Gil LeBreton

Rangers’ spring MVP Delino DeShields now all but forgotten

For four weeks in Arizona, we watched Delino DeShields Jr. rediscover himself as a major league baseball player.

Trimmed of nearly 30 pounds, DeShields saw his quickness rise to pitcher-pestering levels. Bunts and slow rollers became instant hits. He walked 14 times in Cactus League games. Stole 14 bases.

Clearly intrigued, the Texas Rangers allowed him a full berth, as they did with Joey Gallo. DeShields was penciled into the lineup card 26 times in Arizona and had 80 plate appearances.

Batting .323 with a .442 on-base percentage, he was easily the team’s spring training MVP.

This happened. It was real and we saw it.

So why can’t we find Delino DeShields now without a Sherpa and an organized manhunt?

Twelve games into this Rangers season, DeShields has started only five times. He is 0-for-9 at the plate.

There is a traffic jam, of sorts, in left field for the Texas Rangers. The honking horns have only gotten louder as the team has stumbled out of the starting gate.

This isn’t meant as a DeShields campaign speech. Maybe Jurickson Profar could flourish with an everyday assignment, too.

But because DeShields was adding a dynamic element to the spring mix, I’m wondering why his skills suddenly have been deemed no longer necessary.

Don’t misunderstand. The Rangers haven’t stumbled to a 4-8 record, counting Sunday’s 8-7 loss in Seattle, just because DeShields is riding the bench. They’re in last place because they haven’t been playing winning baseball.

The bullpen isn’t. The lineup isn’t. The manager isn’t, either.

I thought the idea was to slowly ease Sam Dyson back into the closer role. Instead, it was back to business as usual Sunday and Dyson blew his third save of the season.

Granted, manager Jeff Banister hasn’t had an abundance of healthy and reliable bullpen options. Keone Kela’s disciplinary demotion started a chain reaction in Banister’s relief pitcher plans.

But I don’t get the DeShields thing. Even if the club wants to keep Profar in the lineup, hoping he’ll come around as Gallo has, DeShields can’t do any worse than center fielder Carlos Gomez.

Another hitless day left Gomez with a .149 batting average and a .273 on-base percentage. Only two other leadoff hitters in the American League have reached base fewer times.

The organization claims to espouse a philosophy of patient at-bats, grinding away at the plate. Yet, Gomez swings at the first pitch 48 percent of the time. Only Rougned Odor swings more.

Before Sunday, Gomez was the lineup’s leadoff hitter for 281 games in his major league career. His career numbers show that he has been much more productive when batting in the 3rd, 4th or 6th spots. His batting average is more than 30 points higher with runners on base.

After what he did in spring training, it’s surprising that DeShields hasn’t been the Rangers’ leadoff man — at least for more than nine at-bats.

DeShields, admittedly, may never be more than a fourth outfielder in his big-league career. But that’s what we thought before spring training, and he gave daily indications that we were wrong.

In this stumbling beginning to the season, the Rangers need a jump-start. A catalyst. They need somebody whose attitude and quick feet can help remind them how to play winning baseball.

It may be DeShields, or it may not.

When you’re stuck in last place, though, why ignore the options?

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