The most noteworthy nugget about the Texas Rangers’ lineup Friday was who wasn’t in it as opposed to who was.
Rougned Odor was on the bench against the Kansas City Royals, who started left-hander Danny Duffy. It wasn’t a good matchup for Odor, a left-handed hitter, but these days it doesn’t seem to matter which arm the opposing pitcher uses.
But the day off was also a chance for Odor to work on all that is ailing his swing and sort out all the things running through his head.
He has some serious sorting to do, and he might not have much more time to do it.
Manager Chris Woodward said as much as he discussed Odor’s woes at length for the second time in three days. Woodward remains supportive of Odor as he toils with .161 average, but said that Odor needs to do more to get better.
His performance Thursday, 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, showed Woodward it’s time for Odor to step on the gas.
“Yesterday was one of the days where he got some pretty good pitches to hit, and he didn’t do much with them,” Woodward said. “He’s been working his butt off. He’s hearing things probably from everyone. I need him to really solidify what he’s trying to accomplish in the next little while.”
A few other left-handed hitters fared well against Duffy, though it took some time before they helped the Rangers pull away from the Royals for a 6-2 win.
Joey Gallo delivered the big blow, his first career grand slam to cap a six-run sixth inning. Fellow lefty hitter Shin-Soo Choo singled with one out to begin a stretch in which five straight Rangers reached, and Nomar Mazara took a bases-loaded walk to force in the tying run.
Gallo was next, and his 16th homer of the season traveled an estimated 457 feet to right-center field.
“That felt good,” Gallo said. “I got a pitch to hit and didn’t miss it. It was exciting.”
But it was Danny Santana, playing second base in place of Odor, who started the rally with a leadoff walk and who continues to be a viable option at second should Odor be benched or sent to the minor leagues.
Woodward didn’t define how long Odor has to get himself going, but it didn’t seem to be as indefinite as it was Wednesday as Woodward pledged to continue playing Odor until he looked as if he was losing hope.
The Rangers’ front office is occupied with the upcoming First-Year Player Draft and might be waiting until after it ends Wednesday before making any significant changes to the big-league club.
But April and May are finished. Odor has 155 at-bats, though he missed time in April with a knee injury, and the Rangers continue to hang around .500.
They need more from Odor.
“If a guy’s hitting .160 in June or July, typically they don’t have a spot on a big-league roster,” Woodward said. “I need to know if there’s a deep understanding of how he’ll get out of this. I need to hear it from him what it is he needs to fix at this point because what’s going on right now isn’t getting it done. It’s not working.”
Hitting coach Luis Oritz and Odor did early hitting work on the field. Ortiz said on Wednesday that Odor is front-side dominant and that they are working on making his back half stronger. That would give Odor more bat control and keep from opening his front shoulder and pulling balls on the ground.
Major changes to a swing are possible during a season.
“It can be done. It’s just how much do you want to do it,” Ortiz said. “His biggest challenge is that his strongest side is in the front.”
The Rangers have no doubt that Odor wants to be great, but he needs to be open to change. As Woodward said, what might have worked well three seasons ago isn’t going to magically appear one day.
Odor’s days getting regular at-bats might be numbered.
“I need him to talk through this thing and not just to out and hope that things change,” Woodward said. “That’s why I’m saying I need to see some significant ... whether he goes 0 for his next 50 or not, if I see that there’s some deeper understanding going on, then that gives me hope that we’re going to get out of it at some point. I just don’t like going down the same road over and over.”