Third baseman Adrian Beltre has been the Texas Rangers’ cleanup hitter for 499 of the 584 games he has started since joining the club in 2011, and he was in the No. 4 slot in Sunday’s Cactus League game against Milwaukee.
But whereas former manager Ron Washington believed in lineup consistency to allow players to be comfortable each day, Jeff Banister said that statistical analysis will at times dictate where batters hit.
“When you’re extremely strong in all areas, there is an element to having guys in a lineup and familiarity,” Banister said. “But in today’s landscape of all the data and information, having guys that feel comfortable hitting in different areas of the lineup is necessary.”
More directly, regarding Beltre batting fourth, Banister said, “I wouldn’t say that’s set in stone.”
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Beltre is likely to see a heavy load in the cleanup spot, but said that he doesn’t mind where he bats as long as he has lineup protection. He didn’t have much in 2014, when he batted .324 but hit only 19 homers.
“As long as I’m in the lineup I really don’t care,” Beltre said.
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo could be the hitter who moves around the most because of his knack for getting on base, though he will likely spend most of his time batting third or fifth.
Some 10 days before Banister announced that Leonys Martin would be the Rangers’ leadoff hitter in 2015, he declared that right-hander Shawn Tolleson would start the season in the bullpen.
Tolleson promptly rewarded Banister with two lousy outings to open the spring, including a four-run stinker in a B game against a Chicago White Sox lineup full of minor leaguers.
“I’m trying to get people out,” Tolleson said. “I’m not just standing up there trying to throw 30 pitches.”
All along, though, Tolleson said that his arm felt great and his stuff was sharp. That was more evident Saturday with a scoreless inning against San Diego.
The lone blemish was a two-out walk that was quickly forgotten by retiring the next batter.
“I’m not worried about any of it,” Tolleson said. “If I throw more strikes, I’ll get quicker outs. I’ve been working on everything, and I’m failing on fastball command. Once I get that nailed down, hopefully I’ll have different results.”
Tolleson has joined fellow righties Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers as relievers with Opening Day jobs.
Scheppers made it through a bullpen session Saturday without aggravating his sprained right ankle and will make his Cactus League debut Tuesday.
Not half bad
Matt Harrison said it was weird throwing off a mound again, and it was only a half-mound at that.
The good news after he threw 15 pitches was that his fused vertebrae felt fine.
If it still feels fine Monday, the left-hander could be back on the half-mound again Tuesday. He could throw off a regulation mound next weekend.
“There was nothing pulling back there,” Harrison said. “Now that I’m on the mound, how I feel the next day determines when I’ll do it again.”
Throwing downhill actually feels better, he said. Harrison is trying to lengthen his stride so that gravity pushes his back leg around rather than the more stressful act of him dragging it around.
Fellow rehabbing lefty Martin Perez (Tommy John surgery) has been throwing off a half-mound but is scheduled to graduate to a full mound on Tuesday.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760