While Rougned Odor was away finding his swing at Triple A Round Rock, he’d talk often to shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Andrus checked in every two or three days to make sure the 21-year-old second baseman was keeping his spirits up after his demotion.
He did and it showed rather quickly on the field. Odor returned to the Rangers and promptly smacked singles in his first three at-bats, including a two-run hit in the sixth inning of Monday’s opener of a four-game home and home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The teams play Tuesday in Arlington before finishing the series at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday.
Odor took the roster spot of outfielder Delino DeShields, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and is expected to miss three weeks. He was injured diving for a fly ball in the sixth inning Sunday.
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“He did it the best way, he wasn’t mad for being sent down,” Andrus said. “Instead, he worked on the little things and he feels better.”
Odor was hitting .355 with 19 extra-base hits with the Express and had committed three errors in 29 games. His return moved Hanser Alberto from second to third base.
Odor says he’s still aggressive at the plate, but he’s improved his patience, decreased his strikeouts and feels “normal” again.
“I went down there and took a lot of balls in the cage, hitting first [in the lineup] and getting more at-bats,” he said. “I’m the same guy. I’m aggressive. I was just trying to feel better at home plate, working on my swing and my approach.”
Odor is not just a double play partner for Andrus; he’s a friend. The two were enjoying the reunion before Monday’s game.
“We’re always talking about everything,” Andrus said. “[The Rangers] know what they’re doing. They saw something and he needed work on it. Now he’s back; back to work.”
Left-hander Matt Harrison (spinal fusion surgery) feels close to rejoining the roster but the club likely wants to see him throw a few more rehab starts before activating him.
Harrison threw 6 2/3 innings Sunday night for Round Rock. He allowed two runs on five hits and four walks. He labored through the first three innings, throwing 65 pitches, before delivering only 34 the next 32/3.
“I wore myself out [early] and went back to pitching and keeping the ball down,” said Harrison, who wanted to hit his 100-pitch count. “I still know how to get outs. I had to get in a position where I forced myself to do that and to do that I wanted to get past the fifth inning. The only way to do that was make them try to put the ball in play.”
Harrison said his back and arm feel fine. The Rangers haven’t yet told him what they expect to see before bringing him back up. Harrison said higher velocity hasn’t exactly meant better results. He was hitting 93 mph in his second rehab start and gave up six runs on eight hits. He showed better command when he was around 85 to 87 mph, with a good break on his curveball and a stronger slider.
“I think it’s out of my hands at this point. It’s what they want to do,” he said. “I don’t know [100 pitches] is something they want to see me do multiple times. I don’t really know.
Josh Hamilton (strained left hamstring) swung off a tee for the first time before Monday’s game. He also took a few soft tosses in the cage. General manager Jon Daniels said there’s a chance Hamilton could take batting practice on the field as early as this week, which is about a week earlier than expected. Daniels called it an encouraging sign.
Rangers sign high picks
The Rangers signed two of their top three picks in second-round outfielder Eric Jenkins and third-round right-handed pitcher Michael Matuella. Both signed for $2 million. Matuella, who was considered a top 5 pick before a back issue and Tommy John surgery in April hurt his draft stock, signed for $1,224,000 above his slotted bonus. Jenkins signed for about $640,000 above his slot as the No. 45 overall pick.
Jenkins has been assigned to the Arizona Summer League. Matuella will continue his rehab in Arlington before joining the Spokane roster in September.
Texas signed 15 draft picks Monday. Here’s a look with their round, position and where they’ve been assigned:
OF Eric Jenkins
RHP Michael Matuella
Rehab, then Spokane
C Tyler Sanchez
3B Xavier Turner
SS Josh Altmann
RHP Tyler Davis
RHP Ashton Perritt
RHP Jacob Shortslef
LHP Clyde Kendrick
RHP Maikor Mora
OF Jamie Potts
RHP John Werner
LHP C.D. Pelham
LHP Joeanthony Rivera
3B Dean Long
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760