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Woodward backs Mathis despite offensive woes

@Sullivan_Ranger
September 15, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Veteran catcher Jeff Mathis’ first season with the Rangers is coming to a close. He has a strained lower back that could keep him out four to five days or longer, a .158 batting average that frustrates him and a manager who enthusiastically sings his praises. Mathis is

ARLINGTON -- Veteran catcher Jeff Mathis’ first season with the Rangers is coming to a close. He has a strained lower back that could keep him out four to five days or longer, a .158 batting average that frustrates him and a manager who enthusiastically sings his praises.

Mathis is also signed for next season at $3 million, and if the Rangers are thinking of eating that salary in the hopes of finding an upgrade, manager Chris Woodward insists he would be vehemently opposed.

“I would definitely speak up if they were thinking about not bringing him back,” Woodward said Sunday morning. “If they were considering that, I would be against that, because of what he means to that clubhouse is a lot.”

Mathis was asked how he viewed his season.

“I feel like you know the answer to that,” Mathis said. “We are not in the playoffs, No. 1, and No. 2, the offense speaks for itself. So you can take that however you want to.”

The Rangers have never agonized over his offense because they feel strongly about his defense, and ability to work with the pitching staff.

"That’s something I was brought in to do, but [also] be well-rounded and do a bit more offensively,” Mathis said. “That’s where the frustrations are coming from. From a defensive side and the pitching side, I feel I’ve gotten on the same page with some of these guys. We’ve had some success with some of them, but we also have some work to do.”

Woodward was more effusive in looking at what Mathis has done for the Rangers.

"I know offensively he didn’t have the year he wanted,” Woodward said. “But I think from a leadership standpoint and what he has done behind the plate, it’s obviously what we expected. Solidified the position, really worked well with the pitchers.

“He means a lot to this ballclub. When he walks in the door, everybody loves him, everybody respects him. It doesn’t matter ... pitchers, position players, anybody in between, everybody respects him, everybody calls him captain. A veteran presence much needed, especially going into this year with so many younger guys. He provides a lot for us.”

Woodward said he would like to lessen Mathis’ workload next season. The 36-year-old has played in 86 games this season and started 76 -- his most since 2011, when he got 79 starts and 91 total games.

“That was a lot to ask of him, to play that many games,” Woodward said. “But I think he’ll be better offensively. It was just one of those years where he didn’t get it going."

Rangers watching catching situation

Woodward said the Rangers expect Mathis to be sidelined four to five days. Jose Trevino started at catcher on Sunday with Isiah Kiner-Falefa at third base. Kiner-Falefa is the Rangers' only backup, but hasn’t been behind the plate at the big league level since June 6.

“I’m ready if they need me,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I’m always ready. That’s why I am here.”

The Rangers do not have another catcher on the 40-man roster, but could add Tim Federowicz if needed. He finished the season at Triple-A Nashville. The Rangers are off on Monday and Thursday so they could wait to see how long Mathis needs. But it is unusual for a team not to have a third catcher on the big league team with the expanded September rosters.

“We are looking into it,” Woodward said. “We are going to monitor Jeff to see if he is going to be okay. If it’s anything more than four or five days, we have to get somebody else.”

Rangers beat:

Hunter Pence, sidelined with a strained lower back, is still not ready to resume baseball activities and time seems to be running out on him being able to play again this season.

• The Rangers officially recalled Joe Palumbo from Nashville on Sunday after he was activated from the Minor League injured list. He had been sidelined with a blister on his left thumb. The left-hander fired two scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Texas' 6-1 loss to Oakland.

• Infielder Logan Forsythe remains day to day with tightness in his left intercostal muscle.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.