ARLINGTON -- Rangers infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa continues to show he belongs in the big leagues. He has held his own at the plate and played remarkable defense at three different positions.The next step may be for the Rangers to decide if his future is as a utility player, or if
ARLINGTON -- Rangers infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa continues to show he belongs in the big leagues. He has held his own at the plate and played remarkable defense at three different positions.
The next step may be for the Rangers to decide if his future is as a utility player, or if he needs to settle at one position. The Rangers could have multiple openings in the infield next year if third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Elvis Andrus end up being free agents.
"It's a little soon," manager Jeff Banister said. "It's a fun conversation to have, but it is a little soon."
Right now Kiner-Falefa is starting at third base while Beltre is on the disabled list. Saturday was his 17th start at third, but he has also started 18 at second base and two at shortstop. He can play the outfield, first base or catch if needed.
"His [value] is his versatility," Banister said. "We'll see how it plays out over a long period of time. Right now he is showing what you want. I enjoy watching him play. I don't want to overplay who he is. Does he have a lot of intangibles? Yes. He loves to play baseball. He is a baseball player. He sees baseball, thinks baseball and goes out and plays it. At some point, this guy developed the freedom to let his mind go out and play on the field. That's a tough intangible to develop."
Kiner-Falefa was called up on April 10 when Rougned Odor went on the DL with a left hamstring strain. Since then, Andrus and Beltre have gone down with injuries. The Rangers are hoping to have everybody back healthy by mid-June, but it is going to be hard to send Kiner-Falefa back to the Minor Leagues.
"It's awesome," Kiner-Falefa said. "It's a dream come true, but I can't stop now. Gotta keep going."
Home run milestone surprises Choo
Shin-Soo Choo hit a home run on Friday night against the Royals and was surprised afterward when a security guard presented him with the baseball.
"I didn't know why," Choo said. "I have hit a lot of home runs. It's nothing new to me. Then I found out why so I am going to keep it."
The home run was the 175th of his career, tying him with Hideki Matsui for the most by a player from Asia. Matsui, who is from Japan, played 10 years in the big leagues from 2003-12, mainly with the Yankees. Choo, who is from South Korea, is in his 14th season. Ichiro Suzuki had 117 home runs over his 18 seasons.
"I am not a home run hitter," Choo said. "I have just played in this league a long time. That's not my focus. I have played longer than Matsui. He only played 10 years in the big leagues. If he had played longer, he would have more home runs than me."
• Shortstop Andrus, who is on the DL with a fractured right elbow, started swinging a regular bat on Saturday after a week of using a fungo. These were just dry swings without hitting a baseball. The next step will be tee and soft-toss.
• Left-hander Matt Moore threw a bullpen session on Saturday and the Rangers are waiting to see how he comes out of that before they set their rotation for the four-game series with the Mariners. The plan is for Moore to pitch on Tuesday, but Banister said the Rangers are also considering giving Austin Bibens-Dirkx one more start so that all starters get an extra day of rest.
• Rangers left-handed hitters have hit 12 home runs this season off left-handed pitching, the most in the Major Leagues.
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.