There was a point a few weeks ago when the unthinkable crossed Delino DeShields’ mind.
What if he’d lost it? His confidence had plummeted after being taken out of the lineup for a couple of games and being moved from leadoff to the bottom of the lineup.
After going 0 for 10 with no walks in a three-game series against the Yankees, DeShields was given a night off and when he returned to the lineup he was batting ninth.
“It’s tough to feel like you’ve lost the confidence,” he said. “It’s hard to keep that confidence through a 162-game season. Every player goes through ups and downs and it’s a matter of how you handle it.”
He was back in the leadoff spot for the first time in nearly two weeks Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox. He singled and scored a run in the first inning, just like when things were going well in 2015, his rookie season.
The Rangers were losing 11-7 in the eighth late Tuesday . The game was delayed by rain for an hour and 18 minutes.
DeShields wasn’t handling failure at the plate well at the end of April. He was trying anything, listening to anybody, watching all the video he could lay his eyes on. His dad, a former major leaguer and current minor league manager, sent encouraging texts peppered with advice. The information overload, DeShields said, actually had an adverse effect.
“There’s hundred people telling you different things,” DeShields said. “People grabbing me and trying to fix me. It can get really hard.”
DeShields looked as if he was snapping out of his hitting slump at the start of May. He went a combined 4 for 7 in the first two games of the month but his offense was overshadowed by a base running mistake in Toronto in which he was thrown out trying to tag up from first on a flyout to center. He was thrown out to end the inning and a Rangers run was taken off the board.
He started the next night but went 0 for 4 and was not in the starting lineup the next two games.
All the while, he was studying, listening, putting in extra work in the cage hoping to see some semblance of improvement.
“It’s really good information to give you an advantage, but some guys like myself, when given too much information, it can cause my brain to almost shut down,” he said. “Like I’m just there almost because there are so many things going through my head.”
When he was back in the lineup in Detroit he tried to clear his head and remember what gave him success as a rookie in 2015. He was through with overthinking everything.
“Instead, I’m stepping back and figuring out what got me here,” he said. “How I played last year, it was conscious, but it was also very instinctual. I don’t know if it was expectations, but last year they put me in the lineup and said, here, ‘go play.’
Manager Jeff Banister would not say whether DeShields’ return to leadoff was temporary or just a trial run. Last week, Banister said he’d prefer to have DeShields back in a familiar spot so that Rougned Odor could bat deeper in the lineup.
DeShields’ insertion into the everyday lineup a year ago this month helped ignite a stagnant offense. He’s hoping, back at leadoff, to do it again.
“Hitting leadoff, that’s me. That’s what is most comfortable to me,” DeShields said. “It’s my comfort zone. It’s just an opportunity to lead the game off and be a spark plug like I was last year.”
DeShields, the son of a longtime pro and manager, is a student of the game. He knows the vital role confidence plays for a hitter.
“You have to get over things to play baseball to be able to survive almost,” he said. “You let stuff linger and it’s not good for your mind, it’s not good for your soul. It can really eat you up.”