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Pence done for 2019, open to rejoining Rangers

Outfielder named All-Star after starting year on Minor League deal
@Sullivan_Ranger
September 24, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence is done for the season. His lower back regressed in the past week as he tried to make a push to rejoin the lineup, and Pence admitted Tuesday he won't be ready to play before the season ends on Sunday. Pence has been sidelined

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence is done for the season.

His lower back regressed in the past week as he tried to make a push to rejoin the lineup, and Pence admitted Tuesday he won't be ready to play before the season ends on Sunday.

Pence has been sidelined since Aug. 23 with a strained lower back that never improved to the point where he could even attempt to swing a bat.

"I wanted to play and was very frustrated," Pence said. "But I have to trust that things happen for a reason and unfortunately this isn't something I can will-power through and overcome. The goal is to get healthy and potentially play next year, and if not that, have a healthy life and quality life."

Pence, 36, is a free agent this offseason. He was able to perform at a high level when healthy this year, hitting .297 with a .358 on-base percentage and a .552 slugging percentage in 83 games. He was also named to the American League All-Star team.

This all came after spending last offseason revamping his swing, going to the Dominican Winter League to test it out and accepting a Minor League contract from the Rangers.

"I do feel like it was a success," Pence said. "You control what you can control, that's putting in your work and preparation. Sometimes injuries do happen in this sport, especially at my age. With the amount of work I put in this offseason, it is not a terrible surprise that I was able to perform when I was able to play. I made a big adjustment, and I'm happy with that. Now I have to find a way to get healthy and durable."

He would like to play again for the Rangers, but that may be tough. The Rangers have four potential corner outfielders in Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo and Willie Calhoun. Gallo played center field this season, which allowed the Rangers to find room for Pence. But Gallo is likely to stay on the corners next year.

The Rangers will also have the same issue next season of being heavy with left-handed hitters, especially if Rougned Odor is at second base and Ronald Guzmán is at first.

"I would love to play for this team," Pence said. "We'll see if they have a spot for me. I love the people here, the team, the staff, the organization. I even love this stadium. I know they are getting a new stadium, that's going to be awesome too. They have to want me and have a spot for me."

Manager Chris Woodward said he was hoping Pence would be able to play in at least one more game.

"What he has done for this team is incredible," Woodward said. "Never lost hope, pushed these guys, showed these guys how a guy who is older and done it a certain way his whole life can change and make himself better. He has been awesome. His legacy will live on.

"I don't know if we are going to sign him back or not, but if we don't, for a guy who never had any prior relationship with an organization, to have that much impact late in your career is kind of unheard of. He literally gave every ounce of his being to this team, just because that's who he is. It's so rare to find a guy like that."

Huff joins Mathis
The Rangers have brought in Minor League catcher Sam Huff to spend a few days with the big league team. The club wants Huff to hang around and soak up information from veteran catcher Jeff Mathis.

Huff is not on the active roster. Jose Trevino, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Todd Federowicz are taking care of the catching duties while Mathis deals with a strained lower back.

Mathis is still hoping to catch again this week. He still needs to take full batting practice and wants to catch somebody in the bullpen first.

"We are still going in the right direction, but I have some things to do first," Mathis said.

Rangers beat
• Mazara was scratched from the lineup with soreness in his right thumb. It is the same thumb Mazara had surgery on last year. The Rangers aren't sure if Mazara will be able to play this week as the season comes to an end.

• The Rangers have added right-hander Phillips Valdez to the active roster. He has a 3.94 ERA in 11 appearances over three previous stays with the Rangers. They now have 20 pitchers on the active roster.

• Choo's home run on Sunday was his seventh leading off a game for the Rangers. That ties the club record set by Ian Kinsler, who did it in three different seasons.

• Lance Lynn struck out 12 and walked one over 5 1/3 innings on Sunday. It's the first time in club history that a pitcher had 12 strikeouts and one or no walks in less than six innings.

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.