The search for a productive lineup continued Saturday for Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, who shuffled Leonys Martin back to the bottom of the order after only one game as the leadoff man.
Shin-Soo Choo was back atop the lineup, and Mitch Moreland made his first start of the season in the No. 3 hole, where Choo had been since Prince Fielder missed his first game with a herniated disk last weekend.
Washington said that Martin isn’t ready to be a leadoff man. He’s an aggressive hitter who hasn’t learned how to be patient or hit with two strikes, traits needed at the top of the lineup.
“He hasn’t gotten to the point in his career where he’s disciplined,” Washington said. “He’s an aggressive guy, and when you try to take that away from him, you lose who Martin is. I’ll shoot him up there now and then, but right now, he’s a slasher.”
Choo did well batting third, though Washington noticed some indecisiveness. But when Choo is batting first, the starting pitcher is made to work from his first pitch.
“He forces pitchers to show what they have or what they don’t have because he’s not chasing,” Washington said of Choo, who left in the sixth inning with soreness in his left ankle.
Moreland’s 2014 debut in the No. 3 hole also could be temporary. But he is batting .306 (19 for 62) over his past 23 games and drove in the Rangers’ only two runs in a 7-2 loss Friday.
“He’s swinging the bat well, and I just hope it can continue,” Washington said. “I’m just trying to get something that works daily.”
Saunders gets nod
Left-hander Joe Saunders will start again for the Rangers after nearly two months on the disabled list, going Wednesday at Minnesota.
Saunders replaced Scott Baker in the rotation after the right-hander allowed six runs in six innings Friday. Baker will head to the bullpen to be the long man, but he likely won’t be available until Monday.
Saunders made four rehab starts after suffering hairline factures in his left ankle after getting drilled by an Evan Longoria liner April 4 in his only 2014 start. Saunders allowed one run in seven innings Tuesday for Triple A Round Rock.
He said the extra starts allowed him to tweak his mechanics and round into better form than he had after a shortened spring training after not signing until early March.
“It’s only going to benefit me,” Saunders said. “My arm is in better shape. I think my body is in better shape. This ankle thing is just about cleared up. The adjustment we made has really benefited me a lot.”
Another bites the dust
Speedster Rajai Davis became the latest base runner to learn that Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos can throw after getting picked off at first base Friday in the first inning.
Chirinos is one of three catchers in the majors with at least two pickoffs, and he is tied with Yadier Molina and Alex Avila for the major-league lead with 11 caught stealing.
A change in Chirinos’ footwork late last season to emulate Molina at the suggestion of catching instructor Hector Ortiz is paying off so far in 2014. Chrinos sets up with his left foot staggered toward his target, and the split second that saves him has helped him catch runners.
“It’s like a little step,” he said. “I’m trying to be consistent and accurate throwing to the bases. I was a little slow last year.”
Bengie Molina also is helping from the Rangers’ bench, giving Chirinos a signal when he thinks a base runner might be ready to try to steal. Molina, a former Gold Glove winner, never lets Chirinos lose his focus.
“He’s helping me a lot,” Chirinos said.