The day that Jurickson Profar knew was coming all along came Monday, when he was moved from the shiny new big league clubhouse at Texas Rangers spring training into the cramped minor league dressing room across the lobby.
The official transaction, optioned to Triple A Round Rock, was always a matter of when, not if, for the game’s former top prospect who is more than two years removed from his last major league game.
Profar entered camp knowing that many doubted if his shoulder could hold up. Some continue to doubt if he will ever live up to the expectations he towed with him to the Rangers late in the 2012 season, and if he does, the doubters don’t believe it will be with the Rangers.
But as he slides into minor league games Tuesday, Profar does so knowing that he will be in the majors leagues again some day.
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“All I know is I’m going to do my best there, play hard, and I know it’s going to be soon,” Profar said. “I need some playing time there. I missed two years. I know I’m going to need to get my playing time and work on some things to get back.”
Profar was one of nine players moved out of camp, including top prospects Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson.
Profar technically is no longer a prospect, having exceeded his rookie limits in 2013. He was also eligible for salary arbitration for the first time as a Super 2 player.
I get it why people doubt because this is the major leagues. It’s the best baseball. I’m glad that I work hard and that it seems like I didn’t miss anything. If I didn’t work hard, I don’t know. I was going to be lost when I came back.
Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar
But a buzz is building again around Profar, who took Cole Hamels deep during the intrasquad game and made all the throws a shortstop is supposed to make during his nine Cactus League games.
He batted only .190, with four singles in 21 at-bats, but his hitting has never been the concern. His arm was, but isn’t anymore.
“I don’t really have any questions at this point,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He just needs to go out and play. I think he’s tested the shoulder, and now it’s just a matter of getting his body conditioned to play every day. That will come. From where we were a year ago, we couldn’t be happier with where he is.”
Profar last played in the majors Sept. 27, 2013. He missed all of the 2014 season because of a torn teres major muscle in his right shoulder after entering camp expected to be the starting second baseman after the trade of Ian Kinsler.
In Profar’s absence, Rougned Odor eventually became the second baseman.
Profar had surgery in February 2015 after his shoulder failed for a fourth time, the result of the teres major not having enough support because of a torn labrum several years earlier that was never repaired.
The Rangers still have Elvis Andrus at shortstop, and Odor overcame a miserable start last season to regain his status as the everyday second baseman. Even Hanser Alberto, battling to be the utility man, seems to have passed Profar on the infield pecking order.
So, when Profar is ready to play in the majors again, the Rangers don’t have a place for him.
“We’ll worry about those things when they happen,” Daniels said.
9 Players either optioned to or reassigned to minor league camp Monday. They were SS Jurickson Profar, 3B Joey Gallo, RF Nomar Mazara, CF Lewis Brinson, OF Ryan Cordell, INF Drew Robinson, LHP Alex Claudio and RHPs Anthony Ranaudo and Francisco Mendoza.
Profar, who is still only 23, isn’t completely in the clear physically. The Rangers did not play him in the field in back-to-back games, and manager Jeff Banister said over the weekend that plan could hold early into the season.
Profar, though, said that his arm hasn’t felt as good as it does now since before the first injury. He threw wildly in Monday’s game, airmailing the first baseman, but said that was actually a good sign.
“Yesterday was the best my arm has felt,” he said. “I knew I had more in my arm, and yesterday it showed. I tried to put more on it, and it went over the first baseman. But it’s good because my arm feels good, like it used to be.”
That should be enough to erase the doubt from so many minds, but seeing will be believing. It might take appearing in a Rangers uniform in a major league game for all doubts to be erased.
Profar, though, understands those who have lost the faith.
Jurickson Profar hasn’t played in the major leagues since Sept. 27, 2013, when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter in a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
“But at the same time I worked hard every day,” he said. “I get it why people doubt because this is the major leagues. It’s the best baseball. I’m glad that I work hard and that it seems like I didn’t miss anything. If I didn’t work hard, I don’t know. I was going to be lost when I came back.”
Profar isn’t lost, and at some point this season he might be found at Globe Life Park.
“He showed me that he doesn’t look like he’s been out for two years,” Andrus said. “I don’t think people realize how hard it is to be back on the field and do everything 100 percent again after missing two years. He looks good, especially his arm. We know he’s going to catch up. He impressed me a lot.”