Nine games, including one really good one Thursday in particular, have not made Rougned Odor a candidate to have his Texas Rangers jersey retired.
Not when only the night before he struck out four times and didn’t look competitive in doing so. Not when his batting average is still stuck below .200.
But his recent stretch of .323 hitting (10 for 31) and his two-homer game Thursday have bought Odor another reprieve from the being replaced at second base by Danny Santana, who is hitting 104 points higher and has a OPS 197 points higher.
Santana might be part of the reason for Odor’s surge to a .191 average. He was at .173 10 games ago. Though Odor didn’t say so, there are those who believe that he recognizes that the object in his rear-view mirror is closer than it appears.
Count manager Chris Woodward among them, but the plan appears to be the same. Odor will continue to play as long as he continues to show signs of improvement, some of which might not be evident in his results.
“Santana has definitely put a lot of pressure on to get playing time,” Woodward said. “I like to be rewarded by what I know is a solid process. Roogie is doing everything he can, and I know any of our younger guys are hanging in, they’re buying in, they’re really seeking the truth.
“If they just were out there spinning their wheels, I wouldn’t have much patience. I’d be frustrated. That’s one thing I can’t tolerate. Roogie’s had a tough year, it’s been a grind, but he is learning and he is growing.”
Odor was in the lineup Friday to open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins and former Rangers left-hander Martin Perez. The start of the game was delayed by a steady rain at Target Field.
Odor now admits to his struggles, whereas earlier in the season he vowed to keep doing what he had always been doing. It’s a quasi-admission that he finally accepted that he needed to try what Rangers hitting coaches were telling him.
“This is a long season, and I just try to stay positive every at-bat, every pitch and every ground ball,” Odor said. “It’s not easy. This game is really hard, especially when things don’t go well. Personally, I just try to stay positive, help my team and be a good teammate.”
Much of the work has been on his swing path, which Woodward said has improved. Next up is gaining an understanding of the strike zone, something the Rangers have been asking of Odor since his rookie season in 2014.
That has been the primary reason for the success of Joey Gallo, who was selected to the American League All-Star team. By limiting his swings to pitches in the strike zone, he has eliminated all the trouble he would find outside of it.
His approach is what will give him a chance to maintain his strong first half. Odor could take off if he can mimic Gallo’s approach.
“With Roogie, it’s taken longer to grab hold of everything,” Woodward said. “It’s been better. Now, his swing path is better. He needs to stay in the strike zone. He’s vulnerable to the high fastball. He needs to narrow what he can hit. If he does that and he’s swinging like he is right now, he’ll do a lot of damage.”
That’s what he did Thursday, when he hit a changeup and a 100-mph fastball for home runs in a 9-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers entered Friday with 74 games remaining, a long way to go.
It’s enough time for Odor to salvage his season, and enough time for Santana to replace him at second base.
Woodward needs to see more than just the occasional big game from Odor.
“I’m not interested in a one-game fix. There’s no such thing. Not at all,” Woodward said. “I’m more interested in seeing the consistency pitch after pitch after pitch. Is he pressuring pitches? One day he might hit two homers. The next day he might strike out four times. But was he pressuring pitches? Was he taking good swings at good pitches?
“I’m excited he hit two homers, because I know how important confidence is in this game, but it’s not going to make him a Hall of Famer tomorrow.”