SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Delino DeShields led off Sunday's game against the White Sox with a first-pitch single off Michael Kopech. He stole second on the next pitch to Nomar Mazara and went to third on catcher Kevan Smith's throwing error.He scored on Mazara's double and, after three pitches, the Rangers
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Delino DeShields led off Sunday's game against the White Sox with a first-pitch single off Michael Kopech. He stole second on the next pitch to Nomar Mazara and went to third on catcher Kevan Smith's throwing error.
He scored on Mazara's double and, after three pitches, the Rangers had a 1-0 lead.
"That's his game," manager Jeff Banister said. "We know what he can do when he gets on base."
DeShields could end up being the biggest offensive story of the spring for the Rangers, just as much or more than in 2015, when he emerged from Rule 5 obscurity to become the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
He lost both spots last season, got sent to Triple-A for two months and was used as a spare part in the second half. The center-field job is probably out -- that was gifted to Carlos Gomez in the offseason.
But DeShields, hitting .276 with a .364 on-base percentage and five stolen bases this spring, is still in the left-field competition and is demonstrating offensive skill not found in other candidates. DeShields' speed can make an impact at the top of the lineup.
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"Delino has put together a nice Spring Training, very similar to what we saw in 2015," Banister said. "He has the ability to use his speed, but he has also barreled some baseballs nicely. The at-bats have been nice and calm for him, too."
DeShields focused this offseason on regaining his speed and baserunning explosiveness. He lost that last season when he tried to get too strong. His focus offensively this spring has been understanding when to be selective and when to be aggressive.
"The first year [in 2015] I was being very selective and seeing a lot of pitches, and I let a lot of pitches go by," DeShields said. "Last year I was too aggressive. It's about combining the two, being picky but when I get my pitch, attacking it. Most importantly, it's about rediscovering who I was and what I will be my entire career."
DeShields has not won the left-field job. Ryan Rua and Joey Gallo continue to get extensive playing time, and Jurickson Profar is playing great for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Veterans Travis Snider and Jared Hoying are still competing.
But DeShields could change the look of the Rangers' lineup. Gomez has been leading off this spring, a job he did well for the Brewers in 2014. But he also has the kind of power that would fit well lower in the the order, amid Mike Napoli, Jonathan Lucroy and Rougned Odor.
"Carlos is working on being our leadoff hitter as we sit here today," Banister said. "If DeShields is able to make the team, it would be dynamic to have that speed at the top of the lineup, putting pressure on the opposing team."
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.