I think every day you dig deeper into the season, you have more information,” Daniels said. “But we don’t have to declare anything; we don’t have to go down that path.

“At the same time, we’re going to use the next month or so to evaluate where we are, and we have to do our due diligence and understand what are options are, too. But like any other team, we’re talking to teams right now to get a layout [and] understand the landscape of where the possible fits might be. Whether we choose to act on that, I don’t know.”

Next week in Baltimore the Rangers will reach the halfway point of their season. It’s a season that has tested the patience of their manager, coaching staff, front office and, of course, ownership.

At some point things must change for the better; if not, their playoff run will come to an end.

Holland not ready for rehab assignment

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
5:44
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- After running through around fifteen minutes of fielding drills before Wednesday’s game, Rangers manager Ron Washington said starting pitcher Derek Holland isn’t ready for a rehab assignment yet.

“He’s not ready for rehab, so he’s got to work,” Washington said. “He’s better, but he’s not ready for competition.”

While he said he believes he is ready, Holland said he could feel his leg was still stiff through covering first and fielding bunts down both lines.

The staff watching Holland through the workout, including Washington, knew he wasn’t ready yet before he went over to talk with them, Holland said.

“I guess it just wasn’t as good,” Holland said. “It was their opinion. I’m going to go by them. They want to make sure everything is right. I do, too. I want it to be a one-time thing. I don’t want this to be a thing that I have to go back on the DL. I want to get it right the first time.”

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Stock Report: Choo up, Fielder down

May, 23, 2014
May 23
1:00
PM CT
DETROIT -- This stock report comes shortly after the club received more devastating news on the injury front. So here's a look:


Streaking

STOCK UP

Shin-Soo Choo: He leads the team with six home runs and is now hitting .400 on the road this season with hits in 15 of his last 16 games away from Globe Life Park. Choo leads the AL in on-base percentage, a big reason he was acquired this offseason.

Chris Gimenez: The catcher did a nice job with Yu Darvish on Thursday (you can expect him to keep catching the Rangers' ace with J.P. Arencibia in the minors) and added four hits in just his second game as a Ranger.

Yu Darvish: Moved to 5-0 in his career against the Tigers with a win this week, the first pitcher to win his first five starts against Detroit since Joel Pineiro (2001-2003).

Slumping

STOCK DOWN

Prince Fielder: A herniated disk in his neck now means Fielder is scheduled for surgery Tuesday that will end his season. The weakness in his left arm could explain the lack of power numbers, but after trading for Fielder this offseason the Rangers will now get just three homers and 16 RBIs from him in 2014. They hope is he returns to the Fielder of old in 2015.

Jurickson Profar: The other side of the Fielder trade was making room at second base for Profar. But the 21-year-old prospect hasn't played a game in the big leagues this year and may not play in one for the rest of this season. He's re-strained the muscle in his shoulder and has been shut down. He's out at least eight to 12 weeks. We'll see if he progresses quickly enough to play this year.

Rougned Odor: Has made eight starts at second base but is 1-for-12 in his last five games, as his average has dipped to .179. He's still adjusting to life in the majors and facing big-league pitching.


DETROIT -- If you're expecting general manager Jon Daniels to come out and signal that the 2014 season is over, you're going to be waiting awhile. He can't do that. It's not fair to the group of players in the clubhouse who, frankly, should be commended for even being one game under .500 after what's happened on the injury front this season.

[+] EnlargeMorales
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesKendrys Morales could be an affordable replacement for Prince Fielder in the Rangers lineup.
But Daniels and his staff have preached for years that they work under parallel plans: A one- or two-year plan and a five-year plan. The idea is to make deals that, as often as possible, satisfy both blueprints. That's what the offseason trade of Prince Fielder and the seven-year contract of Shin-Soo Choo were designed to do. Fielder gave them a power bat in the middle of the lineup and allowed them to insert Jurickson Profar at second base. Choo provided a leadoff hitter, who could sit there -- or at other spots in the order -- for years to come as an on-base machine. Those deals were supposed to help this team push for a World Series title in 2014 and beyond.

Now, it's that long-term plan that Daniels must focus on. That means resisting the temptation to do a whole lot in the wake of the Fielder news. The Rangers could certainly look at Kendrys Morales. And as Keith Law points out (Insider), they may have all the leverage for a player whom few teams need at this point. If they wait until after the draft, does it cost them $3 million? That's not a steep price to pay for a bat in the lineup for the rest of the season (and waiting until after the draft is a must so that it doesn't cost them any compensation).

But unless it's that sales-rack deal, I'm not sure the Rangers should do anything else to fill that spot. The club's best prospects are at the lower levels and are slowly, but confidently, making their way toward the big leagues. Joey Gallo's power has everyone's attention at Class A Myrtle Beach. Luke Jackson is continuing to progress at Double-A Frisco. Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor are getting some valuable time in the majors and could help this team down the road. So should Michael Choice and a host of others.

It gives the Rangers some options at the trade deadline to make the club better in the future. We know that Daniels and his staff hate closing doors. So if someone calls asking about Adrian Beltre or Elvis Andrus -- or nearly anyone not named Yu Darvish -- they're going to listen. They should listen. You never know what might come of it.

But don't expect them to start dealing prospects to try to add a piece here and there for just 2014 or even 2015. After the Matt Garza deal, something Daniels has referenced several times as a learning experience, they aren't going to part with a prospect package to get a semi-rental player. This team is more than one or two pieces away anyway. And the front office knows it.

It may not be time to fold 'em, but it's time to hold 'em. This team still has the ingredients to jump right back into contention next season should Fielder return 100 percent and Profar be fully ready to go, as well. They'll need to increase their pitching depth, but that's something Daniels & Co. can do either at trade deadline or in the offseason. Then that winning window has a chance to open again.


DETROIT -- On one Thursday afternoon, the entire Texas Rangers offseason plan for the right side of the infield in 2014 disappeared.

Trading for Prince Fielder a week before Thanksgiving was more than just adding a left-handed power bat to the middle of the lineup. It was also about freeing up the second base job for highly touted prospect Jurickson Profar.

On paper, it was a solid plan. Profar, who turned 21 in February, would get a chance to play an everyday position, something the club hoped would make him a better overall player. He hit .234 in 2013 and showed some flashes of ability, but was moving around to a variety of positions and never had a steady job. But by trading All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Fielder, the Rangers opened up an infield spot for Profar.

Fielder was supposed to be that power bat the club didn't have in 2013 after Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels. He was supposed to club his way to at least 25 homers and 100 RBIs -- and maybe more than that in a park he liked and with a fresh start. Texas spent a lot of money and went an extra year on free agent Shin-Soo Choo in part because the Rangers knew Fielder would be one of those players able to knock the on-base-percentage specialist in.

But as of May 22, those plans are on hold until spring training 2015. Fielder is scheduled to have fusion surgery Tuesday to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Barring a second opinion that changes things, he is out for the season. That was the big news of the day. But it wasn't the only injury news, something that has become routine for the Rangers this season.

Profar has re-strained a muscle in his shoulder. He's been shut down and a timetable for his return has not been set. But the team was conservative with his rehab the first time and he wasn't able to return. Now it's eight to 12 weeks, at least, meaning it may be difficult for him to come back at all this season.

So the two key pieces involved in that 48-hour trade that brought Fielder to Arlington, Texas, and sent Kinsler to Detroit aren't likely to be in the infield together in 2014. It was supposed to be Fielder at first and Profar at second. Now, that plan is on hold for a year.

It's still early for both players. Fielder has six years left on his contract. Profar is still awaiting his first full year as a starter. But the trade was designed to get the team a return on its investment in 2014 and beyond. All that's left now is the beyond part.
HOUSTON -- Anytime a rookie shows up on the Texas Rangers, manager Ron Washington spends some time studying him.

He’s not looking at the player's baseball ability. He’s looking to see if he's intimidated.

Rougned Odor
AP Photo/Pat SullivanRougned Odor hit his first major league home run Monday night against the Astros.
Rougned Odor quickly passed Washington’s test -- and that was before his mammoth home run Monday night at Minute Maid Park.

Odor had a two-out RBI single, a two-out homer and a nifty defensive play that helped the Rangers shut out the Houston Astros.

"He's not afraid,” Washington said. “He walks up to the plate or goes out into the field with confidence. He's not scared."

Impressive for a 20-year-old making the jump from Double-A because of injuries to Jurickson Profar and Donnie Murphy.

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Odor has only played five games, but already has collected his first hit, RBI and homer. A stolen base and a walk-off hit and he’ll have pretty much every milestone covered.

“Why should I be?” Odor said through an interpreter, when asked if he was intimidated by the game. “It’s the same game that I’ve always played from my perspective.”

Adrian Beltre said Odor’s big game -- at the plate and on the field -- will give the youngster even more confidence. Odor made a diving stop in short right field to rob Dexter Fowler of a hit in the fifth inning.

“When you come up in the big leagues, everything is so fast,” Beltre said. “When you have a game like that and get a big hit, make a couple of good defensive plays and hit your first home run, it’s something you’ll never forget.”

Rangers start fresh at second base

May, 8, 2014
May 8
6:53
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Since the offseason trade of Ian Kinsler, second base has become a game of musical chairs for the Texas Rangers.

On Thursday, the Rangers dipped into the farm system and summoned promising prospect Rougned Odor. After a slow start at Double-A Frisco, Odor has been "the hottest thing in Double A," according to Rangers manager Ron Washington.

In 32 games, Odor has batted .279 with six home runs and 17 RBIs.

"I'm ready to play baseball," Odor said. "I had a slow start in Frisco, but now everything is going good. I want to see what I can do."

Until Jurickson Profar suffered a torn muscle in his right shoulder late in the spring, the Rangers' second-base job was his. General manager Jon Daniels said Profar, currently on the 60-day disabled list, is targeted to travel to Arizona next week and ease back into training.

The promotion of Odor signals an end to the Rangers early-season platoon plan at second base that saw 30-something veterans Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson split time. Murphy went on the 15-day disabled list Thursday because of a neck strain, and Wilson was designated for assignment.

Daniels said serious consideration was given to Odor making the club coming out of spring training. In the end, the Rangers chose to give the 20-year-old a little more minor league seasoning.

Washington said he expected to write Odor's name on the lineup card four or five times a week. Odor is in the lineup for Thursday's 7:05 p.m. CT start against the Colorado Rockies. He'll wear No. 73 and hit in the No. 8 spot.

"I'm expecting him to play baseball," Washington said. "As long as he's not scared, he'll get it done. I feel like he'll help us on the offensive side."

The Rangers also added infielder Luis Sardinas on Thursday.

"The two guys have ability," Daniels said. "They're young, coachable, smart and they play with energy."

Murphy has 18 starts at second base and is batting .211. Wilson drew 16 starts at second and batted .224.
If ever there was a place to get the bats going and build off a winning series in Anaheim, it should have been the thin air of the Mile High City, right?

Yes, the Colorado Rockies have been an early-season surprise in the National League. But Coors Field is supposed to be a good spot for a lineup that, at least on paper, is expected to have power. Instead, the Rangers were blown out in consecutive games without many offensive highlights (maybe the biggest plus was Mitch Moreland's clean inning of work on Tuesday and hitting 93 mph on the radar gun).

It's not all on the bats, of course. The Rangers' arms, especially some in what seems like a thin bullpen these days, couldn't get the job done. The team also booted balls and didn't exactly put on a fundamental clinic, either.

[+] EnlargeShin-Soo Choo
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiShin-Soo Choo and the Rangers need a spark, because so far they've fallen flat.
But there was one thing in particular that seemed troublesome watching this club: The players lacked a spark. They seemed almost like a team waiting for something good to happen to turn things around rather than going out and aggressively making it turn around.

Sparks can come from a variety of places. And in baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, they have to come from different parts of the club. It's a 162-game season that presents a mental challenge on a nightly basis. Expecting players to be fully into every game just isn't realistic. So you need a spark from one area one night and from another the next.

But this team, at least right now, doesn't seem to be getting enough of it on any kind of consistent level. Elvis Andrus has always been good about being a spark when needed, but he's trying to get out of his own slump. Adrian Beltre is a key leader on this club, but he hasn't hit the same since returning from the disabled list.

Prince Fielder has enough ammunition to provide more than a spark, but nothing has fired at this point. As for the pitching staff, it's been up and down of late. Jurickson Profar being out hurts, too. His youthful exuberance was good for this club, even when he wasn't hitting consistently. Maybe not having some of the craziness of Derek Holland in the clubhouse and in the rotation impacts that spark quality, too.

Put it all together and you've got a team that has still done enough to hang in, but hasn't shown the energy level to put up a streak of nine wins in 11 games, for instance. Look back at this club's recent playoff teams and you'll see that had some of those stretches as players fed off each other and found a way to create momentum. So far, this team hasn't shown that ability.

It's early and that's worth remembering. There's plenty of baseball left. But this team needs a spark. Who do you think provides it?
ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas Rangers second baseman Jurickson Profar was cleared to swing a bat immediately and will start throwing in a week after an MRI showed a muscle in his shoulder has healed.

Profar is on the 60-day disabled list and can’t be activated until the end of May anyway, though the club has not put any firm timetable on his return.

“I think after what we experienced in spring training in terms of an effort to ramp him up a little bit faster, I could see us being a little bit more cautious with him,” assistant GM Thad Levine said.

Profar, 21, was diagnosed with a torn muscle in spring, forcing the Rangers to utilize Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy at second base in place of Profar so far this season.

The Rangers updated the media on a handful of injured players, including:

*RHP Neftali Feliz (soreness). Feliz is apparently feeling fine and the club is coming up with a program to get him ramped up again. But he hasn’t thrown in a game since April 16 and would need a few weeks before he’d be ready to return.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Mariners 2

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
9:59
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Leonys Martin's single ended a wild ninth inning as the Texas Rangers earned their fourth walk-off win at home this season, 3-2 over the Seattle Mariners. Texas did all the damage with two outs. Kevin Kouzmanoff singled, Mitch Moreland walked and then the Rangers got some help. Donnie Murphy's ground ball to short should have ended the inning, but the flip to second was high. The error kept the inning going and loaded the bases for Martin. A wild pitch scored the tying run, and then, Martin's single to left ended it. A few quick thoughts:

Pitch counts: It seems to be a topic of conversation every time Yu Darvish pitches, but the 27-year-old ace threw 107 pitches in seven innings Wednesday -- an average of 15.2 per inning. He came into the game No. 2 in the AL in pitches per inning at 12.7, nearly four fewer pitches per inning than his average last season. Darvish had two full counts in a 19-pitch first inning and didn't get much more efficient from there. Darvish adjusted by throwing more breaking pitches earlier in the count for strikes, but his command of his fastball and slider was not as good as it was in his first two starts.

Ambushing the fastball: Knowing that Darvish was getting ahead on hitters with first-pitch strikes in his first two starts, the Mariners came in with the idea of swinging at first-pitch fastballs and got a triple off one from Nick Franklin with one out in the second inning to get Seattle in position to score. A single by Mike Zunino plated Franklin. Darvish also walked Dustin Ackley with two outs, and that proved costly, as Abraham Almonte's single brought home Ackley to make it 2-0.

Where's the run support?: Darvish has pitched 22 innings this season, and his offense has yet to score a run for him. Not one. Blame Felix Hernandez for that Wednesday, but it's been like that all season. Darvish has no margin for error. On Wednesday, the Rangers managed just four hits and were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position while Darvish was on the mound.

Defensive issues: In the two-run second for the Mariners, Shin-Soo Choo charged Almonte's single but seemed to hesitate before throwing home. His throw home was off target and went to the backstop, allowing a runner to advance. A few innings later, Martin and Choo had a communication issue, and what should have been a routine fly-ball out glanced off Martin's glove and hit the ground. It was scored a hit but was another mistake by the defense. Texas has 15 errors in 15 games this season, which leads the AL, but the Rangers have made other miscues that haven't been called errors.

Hernandez dazzles: It sure looked like the Cy Young version of Hernandez on the mound Wednesday. He allowed one run (in the eighth) on four hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. He was lifted after just 96 pitches following Martin's leadoff triple in the eighth. Martin scored on Michael Choice's sacrifice fly. Hernandez threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. In three career meetings against Darvish (the other two in 2012), Hernandez is 3-0 and has a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts and three walks. Darvish didn't have his best stuff but hung in for seven innings, allowing two runs.

Briefly: Kouzmanoff's ninth-inning single kept his hitting streak alive. He's hit in all seven games he's played for the Rangers. ... Moreland's first walk of the season came against Hernandez in the fourth. He also walked with two outs in the ninth off Fernando Rodney.

Up next: Right-handed pitcher Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 7.88 ERA) goes up against righty Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 5.63 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Astros 0

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
4:25
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- That's 15 straight series wins over the Houston Astros for the Texas Rangers as they secure their second 1-0 win in the past three days. It was the first time in club history that Texas had two 1-0 wins in the same series and the first time for two 1-0 games in the same series since 1982 vs. Boston Red Sox. Martin Perez pitched eight shutout innings and Alexi Ogando got the save in the ninth. Texas now has three shutout wins in the first 12 games of the season and they move to .500 on the season. Some quick thoughts:

Perez loves double plays: Young Martin Perez found a nice pace in Sunday's game, pitching quickly and with confidence. He allowed four hits, but no runs and the double play was very helpful for him. He induced four ground-ball double plays, including one to end the eighth inning, his final frame of the game. Perez was leading the AL with five ground-ball double plays before the game started.

Long start: For just the second time in his career, Perez got through at least eight innings. The only other time he did it was Aug. 11, 2013 against the same Astros. In that one, he got a complete-game victory, allowing just one run on four hits.

Don't steal from me: Catcher Robinson Chirinos' arm was impressive on Sunday as he threw out two Houston runners attempting to steal. He nailed Jonathan Villar in the third and Matt Dominguez in the fifth. He has thrown out four baserunners this season.

Andrus ejected: Elvis Andrus argued a called third strike to end the third inning and was quickly ejected by home plate umpire Alan Porter. It was a low strike call and Andrus didn't like it. The ejection also brought an end to Andrus' streak of hitting safely in every game this season. He was at 11 games prior to Sunday, so he won't catch Al Oliver's club-record 13 in 1979.

Solid substitutes: Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy made their presences felt in Sunday's game. Wilson moved over to shortstop and Murphy came in to play second when Andrus was ejected. They played solid defense, and provided some offensive help in the sixth. Wilson led off the inning with a single, went from first to third on a single by Shin-Soo Choo and scored on Murphy's sacrifice fly, which game in the spot that Andrus would have batted in had not been asked to depart early.

Ogando in for the save: With Joakim Soria having pitched for two straight games, Alexi Ogando got the opportunity to save Sunday's game and came through. It was his fourth career save, his last one coming in 2012 as he pitched when Joe Nathan needed rest that season, grabbing three saves.

Defensive gems: Prince Fielder made a nice diving stop toward the first-base line to take an extra-base hit away from Jesus Guzman with one out in the fourth. Fielder worked earlier this homestand on his footwork and short-hops at first base with manager Ron Washington and will get some more work on other aspects of his defense before the homestand ends. But that was a very nice play for Fielder to keep the Astros off the bases. ... Josh Wilson, playing shortstop after Andrus' ejection, ranged to his left and snagged a line drive from L.J. Hoes, preventing a hit in the fifth.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Texas Rangers comeback fell short on Saturday, as the Houston Astros scored in the 10th inning and held on for a 6-5 win.

Texas tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but a triple by Jason Castro, aided by a strange bounce off the wall in right, put him in position to score on Jose Altuve's sac fly to right. A few thoughts:

Great stop: Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar made a terrific diving play, backhanding a ball to his right and throwing to first to get Alex Rios with Elvis Andrus at second and no outs in the bottom of the 10th. The Astros wiggled out of the jam and preserved the win. The game could still be going on if not for Villar's play.

Baserunning blunder: After Rios hit a double off the wall in left-center to score Andrus and make it a one-run game, the outfielder tried to steal third. He was caught stealing for the first out of the inning, preempting the rally. The next two Rangers batters got out quickly, and any hope of tying the game at that point was lost. Rios also had trouble with a throw back to the infield in the 10th, missing the cutoff man, though it didn't allow the Astros an extra base (that happened on the odd bounce off the wedge wall).

Right Choice: Michael Choice didn't start the game, but he came in to pinch hit to lead off the ninth inning and belted his first career home run 412 feet into the Rangers bullpen to tie the score. It was only the 13th at-bat of the season for Choice, who hits mainly against left-handed pitchers. That included lefty Kevin Chapman in the ninth on Saturday, and Choice took advantage.

Two-out runs: Through three starts for Tanner Scheppers, he's had trouble finishing off innings with runners on base. That was the case again on Saturday as the Astros came back from a 2-0 deficit to score five runs -- four with two outs -- in the fourth inning to take the lead. Scheppers didn't allow a hit in the game until that frame but gave up three singles, a walk and a three-run home run to alter the game early.

Velocity up: When Scheppers was in the bullpen, he was regularly able to dial up his fastball to 95 or 96 mph. That didn't happen this season until Saturday. Scheppers touched 97 at one point and had that fastball in the 93-95 range consistently. That was an improvement.

Better finish: The fourth inning -- and Robbie Grossman's three-run homer specifically (with some help from the Globe Life Park jetstream) -- ruined any bid for a quality start, but Scheppers did bear down in the next three innings to get through seven. He needed 29 pitches as he retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced to finish off his start.

Hard-hit balls: Prince Fielder hit a few balls hard on Saturday, perhaps a sign that his timing is coming around. Fielder's single in the first was a one-hopper through the shift and probably the hardest ball he's hit all season. He also hit a long fly ball in the third. It's a small thing, but with Fielder struggling to do anything, it was noticeable.

Leadoff strikeouts: Neither leadoff hitter had a good night on Saturday. Shin-Soo Choo, who came in with seven strikeouts the whole season, had five in five at-bats, including four off Jarred Cosart (two of them looking). It was the first time he had five strikeouts in his career. The last time he had four strikeouts in a game was in July 2012 while with Cleveland. Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler wasn't much better, striking out in his first three at-bats against Scheppers (one of those looking).

Did it hit him?: Carlos Corporan was given first base in the sixth on a hit-by-pitch that plate umpire Rob Drake said hit the jersey. But it sure looked on the replay like it didn't hit him. That is a call the manager can challenge, but the Rangers chose not to do that. The HBP came with two outs, and Scheppers retired the next batter to end the inning.

Briefly: Donnie Murphy got a chance to play second base and took advantage with a double, a walk and two runs scored. … Andrus has now hit safely in 11 games to start the season. The club record is 13 by Al Oliver in 1979.

Up next: Left-hander Martin Perez (1-0, 4.50 ERA) takes the mound for the Rangers in the final game of this series against Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 4.91) in a 2:05 p.m. game.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers have played four games in Arlington. They've won three of them in walk-off fashion. And Robinson Chirinos was the hero in the 12th inning. His single to right scored Kevin Kouzmanoff from second -- who got there by staying aggressive and getting to second on a ball in the dirt -- to give the Rangers a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros.

It was the longest game (by innings) to go scoreless in Arlington since Sept. 22, 1992, when the Rangers lost to the Minnesota Twins 1-0 in 13 innings. Nolan Ryan started the game for the Rangers with Pudge Rodriguez catching. Both Ryan and Rodriguez were at the game Friday.

Darvish dazzles: The Rangers' ace loves pitching against the Astros. Last season, he was one out away from a perfect game in Houston in April. On Friday, he had a perfect game through five innings before Matt Dominguez -- hitting .129 when the game started -- hit an 0-2 breaking pitch for a looping hit to left-center. Darvish retired the next three batters to end the inning with no damage done, but it ended his perfect game and no-hit hopes. In that at-bat, Dominguez hit a foul ball down the right-field line that Alex Rios nearly caught but wasn't able to (and it would have required he dive against the wall, which would have been risky). Shortly thereafter, Darvish gave up the hit.

Still, Darvish went eight innings and gave up that lone hit with one walk and nine strikeouts. It was a terrific performance. He now has pitched 15 innings of scoreless baseball.

Darvish established his fastball the first time through the order, then utilized the slider more the second time through. Once again, he was efficient, throwing 101 pitches in his eight innings of work. Darvish was in command and in control out there, not even getting to a three-ball count until he walked Jose Altuve with two outs in the seventh. It didn't hurt that the Astros rolled out a lineup that featured six batters hitting under .200 and another hitting .226.

Baserunning problems: Shin-Soo Choo did a terrific job of getting on base Friday, drawing three walks and a single in six plate appearances. But after a single in the 11th, Choo stole second base with one out and Elvis Andrus at the plate. Andrus hit a dribbler in front of the plate and Choo froze rather than moving to third. With Andrus' speed, it would have put even more pressure on the Astros, never mind possibly putting the winning run at third base with two outs, should a wild pitch or something have happened. Instead, Choo stayed at second and the Astros retired Alex Rios to end the inning.

10th-inning issues: Texas had a great chance to win the game in the 10th inning, loading the bases with no outs. Houston brought in Marwin Gonzalez and inserted him as part of a five-man infield with no left fielder. The Rangers needed a fly ball and couldn't get it. Mitch Moreland hit into a fielder's choice with the Astros throwing out Rios at home. Chirinos struck out and Leonys Martin grounded out to second.

Not quite in ninth: The Rangers rallied with two outs in the inning as Martin singled and Josh Wilson also singled, with Martin going to third. Choo had a typically solid at-bat, getting behind in the count but still drawing a walk. Andrus came up with the bases loaded and grounded out to end the inning.

Is that blood?: At one point in the sixth inning, TV cameras showed the top of Darvish's thumb was cut and he was bleeding a bit. It didn't seem to bother him as he continued to pitch.

Nice arm: Astros catcher Jason Castro threw out two Rangers runners Friday. He got Andrus trying to steal after Andrus didn't get a good jump to end the third, and he nailed Martin on a pitch-out call to end the fifth.

Nice catch: Martin had the highlight of the night, making a diving catch to end the seventh inning.

Offensive issues: The Rangers couldn't do much with the bats, though they had some chances. The best might have been in the seventh, when the Rangers put two on with one out and had the bases loaded with two outs and couldn't score anything. Houston opted to intentionally walk Martin -- the first time that has happened in his young career -- to pitch to Wilson and Scott Feldman struck him out to end the frame. Give Feldman some credit. His curveball was working and he pitched very well only two days after his father died.

Hesitancy hurts: With Kouzmanoff at first, Moreland laced a ball to the gap in right-center in the second inning, but Kouzmanoff didn't get a good read on the ball and hesitated. He ended up at third base but might have had a chance to score had he been running right away. That put runners and second and third with one out, but J.P. Arencibia struck out, and Martin grounded out to end the threat.

Big hand for Nolan: Ryan, a Hall of Famer and former Rangers CEO, was at the ballpark on Friday night and sat next to former president George W. Bush in the owner's box (his usual place from the past handful of seasons). He was shown on the video board between innings early in the game and received a standing ovation (while "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" played as background music).
Note: Each Monday, we'll take a look at a few parts of the Texas Rangers that are performing well and those that aren't. It's our Stock Report.

STOCK UP

Streaking
Yu Darvish: He came off the disabled list in time to start on Sunday and looked like a guy ready to once again contend for the American League Cy Young Award. One Darvish goal: Be more efficient so he can pitch deeper in games. The Rangers didn't want Darvish going much more than 100 pitches in his first start, yet the 27-year-old ace went seven innings and allowed no runs, needing just 89 pitches. He gave up a hit in every inning, but no damage. Darvish got ahead in counts, pounded his fastball and was aggressive (he had 65 strikes). The result was quicker outs and a longer start. If he keeps pitching like that, it will be another terrific season for him.

Alex Rios: The Rangers' No. 5 hitter was the club's top run producer the first week of the season. Rios had five RBIs and three extra-base hits, including the only homer by anyone in that middle of the lineup. Rios didn't dominate headlines with names like Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo joining the lineup. But he's a critical component batting in that spot. (And I should throw in that Elvis Andrus has had a great week as well, but didn't quite have room for him this week.)

Shin-Soo Choo: He was brought in to get on base and he has done that. He's seeing a lot of pitches -- again, something he normally does -- and has found numerous ways to get on base. Heck, the guy had a walk-off walk last week. It was the first one for the Rangers since 1999.

Second base platoon: With Jurickson Profar out with the torn muscle in his shoulder, the Rangers are relying on Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson to handle that spot right now. It's only one week, but both made contributions. Wilson has hit well in his three starts (5-for-8 with three RBIs) and Murphy showed his glove on Sunday, making a nice play in a close game with the Rays.

STOCK DOWN

Slumping
Prince Fielder: He needs to be the left-handed power threat in the middle of this lineup, but he hasn't been that through the first six games. I'll caution everyone that it's early. But for the first week, he has to fall in the "stock down" category with a batting average below .200 and just one RBI. And it's worth noting that Fielder's presence is helping Elvis Andrus. Read more about that here.

Starting rotation: Outside of Darvish, who was the sixth different starter to begin the season, the starting rotation wasn't what the Rangers had hoped. Nick Martinez did give them a quality start, but Tanner Scheppers and Joe Saunders struggled in their first starts. As a whole, the rotation had a 6.66 ERA in the first five games (again, that was BEFORE Darvish's excellent start on Sunday). We'll see if things get better for them this week.

Catchers at the plate: It wasn't as if the Rangers brought in Geovany Soto (who is now hurt) and J.P. Arencibia expecting huge offense. But Arencibia and backup catcher Robinson Chirinos haven't supplied much. Both catchers have just two hits between them (both by Arencibia).

Alexi Ogando: He has had a disappointing start to the season after losing his rotation job this spring. Ogando actually lowered his ERA on Sunday despite giving up a hit and a walk in the eighth inning and forcing Neal Cotts to come in and finish off the frame in a tight game. The Ogando who was so dominant just a few years ago hasn't shown up yet.

Rangers preach aggressiveness on bases

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
6:02
PM CT
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Over the next few days, the Dallas area will be subjected to a Final Four gathering of basketball teams that like to run, including a perennial slow-it-down program like Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, across the Gulf of Mexico, the Rangers will try to build on a similar approach as they attempt to find a more consistent offense after Friday's 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays left them with eight runs over the past three games. Entering Saturday's contest against the Rays, the Rangers rank ninth in total bases (52) and tied for 11th in stolen bases (1) with four other teams in the American League.

"We've got to get more aggressive on the bases," Ron Washington said prior to Saturday's game. "We had opportunities to go first to third, to steal. It's a matter of trust. That has to become natural development and instinct."

Part of it is getting the right lead. Part of it is reading the way the batter hits the ball.

Ultimately, it's a matter of chemistry, the intangible connection between what the manager expects and allows and how the player responds. With several new players on the club, Washington respects the early learning curve and understands it might take time for his mentality to catch on.

But to speed up the learning process, Washington had third base coach Gary Pettis work with Jim Adduci, Michael Choice, Shin-Soo Choo and Leonys Martin on leads and running from first to third hours before the 6:10 first pitch.

"We had Gary out there working with them, and if he doesn't want you to take a chance, he'll scream at you to stay there," Washington said of Pettis, who had 354 stolen bases and scored 568 runs during his 14-year career. "We want to make them aware of how we run the bases, the proper read, proper secondary. Be willing to challenge somebody."

And that goes the same for a player like Prince Fielder, who admittedly made a mistake in Friday night's loss when he paused coming around third despite Pettis' go sign and ended up being tagged out in a rundown.

"Prince admitted he made a mistake," Washington said. "We don't care about them getting picked off, getting thrown out. We want them to be aggressive. We trying to get them to run. Don't play tentative. You never know what you can do unless you do it."

Martinez debut: Nick Martinez will make his major league debut when he starts for the Rangers on Saturday night. The Miami native plans on having 50 friends and family members at the game. The team purchased Martinez's contract from Double-A Frisco and added him to the 40-man roster. Daniel McCutchen was optioned to Frisco to make room for Martinez on the 25-man roster. McCutchen did not fare well in his Rangers debut Friday, when the right-hander allowed three runs, two earned over 2 1/3 innings against the Rays. Martinez combined to go 12-7 with a 2.50 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) with Myrtle Beach and Frisco in 2013, his third professional season.

Saunders update: Joe Saunders, who exited Friday's game in the fourth inning after being hit on the left ankle by a comeback line drive off Evan Longoria's bat, had a nasty bruise on his ankle Saturday. The pitcher said he rode the bike as part of his pregame routine. The team will determine his next start based on how he responds to bruise over next few days.

Lineup shuffle: Michael Choice makes his first start for the Rangers when he bats sixth in the order as the right-fielder. In addition, Alex Rios will bat as the designated hitter. Washington said he wanted to give the regular outfielders an opportunity to get off their feet, especially on the turf at Tropicana Field.

Darvish ready: Washington said Yu Darvish, who will make his first start Sunday after missing his schedule Opening Day start due to a stiff neck, will be able to pitch as long as he can Sunday.

"I think he can throw 100 pitches," Washington said. "It's all determined on how Tampa Bay battles him, how he gets through each inning. He's not going to be out there throwing 115 pitches, though."

In his first start last season, Darvish tossed 111 pitches in the memorable attempt to finish with a perfect game before it was broken up with two outs in the ninth. Washington insinuated on Saturday that Darvish would not go past the 100-pitch mark, even if Darvish is cruising along to more perfection.

"But he's going to be out there as long as he's effective," Washington said.

Profar fielding again: Jurickson Profar (shoulder) resumed fielding drills with Washington for the second consecutive day. Profar will travel with the team when the Rangers go to Boston to face the Red Sox in a three-game series starting Monday. Washington anticipates Profar doing more each day after the second-baseman took several ground balls on Satuday. "He just can't throw like he was in spring training, but he's starting to get there," Washington said.

Last, but not least: Catcher Chris Gimenez took the free agency route rather than accept an outright assigment to Round Rock.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.92 159 126
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .322
HRA. Beltre 14
RBIA. Beltre 53
RA. Beltre 52
OPSA. Beltre .880
ERAY. Darvish 2.92
SOY. Darvish 159