Texas Rangers

Are you sold on Rangers’ Opening Day lineup as much as Chris Woodward?

Rangers manager Chris Woodward preparing for Choo to be his leadoff hitter

Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward expects Shin Soo Choo to his leadoff hitter.
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Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward expects Shin Soo Choo to his leadoff hitter.

Did you see the Texas Rangers’ lineup Tuesday night?

Take a good look, sink it all in, let it sit with you for a moment or two. Except for the catcher’s spot, where Jeff Mathis is likely to be the starter, this is probably going to be the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup on March 28.

None of it is all that surprising, with Shin-Soo Choo leading off, Rougned Odor hitting second and Elvis Andrus hitting third. Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo, in the Nos. 4-5 holes, could be swapped, manager Chris Woodward said, while offering the merits of both sides.

Switch-hitting third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, first baseman Ronald Guzman, catcher Jose Trevino (typically Mathis) and center fielder Delino DeShields rounded out the lineup.

Never mind the fact that right-hander Zack Greinke held Texas hitless through five near-perfect innings. He allowed a one-out walk to Joey Gallo and a two-out hit to Ronald Guzman before the umpires canceled the game with Arizona leading 2-0 because of rain. Officially, none of the statistics don’t count. But it was just a spring training game, so how much did they really count anyway?

Rangers’ Tuesday lineup:

Except for catcher Jeff Mathis, who is likely to start instead of Jose Trevino, this is probably what the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup will look like:

Shin-Soo Choo, DH

Rougned Odor, 2B

Elvis Andrus, SS

Nomar Mazara, RF

Joey Gallo, LF

Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B

Ronald Guzman, 1B

Jose Trevino, C

Delino DeShields, CF

Woodward, while not signing off 100 percent, acknowledged that Tuesday’s lineup against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields is likely to be pretty close to what he hopes to use in 2019.

“It’s pretty cool to see when you have a guy like Guzman hitting 7th or even Delino hitting 9th. That’s a pretty deep lineup if you look at it from that standpoint,” he said. “And that excites me. We haven’t had our guys go through a starter two or three times around the order. I look forward to seeing that.”

Woodward is convinced if the heart of the Rangers’ lineup, which includes Odor and Gallo at 25, Mazara, who turns 24 in April, and DeShields, who is 26, plays up to expectations, the offense can be a source of nightmares for opposing pitchers.

“I can’t wait to watch how our nine guys go through an actual starter and this guy is trying to get through our lineup two or three times,” he said. “Because we’ve made a lot of pitchers lately throw a lot of pitches. Sometimes it’s one run on the board, sometimes it’s no runs on the board but they’re having to fight through every guy and it’s been relentless. If that’s who we are all season long we’re going to make some pitchers really frustrated. We’re going to make some organizations really frustrated because they’re just not going to know what to do.”

Woodward continued his fantasy scenario, and to hear him imagine the most rosiest of offensive developments unfolding for the Rangers in 2019, it’s easy to get sucked in to believing the offense can be better than it was in 2018. They scored just above league average a year ago despite being near the bottom in hits and near the top in strikeouts. Of course, remedying those two things have been atop Woodward’s to-do list since being named manager last fall.

“We’re going to be in the bullpen in the fifth inning, fourth inning,” Woodward continued. “And then you look at it from a series standpoint. We might see their relievers all three games and that’s huge because that hurts that team when they go into their next series. So when you look at teams like Houston and teams in our division if we can be that offense? If we can do that to certain teams it provides a lot of value, not only creating wins for us, but maybe creating losses for other teams. I think that’s what defines the great teams.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. These Rangers are going to the World Series!

In reality, Woodward is much more realistic. But what’s giving him so much hope for the offense is what he’s already seen this spring.

“When I watch these guys, like Guzman, Odor, all these guys, when they get behind in the count? So what? That’s what I’m probably most excited about,” he said. “I felt like our biggest room for improvement was our two-strike approach and our dedication to that two-strike approach. Not striking out, but how do we commit ourselves with two strikes? What do we do with two strikes? And I’m witnessing it, which is awesome.”

In two weeks, perhaps an injury or other unforeseen circumstance will alter the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup. Woodward admits he’s still working on it and deciding the different variables, such as who should get the most at-bats, who needs protection in the lineup, who’s a base-stealing threat?

Woodward said multiple times that he won’t have a set lineup day in, day out. But he prefers to give his hitters some lineup consistency as much as possible.

“There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the lineup,” he said. “I’m still digging into those things. We do have a lot of versatility in our lineup. There will be no set lineup but hopefully some consistency to it.”

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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.

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