If his rookie season was about learning, the lesson on tact apparently has sunk into the young mind of Jurickson Profar.
Asked Tuesday about his reaction to the trade that sent Ian Kinsler to Detroit and created an infield spot for Profar to take, the soon-to-be-21-year-old talked about his loss before his huge gain.
“We lost a good teammate,” Profar said after a working out at Rangers Ballpark. “But at the same time it was good for me. I got a position to play.”
The company line is that he will have to win the job as the Texas Rangers’ second baseman in 2014, but barring injury or a disastrous Cactus League performance, Profar will be in the Opening Day starting lineup March 31 against Philadelphia.
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But a better rapport with the media isn’t the only improvement the Rangers are seeking from Profar. He needs to be a better player, a player who helps his team win, and he knows it.
“I’m working hard every day to get better,” Profar said. “Last year I had good experience, and I know what have to do to succeed. Everything. Hitting. Fielding. Base running. Everything. I know what it takes. You have to work hard every day, and focus on things you have to improve.”
His work started well before the Rangers’ annual pitching mini-camp, where Profar is working this week. He played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, where he batted .284 in 25 games with Licey.
He didn’t show much power, with five doubles, a triple and a homer for a .398 slugging percentage in 88 at-bats, but his .439 on-base percentage showed a better understanding of the strike zone and being more selective at the plate.
That was the No. 1 hitting goal for a player who batted only .234 (67 for 285) in 85 games with a .308 on-base percentage. He took too many called third strikes or too often chased pitches out of the zone.
A switch-hitter, Profar batted only .188 as a right-handed hitter. He said he had focused too much on hitting left-handed in past seasons. The Rangers aren’t concerned that he can turn it around right-handed, his natural side, and neither is Profar.
“Both of my swings are on track,” he said. “Now, I’m feeling good both sides.”
Profar has more work to do than just at the plate. He was signed out of the Curacao as a 16-year-old to play shortstop, and that’s almost all he played coming up through the minor leagues.
It was also the only position he played in the Dominican Winter League, even after the Nov. 20 trade that sent Kinsler to the Tigers for first baseman Prince Fielder. Profar says he’s “very comfortable” at the position, but Manager Ron Washington plans to smooth out any kinks Profar has at second base — and there are kinks — during spring training.
“Pro has great aptitude, and we’re certainly looking forward to trying to get him to be more consistent,” Washington said. “Just play baseball, stay healthy and get better. Nothing more than that.”
Profar in 2013