Ian Kinsler won’t be on the disabled list forever, and maybe even only a couple more weeks.
His team, the first-place Texas Rangers, will need to clear a roster spot to get him back on the active roster, and the short straw would appear to be held by the player holding down his spot at second base.
The following comes from that player, the one who has generated more buzz and talk and consternation since September than any other in the organization.
If Jurickson Profar, labeled as baseball’s top prospect, were given the power to choose whether to stay with the Rangers as a one-game-a-week utility player or return to Triple A Round Rock and play every day, the decision is a no-brainer — at least to him.
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“I’d go to Triple A and play,” Profar said.
Profar, of course, would never be given the power to make that decision. If the choice were one game a week with the Rangers or seven in the minors, the Rangers wouldn’t hesitate to point him south on I-35.
But because of the way Profar is playing as Kinsler’s fill-in, it might never come to that. Once again, the search is under way for a plan that would generate enough at-bats to keep Profar from collecting rust on the Rangers’ bench.
“We’re in the business of winning games,” general manager Jon Daniels said Monday morning. “You usually have a better chance of winning games when you have your best players on the team. If he demonstrates that he deserves to be in that mix, it’s something we’ll talk about.”
Daniels balked when asked if there is a plan. Back in spring training, though, an idea was floated to use Profar to make sure lineup regulars got a day off a week.
If the Rangers were to play seven games in one week, for instance, Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus would sit once. Third baseman Adrian Beltre and designated hitter Lance Berkman would find themselves out of the lineup more often, too, though perhaps not as frequently.
The decision on Profar will come down to whether the Rangers will lose anything offensively or in the field by routinely sitting Andrus, Kinsler and Beltre — three All-Star infielders — in favor of Profar, a 20-year-old who never hit above .300 in the minors.
“If it’s going to be once a week, you don’t want him sitting around doing that,” Daniels said. “Something we’re going to talk about is whether there’s an opportunity to get him in the mix and get some guys off their feet.”
Profar won the game Sunday with a solo homer with two outs in the eighth inning. He also went deep May 27 at Seattle, becoming the youngest player in nearly 55 years to hit a leadoff homer.
His 11th game since Kinsler was shelved with a stress reaction in his ribcage will come Tuesday night as the Rangers open a six-game road trip at Boston.
Profar is batting .324 (12 for 37) with six RBIs and a .514 slugging percentage. He is becoming wiser with every inning he plays, which is why playing every day for Round Rock is more appealing to him than sitting as a big-league extra.
His time in Triple A is the main reason why he has made a smoother transition to the majors than if he had opened the season with the Rangers.
He saw a steady dose of off-speed pitches in the Pacific Coast League, and he finally made the right adjustments after a slow start. Over his final 10 games before being recalled, Profar batted .415 (17 for 41) with two homers, six RBIs and a .467 on-base percentage.
“It makes you better,” he said of playing regularly at Triple A. “I’m prepared. That’s why Triple A was good for me.”
Major league pitchers haven’t been taking it any easier on Profar, a switch hitter. But Profar has been extending at-bats, seeing extra pitches and finding a comfort zone.
That’s a signal of his maturity and the advanced plate approach he has had since debuting as a pro in 2010.
“He’s really mature for his age, especially the way he approaches the game,” said Andrus, one of Profar’s roadblocks. “You don’t really find that in a lot of guys. He’s not scared or intimidated by anyone. He’s going to continue learning a lot about himself and the league.”
The Rangers have time to figure out how to get him enough playing time to not stunt his development. Profar has to hold up his end by continuing to play well at the big-league level.
If he does, what to do with Profar once again becomes the question that trumps all others concerning the Rangers.
“That’s a good question,” Andrus said. “You should ask JD.”