Gil LeBreton

More aches, anxieties for Rangers as Choo takes a day off

An announced day of prudent rest for sore-armed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo sends sharp pains from 2014 through Rangers fandom.
An announced day of prudent rest for sore-armed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo sends sharp pains from 2014 through Rangers fandom. AP

Shin-Soo Choo has a sore triceps muscle and won’t be playing in the Texas Rangers’ outfield for a few days.

“’Tis but a scratch,” announced Monty Python’s infamous Black Knight, insisting the team’s latest injury was nothing to be concerned about.

Actually, it was assistant general manager Thad Levine who dismissed Choo’s day off Saturday as merely precautionary.

It was me who noted the Monty Python comparison. The season-ending surgery for Yu Darvish also began with an announced prudent day of rest.

Levine said he understood the skepticism but, “We trust our medical staff to tell us whether we should be concerned.”

And Rangers fans have every reason to fear the worst. Jurickson Profar’s weak throwing arm, Matt Harrison’s stiff back, Prince Fielder’s pain when he extended his swing — they all began with the Rangers prescribing a judicious day off.

Nevertheless, the club was sticking Saturday to its “just a flesh wound” prognosis on Choo, who underwent elbow surgery in the off-season.

Manager Jeff Banister echoed the company line, even parrying we media’s weak attempt at levity.

“Choo still has two arms,” Banister corrected.

As the manager explained, “Every player goes through a sore arm period through spring training. This is a guy who loves to work. Choo is the first player to the clubhouse every single day. He’s been the first player to the clubhouse during the off-season.

“This is spring training. Players go through soreness.”

Choo is expected to be available for designated hitter duty in Sunday’s exhibition against the Mariners.

Levine added that Choo could return to the outfield by the middle of the coming week.

Choo is seen, however, as such a vital piece in the Rangers’ comeback puzzle that the slightest ache or bruise should sound alarms.

Nearly 15 months since the club signed the outfielder to a seven-year, $130 million free-agent contract, Rangers fans have seen only fleeting glimpses of the player who posted a 145 OPS-plus and a 4.2 WAR just two seasons ago in Cincinnati.

But Banister knows. He watched Choo that season from the dugout of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Being in the dugout from the other side, he’s a player that can impact the game in multiple ways,” Banister said. “He can impact the game with his legs, and if you make a mistake, he’ll hit you out of the ballpark.

“He’s one of those unique guys that combines all of it.”

In early May 2014, Choo was looking every bit like that all-round player, batting .370 with a .500 on-base percentage.

But as he tried to play through an ankle injury that eventually required surgery, Choo saw his average at the end dip to .242.

A very expensive .242. Fielder’s $24 million season, meanwhile, ended with just 150 at-bats and only three home runs.

The Rangers’ toughest foe last season, as it turned out, wasn’t Mike Trout — it was the MRI machine.

Banister said he understands the fans’ worry.

“Fans need to feel what they need to feel,” he said. “They’re investing emotionally. I want them to be. I respect that. I admire that. I understand their concerns.

“I’m also of the idea that we treat conservatively so that we allow these guys the opportunity to get their bodies where they need to be. Spring training is when the players go through that process. There’s not a guy out there that hasn’t gone through some type of leg weariness, soreness, arm soreness or mental fatigue.”

Banister disputed the notion that the club would try to minimize or “sandbag” an announced injury.

“I don’t really try to minimize anything,” he said. “I give the information that I have after being in communication with our medical staff or the player.

“I have more respect for the player and our medical staff to minimize anything.”

Choo, therefore, had Saturday’s game off. And Rangers fans hold their breaths — again.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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