As soon as Texas Rangers brass learned in late March that the MRI results on Jurickson Profar’s right shoulder weren’t good, second baseman Rougned Odor was going to be a big leaguer at some point early this season.
He’s their top prospect, one of the top 40 in baseball. The players in front of him were signed to minor-league deals or acquired off waivers. There’s upside in him that other infielders in the system just don’t have.
And general manager Jon Daniels and his front-office posse love giving their own young guys a chance.
Alas, they swallowed hard and pulled the reins on Odor in the late-March aftermath of Profar’s torn shoulder muscle, sending him to Double A Frisco until he proved he could be a viable option, though only after enough time had passed to ensure that the Rangers wouldn’t be starting his clock to free agency too soon.
Looking back, Opening Day would have been a fine time for Odor to make his major-league debut rather than on a rainy May day as the Rangers wallow through a miserable stretch in which their offense has gone, for the most part, into hiding.
Odor, who participated in his first spring training, won’t cure all that ails the lineup. He will be back in the minors once Profar is healthy, maybe once Donnie Murphy comes off the disabled list in 15 days.
But Odor is an upgrade over Josh Wilson, a supreme person whose bat has always let him down. As Thursday arrived, the Rangers decided that they had waited on Odor long enough.
Maybe too long for a team that has the worst offensive production in the American League at second base.
“We wanted to let him go down, get off to a good start and make sure that it wasn’t a spring-training mirage,” Daniels said. “Our reports have been very, very positive. The first 10 or so days, he slumped with the bat, but he’s swinging it really well right now and his defense is good and his energy is good.
“It’s a chance for some more offense at second base. We’ve struggled at a few spots, but this is one where we have a chance to upgrade internally. That’s what we’re doing.”
Odor started and batted eighth in the Rangers’ 5-0 victory over Colorado, making an impact with his glove to start a key double play behind Matt Harrison, who won for the first time since Sept. 27, 2012.
Odor, a left-handed hitter, comes to the Rangers after hitting in nine straight Texas League games, batting .421 during the streak to lift his average to .279 after an 0-for-12 start to the season. He left Frisco with six homers in 32 games.
Manager Ron Washington said that Odor will start four or five times a week against right-handers and lefties. Luis Sardinas, also recalled from Frisco to replace Murphy, will serve as the utility man.
The Rangers are getting a player in Odor who at 20 years, 94 days became the youngest player in the majors this year. He can hit for average, has more pop than might be expected from a 5-foot-11 and 170-pound middle infielder and is a capable defender.
“I’m ready to play baseball,” Odor said. “If they called me up, they think they need me. If they need me, I’ll be ready when they call me to play.”
Odor didn’t seem intimidated, starting an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the second to thwart the hottest-hitting team in baseball and racing to his left to grab a soft liner by Carlos Gonzalez with runners at first and second to end the third.
“For his first play in the major leagues, it was awesome,” Washington said. “Just like we taught him.”
The Rangers took advantage of the double play, scoring twice in their half of the second on an RBI single by Leonys Martin after Alex Rios had doubled. A balk, a stolen base and an error trying to catch Martin allowed him to score for a 2-0 edge.
Harrison (1-0) made the lead stand through 5 1/3 innings, and Nick Martinez, Aaron Poreda, Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria completed the Rangers’ MLB-leading seventh shutout and the first shutout of the Rockies this season.
Prince Fielder added some cushion in the sixth with his third homer, and the Rangers got the good end of a video challenge on an inning-ending double play in the seventh on a throw home from Rios in right field.
Two more runs after stretch time did in the Rockies, and the Rangers improved to 1-0 when Odor is their starting second baseman. His double play didn’t go unnoticed by Harrison, who lauded the defense as a whole.
Odor called the play “routine,” a sign that he wasn’t intimidated for his first touch on the big-league stage.
“That’s what we practice every day,” he said.
But it’s not every day that a player jumps from Double A to the majors. In Odor’s case, it might have been a little late.