The starting center fielder Friday for the Texas Rangers is their starting left fielder and was a starting shortstop his first seven years in the majors.
So, no, Ian Desmond isn’t perfectly comfortable in center field. He would feel that way if he had been making his 40th start there and not only his fourth. He feels that way about left field after 18 starts.
If asked to play center field regularly, Desmond would do it. He just works for the Rangers, after all, and, eventually, he would get to the point where he could do it capably.
But the Rangers have a capable center fielder, Desmond said, and to talk about him getting regular duty there is a waste of time. Delino DeShields is a good ballplayer, Desmond said.
DeShields, though, is in a slump. A right-handed hitter, he was out of the lineup for the opener of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels and left-handed Hector Santiago.
Nothing to see here, manager Jeff Banister said. Santiago was a bad matchup, DeShields was getting two days off while missing only one game, and consecutive games for Ryan Rua would serve him and his bat well.
That all makes perfect sense, from Desmond to Banister. But so does this: DeShields is struggling and has minor league options on a team that is going to get two proven outfielders back from the disabled list within two weeks and has a rookie outfielder who arguably is their best hitter.
None of that is up for discussion now. The immediate goal is to get DeShields going in his second season.
“Sophomore year is probably the most challenging year for most every player because there is so much information,” Banister said. “What punch back do you have when these pitchers know you, they’ve got video on you? You’re no longer just another guy in the lineup. You’re a marked man. You have a skill set that helps a team win, so they’re trying to prevent that.
“Now, it’s understanding that, making your move as well. What that move is is what has made him successful. What made him successful early on was being aggressive in the zone, control the strike zone, maintain the main focus of on base [percentage].”
Rua homered and Desmond doubled in a run, and Colby Lewis limited his nemesis to two runs in seven innings, all without a strikeout or a walk, as the Rangers rallied past the Angels for a 4-2 victory. Prince Fielder collected the 1,000th RBI of his career.
DeShields entered Friday batting .241 and with a .317 on-base percentage while in the midst of a 1-for-26 skid. His at-bats have been incomplete. He’s seeing plenty of pitches as the team leader in pitches per plate appearance (4.07), but productivity is lacking.
DeShields, though, has an understanding of the strike zone and speed working in his favor. He’s a grounder in the hole or a well-place bunt away from a base hit, and he is fourth on the team in walks.
He works on his craft, too. During the media’s clubhouse availability Friday afternoon, DeShields was in the video room.
“When I evaluate Delino, that’s where I start because he’s still getting on base,” Banister said.
Desmond sees the same thing as Banister, who in Desmond sees a capable center fielder with the potential to be get better. He is still learning things such as positioning and foot work, the nuances of the position as Banister calls them.
Desmond downplays his play in center, in large part because he isn’t satisfied just being good. He wants to be great, just as he does in left field and just as he did as a shortstop from the Washington Nationals.
“I’m not there yet,” Desmond said. “I won’t be comfortable there for a long time, but I’m ready to play there. I need to get reps. I need to see balls off the bat. I need to build those instincts and that just comes by getting outing there.”
The Rangers will send Josh Hamilton (knee) on a rehab assignment that begins Saturday at Double A Frisco, and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (calf) believes that he could be on a rehab assignment next week.
DeShields is one of three outfielders with options, along with Rua and Choo fill-in and rookie sensation Nomar Mazara. Everything is on hold until Hamilton or Choo comes off the disabled list, and a lot can happen during that stretch.
A player could get injured. Hamilton or Choo could have a setback. Mazara could go cold. DeShields could get hot.
That’s the immediate goal.
“This guy has an on-base skill set,” Banister said. “For me, that’s the concentration to where he needs to continue to stay focused on that. We know he’s going to get some speed hits, also.”
How the Rangers fared
Hitters: Hector Santiago went 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA last season against the Rangers, but they got him for four runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. ... Ryan Rua provided the first run with a homer in the fifth, and Prince Fielder, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland drove in two-out runs in a three-run sixth. ... Fielder’s RBI was the 1,000th of his career and allowed him and his father, Cecil, to join Bobby and Barry Bonds as the only fathers and sons in history with 1,000 RBIs apiece.
Pitchers: Colby Lewis got through seven innings on 80 pitches, allowing two runs on nine hits but no walks. He also didn’t strike out a batter. But he beat the Angels in Arlington for the first time since 2003. ... His quality start was the Rangers’ 17th of the season, tied with the Chicago teams for the most in the majors. ... Sam Dyson worked around a one-out Mike Trout double in the eighth. ... Shawn Tolleson is tied for the league lead in saves after getting his eighth with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Rangers vs. Angels
7:05 p.m. Saturday, FSSW
Rangers vs. Angels
Radio: KRLD/105.3 FM; ESPN/1540 AM (Spanish)
Rangers LHP Derek Holland (2-1, 3.13 ERA) vs. Angels RHP Matt Shoemaker (1-3, 6.87)