Eli White has yet to fully register his monumental milestone.
White was informed by manager Chris Woodward on Thursday that he will make the Opening Day roster, marking the first time that White will make the big league club out of camp.
“It’s really exciting,” White said. “I don’t think it’s really completely sunk in yet just because hearing [it] is a surprise, but once I get on the plane and head off to Texas, I think it will really sink in.”
Whether White will be Texas’ starting center fielder remains to be seen. Coincidentally enough, Woodward also announced on Thursday that Leody Taveras, the Rangers’ other candidate for the starting center-field job, will be on the Opening Day roster as well.
White has certainly made a case for the starting gig. In 39 plate appearances this spring, White is slashing .323/.436/.548 with a homer and three steals.
Regardless of whether he starts, the production is encouraging as White tries to find a rhythm at the big league level. White, who hit .188 with 16 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances as a rookie, said he battled doubt and frustration, but recognized the benefit of those early struggles.
"Everything about being up there and getting to experience it is going to be beneficial,” White said.
White transitioned to a full-time outfielder last year, but he might not be limited to the grassy plains. Against the Indians Sunday, White played a full game at first base, the first time he played the position as a professional. His last prior appearance at first base was in the summer Cape Cod League during his college days.
The extensive history at first base may be nonexistent, but White is plenty familiar with captaining an infield. Before transitioning to the outfield, White spent over 2,300 innings as a shortstop in the Minors. White likely won’t play many innings at shortstop, but remaining familiar and sharp remains a priority, should he ever be needed in a pinch.
“I like to have that versatility tool in my bag,” White said.
“I like being able to play a lot of different positions and I think it adds value for me. It also helps the team. Whatever that looks like, I’m up for it.”
White may not have to call upon his past experience as a shortstop, but he will have to tap into his speed. The Rangers, who led the Majors with 69 steal attempts last season, want to continue to apply pressure to opposing teams, and White projects to be part of that formula.
White ranked in the 98th percentile of Sprint Speed last season per Baseball Savant, narrowly edging out Taveras (96th percentile) for bragging rights of fastest player on the team. While White can rack up steals off his physical tools alone, he noted that he wants to continue to learn the intricacies of the craft.
“There are some guys that are really good at picking up on little things pitchers do here and there,” White said. “That’s something I’m trying to get better at. I’ve always been a guy that's just been fast and been able to go off athleticism and my speed, but at this level, catchers are better, pitchers are quicker. Just learning how to pick up on little things here and there to take me to that next level.”
Rounding out the roster
Pitchers Kyle Cody and Brett de Geus will make the Opening Day roster, Woodward announced on Friday.
Cody, the Rangers’ No. 22 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will begin in the bullpen, but he could potentially be a front-end starter going forward.
Woodward expressed that he wants to take care of Cody as he pitches out of the 'pen, saying the Rangers won’t treat Cody like a typical reliever. The Rangers won’t pitch him in back-to-back games, nor will they have him warm up if they do not intend to put him in a game.
Cody, 26, debuted last August, beginning in the bullpen before making five starts in September. In 22 2/3 innings, Cody posted a 1.59 ERA and never surrendered more than one earned run in any appearance. Cody impressed in his last Spring Training outing against the Reds, pitching three scoreless innings with six strikeouts.
de Geus, who was selected in the Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers, has a 4.05 ERA with seven strikeouts to one walk this spring.
• Taylor Hearn’s latest start of the spring, and potentially his last, was a mixed bag. Hearn, who is still unsure of his role, allowed one run in three innings with five strikeouts in the Rangers' 8-1 win over the Royals on Friday, but he walked three and was pulled in the first inning before re-entering in the second.
“I’m very glad these type of outings happen,” Hearn said. “If you ask me, you can’t really learn anything from good outings. You learn better from outings like this."
Hearn also shed some light on an unusual diet. On game days, Hearn does not eat right before games, saying the lack of food helps him stay focused, but he indulges in full-sized Snickers bars in between innings.
• Ian Kennedy continued to build his case for the Rangers’ Opening Day roster, inducing a double play against the only batter he faced on Friday. It was the first time Kennedy had been used in back-to-back games this spring. In 5 2/3 innings, Kennedy has struck out seven with no runs allowed.
• The Rangers still have several spots to fill out, but the Opening Day roster may not be finalized until the team gets back to Dallas. Though not a certainty, Woodward said postgame that several roster decisions might come down to the Rangers' two exhibition games against the Brewers.
"We've had a lot of dialogue the last week or so," Woodward said. "But I think those decisions may be made at some point during those exhibition games. We might make it before. I'm not quite sure."
• Elvis Andrus’ first game against his old team will be on hold until the summer. A’s manager Bob Melvin announced that Andrus will not play Saturday against the Rangers, as the team doesn’t want to play him in a day game following a night game. Despite the Rangers and A’s being division rivals, the two teams won’t meet until a four-game series beginning on June 21.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson will make his final Cactus League start when the Rangers face the A’s at Hohokam Stadium on Saturday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. CT. Left-hander A.J. Puk will get the ball for the A's.