Texas Rangers

Odor doesn't need a long look back to know what he must do in the future

Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor engages with a  young fan at Saturday's spring training opener against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz.
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor engages with a young fan at Saturday's spring training opener against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Last season is last season, Rougned Odor says. His lousy 2017 is history.

No looking back, no need for an overhaul, just wants to have a better 2018 for the Texas Rangers.

"But I always want to be better," the second baseman said.

Odor is charging like a bull into the new season (look out, Martin Perez). He says he's the same player now as he was five months ago and doesn't want to change who he is, which might make some people wince.

But despite his eyes-straight-ahead same-as-always bravado, Odor knows what went wrong last season and what he needs to improve this spring and carry into the regular season.

"I don't think I hit the way I'm supposed to hit, and I know I'm better than the way I played last year," Odor said. "But it's part of baseball. I always think about the positive stuff. I never think about the negative."

Odor was in the lineup Saturday, batting second as the designated hitter, for the Rangers' first spring game. He grounded out in the first inning, roped a single to center in the third and struck out in the fifth before calling it a day.

There wouldn't have been anything to read into his performance had it gone the other way. Hitters rarely jump out of the off-season and land in a springtime hot streak, and those who do usually don't stay hot long.

Besides, the way he started last season, with two home runs in the season opener, no one could have envisioned what followed over the next 161 games.

Odor batted only .204 and managed only a .397 slugging percentage despite connecting for 30 home runs. Opening Day, the homers and playing in all 162 games were just about the only positives to take from the season.

"It can be hard to process when you're young how to get out of the hole you're digging," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "But what I was impressed with was he still found a way to put that aside and go compete.

"I told him as a human being, sometimes you're going to fail. But as long as you keep going you're going to take something positive away from that experience. And I think he did. That's what I saw this off-season, the way he was working and the way he approached the training was different. But I told him, 'Don't change.'"

Need another plus? Odor took 10 walks in the final month, including three Sept. 25 against Houston. The Rangers hope that is an indication that Odor understands the data that shows the location of pitches he handles best and the ones he needs to lay off.

Odor gets it. It's just a matter of getting it harnessed. The Rangers don't want him to lose the aggression that allows him to drive pitches out of the strike zone, but they want him to understand that he doesn't have to swing at everything.

"It gets back to a young guy being about to control the strike zone in the batter's box," manager Jeff Banister said.

That's one adjustment, but there's another the Rangers want to see. They didn't see the edge that makes Odor so effective, and the one they asked him to discover in 2015 when banished to Triple A Round Rock for a month after a miserable start to the season.

Odor noticed that it was missing at times last season. He isn't sure why, but he continues to insist that it wasn't any pressure to live up to the six-year, $49.5 million contract extension he signed just before the season.

"I didn't feel pressure when I had no contract, so why am I going to feel pressure when I have the contract?" Odor said. "I wasn't the same. But I already talked to them about that and I'm going to play the way I play."

Odor said that he didn't do anything to escape his season after it mercifully came to an end. He went to Miami for a month in October to be with friends and family, and then headed to Venezuela in December for another month.

But to get away from baseball?

"I'm never going to feel like that," Odor said. "I grew up playing baseball. I'm never going to think, 'Get away from baseball.'"

So, he says he is just going to keep playing the way he always has. Don't wince, because he knows what he must do to be better. The Rangers need him to be much better.

"What makes a lot of these guys great is they don't necessary look back and dwell on things," said Banister, who also has seen more determination in Odor. "They're trying to grow and get better at what they're doing right now.

"In Roogie's case, I don't think there's any avoidance. He has a pretty good idea and handle on what he needs to improve."



Texas

010

000

000

1

Chicago

000

302

010

6

Texas

ab

r

h

bi



Chicago

ab

r

h

bi

DShelds cf

3

0

0

0



A.Almra cf

2

0

0

0

Cardona cf

1

0

0

0



Zagunis rf

2

0

1

0

Ro.Odor dh

3

0

1

0



K.Brynt 3b

1

0

1

0

Hineman ph

1

0

0

0



J.Vsler pr

2

1

1

0

J.Prfar ss

2

0

1

0



A.Rizzo 1b

2

1

1

2

Knr-Flf ph

2

0

0

0



Cratini 1b

2

0

0

0

N.Mzara rf

2

0

0

0



Cntrras c

2

1

1

1

De.Hood ph

2

0

1

0



T.Davis c

2

0

0

0

R.Gzman 1b

1

0

0

0



Heyward rf

2

0

0

0

Cordero ph

1

0

0

0



Hnnmann cf

2

0

0

0

Rbinson lf

1

1

0

0



Russell ss

2

0

1

0

Calhoun ph

2

0

0

0



R.Court ss

2

2

2

0

Ncholas c

2

0

2

0



Ja.Baez 2b

2

0

1

0

Centeno c

0

0

0

0



Da.Bote pr

1

1

1

0

C.Csali c

0

0

0

0



Gimenez dh

3

0

1

1

C.Lopes 3b

2

0

0

0



C.Burks pr

1

0

0

1

L.Marte 3b

2

0

0

0



Bourjos lf

2

0

0

0

Alberto 2b

2

0

1

0



Rdmcher ph

2

0

0

0

A.Ibnez pr

1

0

0

0













E—Kiner-Falefa (1), Centeno (1). DP—Texas 1, Chicago 1. LOB—Texas 7, Chicago 6. 2B—Hood (1), Court (1). 3B—Baez (1). HR—Rizzo (1), Contreras (1). SB—Court (1). CS—Guzman (1), Ibanez (1).

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Blackburn

2

2

0

0

0

1

Leclerc

1

0

0

0

0

1

Sadzeck

0

2

3

3

1

0

Alvarez

1

1

0

0

0

2

Guerra

1

1

0

0

0

1

Garrett

<AF>2/3

2

2

0

1

0

Feigl

<AF>1/3

0

0

0

0

1

Sampson

1

1

0

0

0

1

Bibens-Dirkx

1

2

1

1

0

2

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Butler

1 <AF>2/3

2

1

0

2

0

Mazzoni

1 <AF>1/3

1

0

0

0

0

Farrell

2

2

0

0

0

3

Maples

1

1

0

0

1

1

Mills

1

0

0

0

1

1

Underwood Jr.

1

0

0

0

0

1

De La Cruz

1

0

0

0

1

1



WP—Bibens-Dirkx. PB—Nicholas, Contreras. Umpires—Home, Kerwin Danley; First, Rob Drake; Second, Quinn Wolcott; Third, Ryan Additon. T— 3:02. A— 14,821

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