Texas Rangers

Why Rougned Odor’s hitless game has Chris Woodward thrilled

Rougned Odor has walked three or more times in a regular-season game only twice in his five-year career.

The Texas Rangers second baseman walked five times against the Orioles on Aug. 2 (he also homered) and walked three times in a game in 2017.

Odor walked three times in three plate appearances in Friday’s spring training game against the Colorado Rockies, including a nine-pitch at-bat in the third that loaded the bases for Elvis Andrus’ first-pitch grand slam.

“It’s huge,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “It’s the message we’re trying to get to this lineup is it’s so deep, if guys like him, especially in the middle of the lineup have at-bats like that and not [be] afraid to pass the baton.”

It’s part of a philosophy Woodward is pushing and no one could benefit more from it than Odor. Odor walked a career-high 43 times in 535 plate appearances in 2018, but the Rangers are hoping he continues to show more patience at the plate in his sixth season. He walked 15 times in August 2018 and walked 21 times in his last 51 games.

“He stayed stubborn, didn’t chase,” Woodward said. “He fouled a couple of pitches off, ended up taking a borderline pitch 3-2 and the next guy comes and swings at the first pitch and hits a grand slam.”

For Woodward, it was an early, gratifying spring training moment.

“It’s a tough thing to do in the big leagues. A lot of guys feel like you have to sell out to be able to hit some of those pitches,” he said. “That was pretty inspiring to see that [Friday] because if that represents our offense we’re going to be tough.”

In theory, Woodward said, a stingier Rangers’ offense could translate into similar scenarios playing out during the regular season.

“Where it’s one [batter] after another after another,” he said. “It was perfect. It’s absolutely deflating for the opposing team. Rougie all spring has been doing that. It’s just setting a great tone for the rest of the guys. I feel like all our guys have been pretty dedicated to it but he has been so dedicated to it and he’s walked a lot and hit some home runs because of it. It’s just a great trend setter as we move closer to the season.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.