Texas Rangers

Banister gives peek at Rangers’ opening batting order

The venue might have changed Friday night, with Surprise Stadium giving way to Globe Life Park, but the results of the Texas Rangers’ latest exhibition game were still the same.

They didn’t count.

So, manager Jeff Banister was still able to do spring stuff, like play Prince Fielder at first base and use Mitch Moreland at designated hitter. He was able to yank the regulars after only a few at-bats and limit how many pitches right-hander Colby Lewis threw.

But the batting order Banister drew up for the first of two weekend games against the Cleveland Indians could very well be the one, with one exception, that he employs Opening Day.

It looks a lot like the lineup that finished 2015 as one of the hottest in the game.

“Auspicious? Is that the word you’ll use?” Banister said. “It has the makings of a possible Opening Day lineup.”

Delino DeShields was the leadoff hitter against Indians right-hander Cody Anderson, and left-handed hitters Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder followed. The lineup alternated between righty and lefty hitters in spots No. 4 through No. 8, beginning with cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre.

Newcomer Bryan Holaday, the former Dallas W.T. White and TCU star, batted ninth, where Robinson Chirinos will bat Monday in the lid-lifter against Seattle.

Chirinos would give the Rangers eight holdovers from 2015 in the lineup. Ian Desmond, who batted sixth against Cleveland, would be the only new addition.

And that lineup could be different as soon as the second game and for sure by the third. Holaday is likely to start the third game, a day game after a night game.

Banister believes that lineups have only a one-day life span, the game that day against that pitching staff.

Just don’t call what Banister does from game to game “tinkering.”

“I don’t ever like to call it ‘tinkering,’ ” Banister said. “This isn’t how they used to draw it up, where guys got numbers on the back of their jerseys because that’s where they hit in the lineup.

“We’ll continue to look at what’s the best on any given night for our guys, where they line up, and then value how they affect each other in the lineup.”

Banister said that the opposing starter isn’t the only pitcher who can dictate the lineup. A bullpen that is thin on lefties might convince Banister to stack left-handed hitters, or a bullpen that has been overworked could also have an effect on lineup structure.

Plenty of other factors — for example, the need for days off, the schedule, the hitters’ career numbers against pitchers, how many pitches a hitter sees per at-bat — will have an effect, too.

“It’s really hard to go into a game saying, ‘All things being equal,’ because they’re never equal,” Banister said. “There’s a different cat on the mound every night, and bullpens are constructed differently every night. All those things are in play. We’ll continue to look at and value how our lineup plays on a nightly basis.”

DeShields returns as the leadoff hitter, where he helped spark the Rangers’ offense as a rookie. The Rangers went 58-36 and averaged 5.34 runs a game when he batted first, as opposed to 30-38 with an average of 3.66 runs when someone else led off.

He might have also helped Choo see more fastballs, as pitchers worried about him trying to steal second.

“It helped who was hitting in front of me,” said Choo, who batted .404 with a .515 on-base percentage in September. “He puts a lot of stress on pitchers.”

The addition of Desmond keeps the Rangers from going left, left, right, left, left as they did at times last season. The ability to alternate righty and lefty hitters makes it tougher for opposing managers to match up with their bullpens.

Rougned Odor followed Desmond on Friday, stretching out the lineup, and was one spot ahead of Elvis Andrus in a flop from last season. Andrus could be used to hit-and-run or drop a bunt to move Odor into scoring position ahead of Chirinos, who showed a knack last season for diving in runs from the bottom of the lineup.

“I’m just going to do my job and help my team,” Odor said. “I don’t care where they put me. I’m going to try to do everything I can.”

That’s what Banister will also do when it comes to structuring a winning lineup each game.

Coming Sunday

Our baseball special section analyzes the Rangers’ chances for a long postseason run and previews the division races.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

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