It’s a bright, 80-degree day on the baseball fields of Arizona, and the Texas Rangers are fielding ground balls and making throws around the infield.
It could have been any day in the 2014 or 2015 camps, except the guy at shortstop seems taller, stronger ... maybe even happier.
Behold the ghost of spring trainings past.
Once lauded as the consensus No. 1 prospect in all baseball, Profar has been hurt and hasn’t played on a major league field in two years.
His manager, Jeff Banister, has never seen Profar play a game in the infield. Of the 19 Rangers who played in the last game that Profar started, on Sept. 18, 2013, only three remain on the club’s active roster — Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland.
“It’s hard,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Saturday. “Can you imagine not being able to do your job for two years? Watching other people do it?”
Profar’s sudden inability to throw a baseball forced him from the field for all of 2014. He finally was compelled to have surgery last February for a torn labrum.
Once upon a time, Profar was viewed as Ian Kinsler’s heir apparent at second base. It was largely because of Profar that the club felt comfortable in trading Kinsler to Detroit for the power-hitting Prince Fielder.
When Profar’s throwing shoulder again failed to respond last spring, however, the Rangers moved on. A shining new infield prospect, 21-year-old Rougned Odor, seized the second base job and ran.
Can you imagine watching other people do your job for two years?
“I think he handled it as well as he could,” Daniels said. “He worked his butt off.”
Odor’s grip on the starting second base position is so strong, Profar will be confined full time to shortstop this spring.
When Banister was asked Saturday whether Profar might become one of the candidates to fill in for Josh Hamilton in left field, the manager answered, without hesitation, “He’s playing shortstop in spring training.”
And if he hits his way onto the big league roster this spring?
Daniels deflected the question with a joke.
“Can we play two shortstops?” he asked.
“Two years of not having played, there are some steps that we’re not going to skip. We need to see that the shoulder responds to regular playing time before we can say anything else.
“He might play a different position at some point, but it’s not going to be this spring.”
The incumbent shortstop, Elvis Andrus, signed an eight-year, $120 million contract in 2013. Elvis will make $15 million a year for the next five seasons, then $14 million in 2021 and 2022.
Andrus may or may not be a “$15 million player,” but the market may well rise to meet him. If Elvis plays as he did in the season’s second half of 2015, his contract may not be as untradeble as some think.
But why trade Elvis, one of the team’s most popular players? If a trade is in the future, as it seems to appear, a younger, healthy and career-resuscitated Profar would figure to bring a much higher return.
Profar doesn’t have to make the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup to do it, either. All he has to do is go to Round Rock, play a healthy shortstop and hit Triple-A pitching, and he can again become the franchise’s hottest trade property.
If Round Rock is his April destination, Profar himself said Saturday, so be it.
“Then it’s good for me,” he said. “If I go there, I get to play every day. I’m back on a baseball field. That’s the only thing that matters.
“Everything is going to take care of itself.”
When asked about the logjam of Rangers infielders, Profar answered, “There are a lot of teams around here. I just have to be on the field and that’s it.”
It seems like an eternity ago when the 19-year-old from Curacao broke into the big leagues in September 2012, with a home run in Cleveland on his first major league at-bat.
But that’s part of it. Profar just turned 23 last week. He’s still a kid.
A kid that’s been a bit of a baseball ghost for two seasons. A kid that was once considered the brightest of all the Rangers’ rising stars.
Can you imagine not being able to do your job for two years?
Behold Jurickson Profar, whose story is yet to be written, one place or another.