The Texas Rangers have an All-Star starter.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Hunter Pence has been selected as the starting designated hitter for the American League for the 2019 Major League All-Star Game, which will be played on Tuesday, July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
Pence was one of the three designated hitter finalists in the A.L., beating out former Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who now plays for Minnesota, and Boston’s J.D. Martinez for the starting nod.
This will be Pence’s fourth trip to the All-Star Game as he was previously selected as a National League All-Star reserve with Houston in 2009 and 2011, and with San Francisco in 2014. This will be his first career starting assignment.
Pence is the first Ranger to be named a starter since 2012, when Adrián Beltré (3B), Josh Hamilton (LF), and Mike Napoli (C) all started for the A.L. team in Kansas City. He will be the fourth Texas batter to start an All-Star Game at designated hitter, joining Rafael Palmeiro in 1999, Milton Bradley in 2008, and Vladimir Guerrero in 2010.
Pence, who at 36 years old will be the oldest Ranger to ever start an All-Star Game, is batting .294 with 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 55 games for the Rangers in 2019. The 48 RBI are most on the club, while his 15 home runs rank second to Joey Gallo (19).
Entering Thursday, Pence ranked among A.L. leaders (min. 200 plate appearances) in at-bats per RBI (1st, 4.04) and on-base plus slugging percentage (4th, .962).
Gallo, who was one of nine A.L. outfielder finalists for the Starters Election, finished outside of the top three spots required to earn a starting position. He’ll learn whether or not he made the roster on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN during the “Google MLB All-Star Selection Show.”
The Rangers improved to 45-36 on Thursday after a 3-1 win in Detroit. It was their fifth straight victory and moved them to within 4.5 games of Houston for first place in the AL West.