Mitch Moreland is likely to be available only off the Texas Rangers’ bench through Friday, though not because of the loose body in his left elbow.
Manager Jeff Banister said that Moreland is a full-go after the elbow locked up Wednesday. There is still some lingering soreness, Moreland said, but not enough to keep him from playing.
Left-hander James Paxton was as responsible for Moreland, a left-handed hitter, sitting Sunday in the series finale against Seattle. With the next two games at Arizona, where the designated hitter won’t be used, Moreland is likely to be on the bench until the Rangers play at Anaheim on Friday.
The only way Moreland would play is if the Rangers decided to give first baseman Prince Fielder a day off. As the only regular who has hit this season, that seems unlikely, even though Moreland is better defensively.
“Prince Fielder is our first baseman, Mitch Moreland plays first base, and we’ll utilize them both as needed,” Banister said.
Fielder served as the Rangers’ DH twice against the Mariners and six times in 13 games this season. Banister wants to keep Fielder sharp by giving him games in the field, and Fielder is fine with the current arrangement.
Some hitters can feel disengaged from the game and lose focus as a DH, but not Fielder.
“I used to think it would be an excuse. If I didn’t get a hit, it was because I was DH,” he said. “I’m OK with it.”
Elvis Andrus put down a sacrifice bunt in the first inning Saturday night, a tactic that moved Leonys Martin to third base but cost the Rangers one more chance to drive in a run.
Banister said that he is not a fan of a sacrifice so early in a game, and he’s trying to get players like Andrus to break away from bunting as often as they did under former manager Ron Washington.
“Some of these guys have been playing the game a certain way with a certain mindset,” Banister said. “And we’re working on that process.”
With Martin already in scoring position with no outs, Banister would have liked to see the Rangers get two chances to drive him in from second with less than two outs rather than one chance from third base.
After the bunt, Fielder bounced sharply to second baseman Robinson Cano, who was playing in and prevented Martin from scoring. Adrian Beltre was hit by a pitch, and Shin-Soo Choo struck out to strand Martin.
“I like the two shots better than the one,” Banister said. “You need to roll for that big one [inning] in the first inning.”
Right-hander Nick Martinez will return to the mound Tuesday to open a two-game series at Arizona and try to preserve his tidy 0.00 ERA, which won’t be easy.
Martinez, though, is making things easier for himself so far this season, thanks to improved fastball command. He’s getting ahead in counts, working both sides of the plate and changing eye levels.
“They’re a higher quality strike,” Martinez said. “I’m also throwing my off-speed for strikes, so the hitters have to prepare for that.”
The only run Martinez (2-0) has allowed this season in 14 innings was an unearned run Tuesday against the Angels. He is likely to face them again next weekend, following Colby Lewis and Ross Detwiler on Friday and Saturday.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760