Gil LeBreton

Profar’s WBC showcase puts him solidly back in Rangers’ future

Of course, the funeral wreath was waiting for Jurickson Profar at his locker Wednesday, when he returned to the Texas Rangers clubhouse.

“Rest in Peace,” the mocking sash still read, except this time beneath the “DR” that it displayed at Adrian Beltre’s locker the day before, somebody had penciled in “NL.”

Profar got the joke. The wreath has been the clubhouse’s playful nod to their fallen World Baseball Classic warriors — Beltre and his Dominican Republic team on Tuesday, and now the Netherlands and Profar.

But what a memorable ride young Profar experienced.

“Except for the last game, it was all very good,” he assessed Wednesday morning.

Profar hails from the Dutch Caribbean island nation of Curacao. His WBC journey took him and his countrymen from Seoul to Tokyo to Dodger Stadium.

And in Profar’s case, to an unfamiliar land called center field.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was clearly impressed with what he saw.

“It was just the confidence, the smile, the quality of the at-bats,” Daniels said, “plus the willingness to put the team first and play a position he’s never played before. Those were all big positives.”

Profar played in all seven Netherlands games and batted .464 (13 hits in 28 at-bats) with a 1.266 OPS.

Thanks to on-site tutoring from Andruw Jones, a Curacao native and 10-time Gold Glove winner, Profar more than held his own in center field.

“I like it,” said Profar, who turned 24 just four weeks ago. “It’s like shortstop, but a little bit farther.

“You can see everything. I love it.”

The Netherlands team was overstocked with major league infielders. If Profar was rendered off-balance by the position change — he had never played center before, even in Little League — his robust batting average never showed it.

“He’s always been fearless,” Daniels said. “I think that’s where all the talk about his makeup came from the time he was 16 and 17 years old. He’s never been afraid of the spotlight, never been afraid of the pressure, never backed down from any of those things.

“You didn’t see that youthful energy during the two years he was down with the shoulder injury, naturally, but you can tell he’s got his confidence back.”

After the Netherlands lost to Japan in 11 innings Monday, Profar tried to shoulder the blame. His base running gaffe at first base helped scuttle a first-inning rally, and his throw from center field failed to catch Carlos Correa at home on Puerto Rico’s winning run.

The network cameras captured Profar with his head down in the Netherlands dugout, long after the run had scored.

“Put it on me, it’s OK,” he repeated Wednesday.

“I sat there a lot, but I needed to get it out of the way. That’s why I put my head down. I needed to leave it in the dugout.

“After awhile, it was OK. I was ready to move on.”

Both praised and misunderstood, the World Baseball Classic was a showcase — of national prides and nasty relief pitchers.

It proved to be a showcase, too, for a kid who was once hailed as the No. 1 prospect in all baseball.

Jurickson Profar, still only 24 years young, more than passed the test.

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