The good news is Shin-Soo Choo and Mitch Moreland could play if necessary. Choo, who left in the fifth inning Tuesday night with lower back stiffness, and Moreland, who has been limited off the bench with right calf tightness since Sunday, were available as pinch-hitters Wednesday night for the Texas Rangers.
What’s the bad news? Choo, who missed the first two months with a calf injury, was scorching at the plate since returning from the disabled list June 13.
Moreland had shown some signs of more consistency at the plate.
Regardless, without them in the starting lineup the Rangers’ already thin bench was even thinner. To alleviate the problem, the Rangers placed catcher Bryan Holaday on the 15-day DL with a bruised right thumb. Outfielder Jared Hoying was recalled from Triple A Round Rock.
“You’re never 100 percent playing this game but I could play in the game. That’s what I told [manager Jeff Banister],” said Choo, who felt the tightness on his home run in the first inning Tuesday. “Even last night after treatment it felt better.”
Banister doesn’t want to exacerbate either injury. Choo’s injury didn’t call for an MRI exam. He swung a bat in the cage before Wednesday’s game and reported no major pain.
“I feel confident that he’s going to be fine. It’s my call. I’m the one who’s being conservative with this one,” Banister said. “I just felt like it was necessary to be cautious with him because we’ve missed so much time with him. I don’t want this to be something that lingers further.”
For Moreland, Banister said, it comes down to providing the calf enough rest so that he’s not altering his hitting approach because of leg pain.
“His balance, his lower half are such a key to him and his power that if he’s sore and favoring it one way or the other in multiple at-bats it may put him out of a good hitting rhythm,” he said.
Chi Chi, Take 2
Right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez has a simple goal for Thursday’s start against the Twins at Globe Life Park. Get through the first inning.
Gonzalez was pulled in the first after recording two outs and 38 pitches on Saturday in Minnesota. The defense behind him, including his own, did him no favors.
“If I make a better throw to second I’m out of that inning with a ground ball to Mitch,” Gonzalez said. “My defensive error put the team on their heels. If I’m throwing more strikes, I’m getting more contact, and the team is in it.”
He also wants to show more trust in his fastball instead of trying to overthink batters.
“I threw [Miguel] Sano a 2-0 breaking ball which was stupid because he didn’t swing the bat,” he said. “I was trying to out-think him in a fastball count. Other teams plan to feel me out in the first inning to see if I’m in the zone. I need to put them on attack mode because I’m attacking them and stop pitching so defensively.”
In his third start this season, he hopes to challenge hitters more and use his sinker ball to his advantage.
“My new goal is how fast can I get to two strikes and get batters out of the box,” he said. “I’ve been banking on them being aggressive and they haven’t been. [Major league] hitters are so good if they don’t need to swing they won’t.”
Nick Martinez will likely start Saturday against the Twins, although Banister has yet to make it official. Martinez, who was roughed up Monday in Boston, has examined his struggles the past two days with pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach Brad Holland.
“They’ve been deep down in the basement of the laboratory of pitching,” Banister said. “All things being equal, Nick will probably be the guy. Just giving him an opportunity to reset the trap and work on some things.”
Other options include Cesar Ramos or calling up a minor leaguer such as Kyle Lohse.
Left-hander Derek Holland has yet to play catch since being placed on the DL with left shoulder inflammation on June 22. Holland is supposed to be examined by team physician Keith Meister this weekend in Arlington.
Banister was hesitant to confirm a timetable for Holland’s return. Even if Holland is given a clean bill of health this weekend he’s still likely to make a few rehab starts in the minors before returning.
“It depends on what Meister says and where he can go from there,” he said. “Once he’s turned over from the doctors to the rehab guys and able to start the throwing program we’ll have a better sense of what that timeline is.”