Gil LeBreton

Listless Rangers lineup misses Adrian Beltre in every way

As the sun set Sunday on another listless Texas Rangers defeat, it was sobering to note that the regular first baseman is batting .146.

The right fielder is in a 3-for-42 slump. The second baseman is 12-for-his-last-79.

Not to pick on Mike Napoli, Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor, respectively. To be fair, the Rangers’ bats have been almost universally silent.

They managed only five hits and struck out 15 times in a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. Now the two-time defending AL West champs head for Houston, where things could easily get progressively worse.

As a team, the Rangers batted .220 for April. To add perspective to that number, the first Rangers team to play in Arlington hit .217 for the 1972 season.

Clearly, the “Party at Napoli’s” hasn’t started.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus had an observation late Sunday afternoon.

“Everybody knows we’re missing Adrian,” he said, referring to injured and absent Adrian Beltre. “He’s the centerpiece of our offense. He can carry our team.”

Third baseman Beltre, however, has been bothered by calf injuries since February and may not return to the lineup for another four weeks.

“We miss Adrian,” said designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo, “and that’s not saying that Joey Gallo hasn’t done a great job in his place.

“Whether Adrian’s hitting or not hitting, he just makes us stronger.”

Beltre, 38, was thought to be near a return to the lineup but was diagnosed with another strain to his right calf three weeks ago.

If he doesn’t return before June 1, as some think, Beltre could end up playing in his fewest games since his rookie season of 1998.

“We miss the energy he brings,” Choo said. “We miss his leadership.”

Could one guy have changed the team’s April hitting struggles?

In Beltre’s case, absolutely. At age 37 last season, the team captain batted .300 with 32 home runs, 104 RBIs and an .879 OPS.

Gallo has been fun to watch, but he’s not pretending to be Adrian Beltre.

Gallo’s development has been the consolation prize of the Beltre injury. He heads to Houston with a .213 batting average and has seven homers and 16 RBIs.

More importantly, he’s proven that he’s a major league player. If and when Beltre returns, space will be made for Gallo.

He seized the opportunity that was presented to him. Jurickson Profar, on the other hand, did not.

As the Rangers packed for Houston late Sunday afternoon, the club announced that it had optioned the one-time top prospect in baseball to Triple-A Round Rock.

General manager Jon Daniels was being kind in calling Profar’s 5-for-37 (.135) month “a little of a slow start,” but the truth is that he was given the chance to start 13 of the team’s first 20 games.

With the club looking for any semblance of an offensive spark, it couldn’t afford to wait on Profar, as manager Jeff Banister can with Napoli, Mazara and Odor.

The Rangers will take an 11-14 record to Houston. As Andrus pointed out, they’ve had similar months before.

“That’s the beauty of the first month of the season,” he said. “You can click right away or sometimes it takes a little longer.”

Maybe only three weeks longer, if Beltre gets his say. He knows how much his bat and glove are missed, which is likely to accelerate his desire to return to the lineup.

The Gallo show has been intriguing to watch unfold. Beltre’s daily show, however, moves the needle.

The hitting needle. The winning needle.

The .220-hitting Rangers miss him terribly.

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