HOUSTON — Texas Rangers outfielder Alex Rios hopes to allow a nagging right ankle injury to heal by staying out of the starting lineup the first two games in Houston this weekend.Rios, who injured the ankle on July 19 in Toronto, said he plans to play in Sunday’s series finale.“I’m just trying to get it better,” said Rios, who is batting .293 and is second on the team with 45 RBIs. “I can play on it, but I’d rather take a couple days off and see if it helps.”Rios will be available off the bench as either a pinch hitter or for a defensive switch, if necessary.“If they need me at some point, I’m available,” he said. “This is just a precautionary thing.”Rios, who has been the talk of trade speculation, declined to discuss the matter.“I’m not talking about trades right now until something happens,” Rios said. “I’m still a Ranger and I’m here to do my job.”Soto returnsCatcher Geovany Soto has been activated and started Friday’s opener against the Astros. He’s been out since July 21 with a groin injury.Right-hander Jerome Williams has been designated for assignment to make room for Soto. Rangers manager Ron Washington said the club made it known to Williams, 32, that they’d like to keep him in the organization.Smolinski bootedRangers rookie outfielder Jake Smolinski has been put in a walking boot for a small fracture in his left foot. He’s been on the disabled list since July 25 (retroactive to July 22).He’ll be reevaluated in two to three weeks to see if he’ll be able to finish the season.Washington said nothing new was found, but the small crack hadn’t healed as quickly as expected.“They felt like they better immobilize it,” he said.Silver boot supremacyThe Rangers have won seven consecutive Silver Boots against the Astros, but they enter the weekend trailing the season series to Houston 6-3. Texas had lost a series-high five consecutive games to the Astros entering Friday.Before the losing streak, the Rangers were 39-8 against their Texas neighbors since the start of the 2009 season. The teams meet 10 more times (including Friday) with four more in Houston (Aug. 28-31) and three in Arlington (Sept. 22-24). The Astros won four of six in 2006, the last time they won the season series. The teams went 3-3 in 2008, but the Rangers won the Boot series in 2009 (5-1), 2010 (5-1), 2011 (4-2), 2012 (5-1) and 2013 (17-2), the first year the Astros moved to the A.L. West Division.Quotable“My confidence has never wavered with Nefty. He’s been there before. Yes, he has to figure it out in a different manner. He’s done it four out of five times. There’s going to be a hiccup somewhere along the way before it’s over with. But when it’s all over with and he blows two or three I’m good with it.” — Rangers manager Ron Washington on closer Neftali Feliz, who has saved four of five games since returning to the closer role last month.Key stat18 Runs batted in for J.P. Arencibia in his last 13 games, including a two-run homer in the first inning Friday. He leads major league baseball with 22 RBIs and seven homers since the All-Star break.
Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @StevensonFWST