The select group that makes personnel decisions for the Texas Rangers is about to earn its money in the coming days regarding Josh Hamilton and Delino DeShields.
One decision came Friday as the Rangers chose to recall outfielder Jake Smolinski from Triple A Round Rock, rather than activate Hamilton from the 15-day disabled list, as Kyle Blanks hit the disabled list with a pilonidal cyst.
The Rangers want to get Josh Hamilton to 45-to-50 at-bats in the minor leagues before bringing to the majors. He entered Friday with 39 between Round Rock and Double A Frisco, and remains on track for a Monday debut in Cleveland.
“We’d really like for him to get to that point,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We thought we’d just let him complete the process.”
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Once he does, it lead to some other decisions involving DeShields and how much the rookie continues to play.
DeShields has a role in it, too. He must continue to be one of the Rangers’ best nine players. Entering a three-game series at Yankee Stadium, he might have been the best.
If he stays hot, it will be difficult for Banister to stick him back on the bench.
“I hope he continues to make it challenging,” Banister said. “We’ll do everything we can as long as the young man continues to produce and play. These things usually have a way of working themselves out.”
DeShields likely will play center field or second base, though left field remains a possibility with Hamilton able to play center field.
Opening Day center fielder Leonys Martin continues to be underwhelming at the plate, but a plus-player defensively. DeShields played second base until last season and regularly takes grounders there before games.
With Rougned Odor’s struggles leading to a demotion, Tommy Field and Adam Rosales have split time at second base. DeShields has yet to appear there in a game.
“I think that’s always in the back of the thought process,” Banister said.
DeShields has answered every challenge so far.
“I think, for the most part, I’ve shown them what I’m capable of doing,” he said.
DeShields on top
DeShields’ speed and knack for drawing walks knocked right fielder Shin-Soo Choo out of the leadoff spot for the first time in 17 games, and Choo was all for it.
The outfielders swapped spots in the lineup, with Choo dropping to the No. 2 hole. He has seen what everyone else has — DeShields constantly getting on bases and using his speed when he does.
But that speed is blocked when Choo is on base or when DeShields is held to give No. 3 hitter Prince Fielder a chance to drive the ball.
“I like the leadoff spot, but he’s doing a pretty good job in the batter’s box,” Choo said. “He’s acting like he’s played in the major leagues a long time. He’s not playing like a rookie.”
Choo said that batting first had little to do with his turnaround this month. He was going to get hot, and, in fact, started doing so while batting fifth and sixth the first three games in May.
DeShields has batted leadoff “my whole life” and has the kind of strike-zone knowledge to thrive as a leadoff man.
“I just look for my pitch, and if I don’t get it, I don’t swing at it,” DeShields said.
▪ Right-hander Nick Martinez will make his second career Yankee Stadium start Saturday only a few subway stops from where he wanted to go to college at Fordham. He hopes to have better fastball command, which has limited him to 4 2/3 innings and five innings in two of his past three starts. Martinez still has a 1.88 ERA.
▪ The Rangers placed right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa on unconditional release waivers after he refused assignment to Triple A Round Rock. A clause in his contract gave him the right to refuse a minor-league assignment until June 15.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760