Texas Rangers

At halfway point, Rangers’ patience with Rougned Odor showing cracks

Are we finally there?

That moment when the Texas Rangers decide that Rougned Odor’s struggles are no longer worth riding out?

Probably not, but Rangers manager Chris Woodward is running out of patience. Danny Santana started at second base in Wednesday’s 4-1 win against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

Texas goes for the sweep at 12:10 p.m. Thursday. Santana homered during a three-home run fifth inning for the Rangers. Willie Calhoun and Jeff Mathis hit the first two before Santana’s 420-foot, 108 mph blast to left. It’s his ninth of the season.

For Woodward, the move is more about Santana than Odor.

But the only reason that’s the case is Odor’s lack of production in 2019 has made it one. Woodward, it seems, is weakening his grip on sticking with Odor no matter how long his hitting issues continue. The Rangers play their 81st game on Thursday, the exact midpoint of the season. And they’re still in the hunt for a wild card berth.

Odor is hitting .177, which is the lowest batting average in the league for players with the qualifying amount of at-bats. Same goes with his .253 on-base percentage. He has 10 homers, 11 doubles and 36 RBIs in 65 games.

Santana has nine homers, 11 doubles and 25 RBIs in 10 fewer games, and is hitting .308 after Wednesday’s victory.

“I never made any promises to anybody. Rougie is one guy that I’ve given the benefit of the doubt since Day 1,” Woodward said. “We’re halfway through the season. It’s one thing to give up on a guy in mid-April because he’s struggling. We’re at the halfway point. We’re in a playoff race.”

But Woodward insists he’s not altering Odor’s status that much.

“He’s playing 80 percent of the games. So it’s not like I’m sitting him,” he said. “[Wednesday’s game] is a better matchup with Danny. I’m just trying to win a baseball game.”

There’s no denying, however, a noticeable difference in Woodward’s view of Odor’s status on the roster.

“I don’t think my philosophy has changed on keeping Rougie as the everyday guy,” he said. “I’ll say that publicly if I was going to take his job away from him. He would know that long before you guys would. I just owe it to Danny Santana. He’s done so much for us.”

Santana started Wednesday hitting .309 with a .347 OBP. He can also play first, shortstop and third if anything happened to Asdrubal Cabrera or Logan Forsythe.

Woodward told the team that some starters should prepare for more days off than perhaps they’re used to getting. Shin-Soo Choo was also out of the lineup Wednesday but Woodward said he’ll start all three games in Tampa Bay this weekend. The same may not be true for Odor.

“I feel like Rougie is making strides but I want to try to get Danny in there as much as I can,” Woodward said.

The abundance of outfielders with Joey Gallo’s return leaves fewer spots for Santana, which has pushed Woodward’s hand. The fact that Odor has yet to break out of his slump just adds more reason to the move.

“I’m not going to sit one guy way more than the rest. He just won’t play every single day. I just think that’s fair to Danny and fair to the team,” he said. “The guy is producing. He’s doing everything we need him to do. He’s being very productive and I want to reward that for his sake and he deserves that.”

Woodward, who is in his first year as a manager, said dealing with players’ egos has been the toughest part of the job. He’s tried to remind them that it’s about the team, not them. As a former longtime player, he knows how they feel.

“It’s hard to ask because everybody wants to play every day,” Woodward said. “I want them to be everyday players but they’re gonna have to swallow their pride at times and realize if they want to be a championship team.

“ … I asked them to have perspective. Jump in another man’s shoes and feel what they feel. I’m trying to get everybody to feel part of this. When they’re playing well they deserve to play, they deserve a little more opportunity to help us win games.

“It’s more about Danny than it’s about Rougie.”

Maybe that’s true now, but will it be in a week?

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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.