Texas Rangers

What will Rangers do with Kiner-Falefa once Odor returns from DL?

Barring a setback with his left hamstring or a decision to keep him on rehab assignment, Rougned Odor will return to the Texas Rangers lineup as soon as Friday as they open a nine-game road trip at Houston.

Odor was batting only .206 when he was injured April 9. He hadn't homered this season.

Two days later, shortstop Elvis Andrus was hit by a fastball that broke his right ulna bone just below the elbow. Since then, and thanks to Adrian Beltre's hamstring issue, Isiah Kiner-Falefa hasn't been out of the Rangers starting lineup.

That is going to change once Odor returns. He was the starting second baseman when injured, and that hasn't changed although Kiner-Falefa has exceeded expectations and has been one of the Rangers' top players during the past month.

And he gets it.

"He's going to come back and help the team," Kiner-Falefa said. "Whatever happens, happens. I play multiple positions and I bounce all over the field, so whatever they need me to do. If I fit in, I fit in. I'm just doing whatever I can to help the team, and I think having him back will be huge for our offense."

Kiner-Falefa isn't going back to Triple-A Round Rock anytime soon. The Rangers need a utility infielder with Drew Robinson out with a hip injury, and there's even an outside chance that Kiner-Falefa could play catcher or center field in a pinch.

The Rangers haven't thought seriously about moving Jurickson Profar to left field or first base to open a spot for Kiner-Falefa at shortstop, his natural position. The rookie, a right-handed hitter, could get games at second base against a left-hander who is a tough matchup for the lefty-hitting Odor and the switch-hitting Profar, despite his recent success against lefties.

Kiner-Falefa will be filling the role he was called on to do April 9 after Odor was injured. He will head back into a reserve role, having batted .255 with two homers, 11 RBIs, eight extra-base hits and two stolen bases.

He also has the club's two four-hit games this season.

Kiner-Falefa has slumped of late, going 5 for 30 over his past eight games, but he has a hit in three straight after an 0-for-13 skid.

"I just felt like I was late all the time and I wanted to get back on time," he said. "I just made a couple small adjustments."

The Rangers thought that Odor had made adjustments early on and was about to take off before he was injured while scrambling back to first base in a game against the Los Angeles Angels. Odor has consecutive 30-homer seasons, and even though he batted only .204 last season, he has a higher offensive upside than Kiner-Falefa.

There's also the fact that Odor is in the second year of a six-year, $49.5 million contract extension.

Odor went 2 for 12 in his first five rehab games and was to play a sixth Thursday night with Round Rock. He is expected to join the Rangers at Minute Maid Park and be activated this weekend.

"We'll let him complete these next two days and see where he's at," manager Jeff Banister said Wednesday. "I would think the earliest, obviously, would be in Houston. That has been the target date. However, we'll continue to let him go through the process."

Once the process is done, Kiner-Falefa won't be an everyday player for the first time in nearly a month.

"I'm close with him, so it's going to be cool just to actually play with him," he said. "It's been quick. It's been fun, a great experience, and I'm looking to keep moving forward."

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