Jung to miss at least 2-3 weeks with calf strain

February 17th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Before big league camp has even officially started, Rangers third baseman 's bad Spring Training luck has already begun.

Jung experienced discomfort while fielding ground balls Friday morning after arriving in Surprise, Ariz., earlier that day. He got an MRI, showing a low-grade calf strain, according to manager Bruce Bochy.

Walking into the clubhouse in Surprise on Saturday, Jung just shook his head, saying “Here we go.”

The Rangers staff expects Jung to miss a minimum of two to three weeks and will continue evaluating him during that time period. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

This is the third Spring Training that has started with a Jung injury. He sustained a stress fracture in his foot going into camp in 2021 and then tore a labrum in his non-throwing shoulder during camp in '22.

Health has been the only thing holding Jung back in his professional career. He hit .266/.315/.467 with 23 homers in his first full big league season in 2023, but again landed on the injured list for six weeks with a fractured left thumb.

“He’s a tough kid,” Bochy said. “He's had to deal with a lot of tough luck. We saw it last year, but I think timing is probably as good as it can be if you're going to have something like this happening. So I'm sure he's disappointed but yes, we'll be ready. We'll do all we can to help him get there.”

Though Jung is expected to be ready well before Opening Day, his injury could have ripple effect down the roster.

Ezequiel Duran and Josh Smith were already set to get a ton of reps at shortstop this spring with Corey Seager sidelined after surgery to repair a left sports hernia, along with time in the outfield as utility players.

Bochy said Duran will now spend more time at third base and the infield as a whole than in the outfield, and the staff will re-evaluate as Jung gets closer to returning to the field.

Rangers No. 6 prospect Justin Foscue will also get reps at third base, but he’ll likely get most of his reps on the right side of the infield at first and second. A natural second baseman, Foscue appeared in games at second base (70), third base (35), designated hitter (nine) and first base (nine) with Triple-A Round Rock in 2023.

“He's still getting some reps at second, but there'll be a lot of reps at first base,” Bochy said. “I think when you're looking at how the bat played last year, we’ve got to find a position for him to where he's going to be comfortable. He's taking some ground balls at third, he's done some work there, but the focus will probably be more on the right side of the field.”

Jung’s injury also opens the door for the big league staff to get more in-depth looks at the likes of non-roster invitees Jonathan Ornelas, Davis Wendzel and Matt Duffy.

The 33-year-old Duffy hit .251/.306/.325 in 78 games for Kansas City last season and played for Bochy in San Francisco from 2014-16.

Ornelas got seven big league at-bats last year, but he hasn’t gotten consistent big league playing time due to the roadblock of infielders. Wendzel -- who hit .236 with an .838 OPS at Triple-A Round Rock last season -- has struggled with injuries throughout his professional career and has yet to make his MLB debut.

“It does force you to get a look at other guys at that position when your starting player goes down,” Bochy said. “I guess you can’t say it is a silver lining ending up like this, you hate to see it. But those guys, they'll all get playing time there. We’ll find enough playing time for all of them.”