Texas Rangers

Guzman looking for permanent stay as Rangers' first baseman

Texas Rangers' Ronald Guzman looks skyward as he crosses home plate after his two-run home run during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers in a baseball game Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Texas Rangers' Ronald Guzman looks skyward as he crosses home plate after his two-run home run during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers in a baseball game Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) The Associated Press

The current Texas Rangers road trip started with a weekend in Detroit, continues in Boston through Wednesday and ends Sunday after a three-game series in Baltimore.

The stops shouldn't be lost on those keenly aware of the Rangers' attempts to fill Mark Teixeira's void at first base.

He's only been gone 11 years.

The Rangers tried with Chris Davis (Baltimore), Mitch Moreland (Boston) and Prince Fielder (Detroit). If only MLB could have scheduled the Rangers to go to Toronto (Justin Smoak) on this trip, too.

All four have been All-Stars, though only Fielder went to the Midsummer Classic with the Rangers (2015). Moreland was selected Sunday to the American League team, and he seemed to still be surprised by his selection Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park.

The Rangers, meanwhile, started a different player at first base for the second straight game, though Tuesday starter Ronald Guzman looks to be next in line to try to nail down the position on an everyday basis.

As the Rangers continue to hold down last place in the AL West, now 20 1/2 games out of first place, Guzman should receive the majority of the playing time at first. He wants the job for the long haul.

"Definitely," Guzman said. "I don't know the history for them, but they believe in the talent I have and they believe I'm going to improve a lot and I'm going to be good enough one day to meet their expectations. I believe the same thing."

Guzman batted sixth Tuesday and went 2 for 4 in an 8-4 loss to the Red Sox. He has raised his batting average from .218 to .260 in his past 14 games.

The 6-foot-6 Guzman is finding success at the plate as he sharpens his approach and finds a routine that gets him ready each day. A smart kid — he doesn't turn 24 until Oct. 20 — Guzman has realized how much more brain power is required to succeed in the majors.

In nearly three months since his April 13 MLB debut, Guzman has improved. Significantly.

"From the earth to the sky," he said. "It's so mental. I feel like it's so different, but it's the same game. I feel like I've improved so much on my approach, the way I see what really works and what really is important to be ready to play a game.

"I've learned so much. I'm impressed with how fast I have improved, and I feel like if I keep working and I keep on the same path, I'll continue to get better."

Joey Gallo, Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar, Monday's starter there, will get time at first base, too. Gallo opened the season as the first baseman but has been the primary left fielder since Guzman's arrival.

Guzman doesn't have Gallo's power, and few do. Guzman, though, is the better defender and a better hitter, and the belief is the power will develop in future seasons. Guzman might some day win a Gold Glove as Moreland did in 2016, his last season with the Rangers before signing a free-agent deal with the Red Sox.

"You can throw it anywhere and you know he will pick it, he will go up, he will do anything," Profar said recently. "And he keeps working every day to improve."

Though Guzman's career-high in the minors is only 16 homers, he's at half that total 12 games past the midway point in his first season in the majors. Considering he was at Triple A Round Rock for the first 14 games of the season and missed another seven during a recent stay on the concussion list, he's on a nice pace.

The more he plays this season, the more he will develop. The veterans helping him along the way — Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and even good buddy and fellow 23-year-old Nomar Mazara — like how Guzman is progressing.

"The guys that I talk to and the guys that are helping me say the same thing," said Guzman, who signed as an international free agent the same day as Mazara in 2011 in the Dominican Republic.

"The way I'm moving forward is really good. They all see the improvement and say I'm going on the right track."

That track could have him at first base for many seasons to come.

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