Rangers’ Jurickson Profar makes history with leadoff homer

Posted Sunday, May. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Jurickson Profar turned his first career game as a leadoff hitter into a slice of baseball history.

Baseball’s top prospect opened Sunday’s game with a home run off Hisashi Iwakuma and in the process became the youngest player in nearly 55 years to start a big-league game with a homer.

No one younger than Profar, age 20 years and 95 days, had hit a leadoff homer since Lou Klimchock did it for the Kansas City A’s at 18 years, 348 days on Sept. 28, 1958.

Manager Ron Washington vowed before this season to make sure he gave the regulars in the Texas Rangers’ lineup more rest, and Profar replaced shortstop Elvis Andrus in the lineup.

With Andrus on the bench and Ian Kinsler on the disabled list, Washington went with Profar to lead off over center fielder Leonys Martin and second baseman Leury Garcia, because the manager felt he was more adept at getting on base.

Profar was hitless in five at-bats after his homer, but he had hits in his first two at-bats Saturday against Felix Hernandez.

The rookie isn’t doing anything that Washington didn’t expect when he was recalled last week to fill in for Kinsler.

“I see the same thing I’ve been seeing,” Washington said. “He’s a baseball player. He isn’t scared of anything, and he goes out there and plays his game. He’s doing a good job.”

Andrus hadn’t been out of the starting lineup since April 27, a stretch of 25 games. He was only 2 for 20 in his past five games, but he singled as a pinch hitter to start the 11th.

“I’ll always take a day off, for sure,” he said. “I feel good, but [Washington] wants us to be fresh.”

Playing two

The Rangers packed their bags and headed to Phoenix late Sunday afternoon for a rare split doubleheader Monday at Chase Field.

The decision to play two was made by Arizona Diamondbacks officials who believed that attendance will be better with two games on Memorial Day than a night game Monday and a day game Tuesday.

Both teams have taken advantage of the year-old rule that allows for a 26th player for doubleheaders, and selected top left-handed pitching prospects to start Game 1.

Martin Perez, who missed out on the Rangers’ rotation to start the season because of a broken arm, will face Tyler Skaggs, and Yu Darvish will face a Rangers nemesis, Trevor Cahill, in the night game.

The Rangers will have to go back to 25 players as soon as Game 2 ends, but Perez isn’t required to be the one taken off the roster.

The doubleheader will also give Lance Berkman his first chance this season to play in the field at first base. He took grounders there Saturday and said that his repaired right knee feels healthy enough to handle the quick and lateral movements required to play first.

“I didn’t miss any of them,” Berkman said, rating his Saturday infield session. “It’s more just the exposure to a potential injury risk. I feel pretty good, and I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that.”

Change of pace

For, Yu Darvish interleague play provides a nice chance of pace from the monotony of facing the same American League West foes.

He considers facing a National League team, and having to hit, welcome challenges.

Arizona’s lineup includes first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who entered Sunday second in the NL in RBIs (39), third in homers (12) and seventh in batting average (.318). The Diamondbacks are also getting a boost from rookie shortstop Didi Gregorius (.340), who, like Profar, is from Curacao.

“This could be the only chance that I’m going to face them, and also they’re a really good team,” Darvish said. “I like challenging myself in facing a really good team.”

Darvish, who lost 1-0 in his last start Tuesday to Oakland, will be taking his first swings of the season after going 1 for 3 last year.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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