Texas Rangers slugger J.P. Arencibia is a man without a position.
And with the Rangers trying to get a long look at younger players the final month of the season, the at-bats could be hard to find for him.
They’ve already become scarce for Arencibia, who was relegated to DH on Sunday in the Rangers’ finale at Houston.
Arencibia moved to first base from catcher after returning to the Rangers from a two-month stint in Round Rock after the All-Star break.
But after a fast start in his return, his offensive production slipped. After playing in the first 23 games, including 22 starts at either first base or DH since the break, Arencibia has played in just 10 of the Rangers’ past 17 games, including Sunday.
“I get it. They need to try the young guys to see what they can do,” said Arencibia, whose averaged had dipped to .170 after peaking at .198 on Aug. 5 with a three-hit night in Chicago. “I’ve been around the game long enough.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington is trying to juggle playing time for rookie Ryan Rua and a utility infielder such as Adam Rosales, who has started at every infield position but catcher, including seven times at first. Rosales is batting .352 in 20 games in August.
“They know,” Washington said. “I’m doing the best I can to give them at-bats when I can get them. The priority is we’re going to see [the young players].”
But it’s still tough, Arencibia said, to deal with the lack of at-bats when he was feeling good at the plate. His seven homers and 25 RBIs since the break still rank among the top 10 in the league.
“When I came back and I was playing every day the numbers were there,” he said. “You saw what I could do. Then I stopped playing. I have to figure out a way to still produce whenever my number is called.”
Arencibia said he misses catching, but understands the club’s desire to see Robinson Chirinos and Tomas Telis gain experience. He’d rather be an everyday player, instead of being used sparingly as a DH. He compared the difficulties of being designated hitter to pinch-hitting four times in a game.
“Especially when you go from catching and you’re in everything or playing first base you’re still in the game,” he said. “DHing takes a skill. People think it’s easy because you just hit but you still have to find ways to still stay in the game and stay loose. It’s not an easy thing.
“All these things are happening for a reason and I’m trying to make the best of it and learn how can I be a productive DH when I’m in there. What can I do to stay sharp? I still think I can be an everyday guy.”
As a small group of reporters descended around him in the clubhouse Sunday morning, Colby Lewis tried to curb expectations.
“I’m going to say the same stuff I always say,” he said with a laugh.
Lewis, 35, may feel like a broken record in interviews, but he’s also been, arguably, the most dependable starter for the Rangers in 2014. If Yu Darvish doesn’t return, Lewis (9-10) will likely finish as the team leader in starts and innings pitched. He trails Darvish by seven innings (1441/3 to 1371/3) entering Monday’s start at Kansas City.
“I didn’t think I’d be in that position at the beginning of the year to put up the type of innings and have the amount of starts as I do,” said Lewis, who’ll make his 25th start. “I was hoping to fight for the fifth spot in the rotation [in spring training]. With the injuries it has enabled me to get more than I expected, that’s for sure.”