Utility man Baker stays in Rangers lineup against lefties as Murphy struggles

Posted Thursday, May. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Manager Ron Washington isn’t calling it a platoon. He is simply using the players performing the best.

That’s why Jeff Baker made his third consecutive start in left field for the Texas Rangers on Thursday night. David Murphy was originally scheduled to start in left, but the White Sox scratched right-hander Jake Peavy with back spasms and went with left-hander Hector Santiago. Washington opted to add another right-handed bat into the lineup.

The right-handed-hitting Baker went into the game batting .444 with three home runs against lefties. Murphy has a .206 average over 34 at-bats against them. Murphy didn’t question the manager’s decision.

“It’s no question that I’m slumping,” said Murphy, who has a .174 average on the year.

“They’re trying to put the best lineup out there against a lefty and it does not include me right now. I understand that and I’m just going to keep working through this.”

Murphy could be out of the starting lineup for a fourth consecutive game since the Red Sox are starting left-hander Felix Doubront on Friday night. And, on Sunday, the Red Sox are going with lefty Jon Lester.

With that, the Rangers are in the middle of facing seven of nine left-handed starters. Baker is also an option at first base, but Mitch Moreland went into the game with a .395 batting average over his past 10 games.

Moreland, a left-handed batter, has improved his performance against left-handers. He was 6 for 12 against them in the past four games going into Thursday. He started the season 1 for 19 in lefty-lefty matchups.

“I got my lineup out there how I want it,” Washington said. “I’ve got a hot-hitting right-handed guy against a lefty, and I got a hot-hitting first baseman.… It’s not a platoon, [Murphy] is going to play.”

For now, though, his at-bats against lefties have been delegated to Baker.

Baker has proven to be a key addition in the early going. He gives the Rangers a true utility man who can hit left-handed pitching and play five positions.

Baker homered in consecutive games Tuesday and Wednesday, and was one of only three big leaguers with three home runs in his first 25 or fewer at-bats this season.

“Any time you can play and have at-bats, it helps your timing and you can build off it,” Baker said. “Whenever my name is in there, I’m excited to go play.”

Baker has been slowed somewhat with a bruised right knee. He injured it while making a sliding catch last week in Anaheim, but said it has been progressing.

“It’s not 100 percent,” Baker said. “But you just go out there and play with it.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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