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Centeno has edge on backup catcher role

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Still on the hunt for a backup catcher, the Rangers are facing some tough roster decisions as Spring Training winds down.

Infielder Jurickson Profar is out of options, so he will be on the Opening Day roster. But Texas still has to make a decision on catcher Juan Centeno, because he, too, is out of options. He could also play a significant role on the team if he is there on Opening Day.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Still on the hunt for a backup catcher, the Rangers are facing some tough roster decisions as Spring Training winds down.

Infielder Jurickson Profar is out of options, so he will be on the Opening Day roster. But Texas still has to make a decision on catcher Juan Centeno, because he, too, is out of options. He could also play a significant role on the team if he is there on Opening Day.

Robinson Chirinos is the Rangers' No. 1 catcher, but he has never played more than 93 games in a season. At age 33, that number is probably not going to go up significantly. Thus, the club's backup catcher will probably play a bigger role than the middle infielder behind Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor. Centeno is among the catching options being evaluated in the final week of camp.

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"Still ongoing, still looking ... don't have anything concrete," manager Jeff Banister said. "That's why it may be something that goes all the way down to the end."

The other backup-catcher candidates are Curt Casali, Mike Ohlman and Brett Nicholas. Centeno is the only one on the 40-man roster and he has started eight games this spring. Chirinos has started nine, while nobody else has more than two starts.

The Rangers could also grab another catcher in the waning days of Spring Training, as other teams make their cuts. The end of spring usually brings about a wild scramble for players either released, placed on waivers or who have taken their free agency as non-roster invites not added to the Opening Day roster.

Ryan Hanigan is a veteran Major League catcher who is not expected to make the Indians. The same holds for Chris Stewart with the Braves and Bobby Wilson with the Twins.

Centeno, who was claimed off waivers from the Astros this offseason, is entering his 12th professional season. The Rangers are his fifth organization: He was drafted by the Mets in the 32nd round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and has played in 101 games over parts of the last four seasons with the Mets, Brewers, Twins and Astros.

"It has always been like that for me," Centeno said. "I didn't sign for a lot of money. I have had to work hard every day to make myself better. It has been a long road, but the work is paying off. The last five years I have been called up to the big leagues."

Centeno earned a World Series ring with the Astros last year, as he was on their postseason roster for all three rounds. But his only action was one inning behind the plate in a 10-3 loss to the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

Centeno is a defensive-minded catcher who once threw out 56 percent (34 of 61) of attempted basestealers in a Minor League season. Offensively, he is a left-handed hitter who can hit for average and put the ball in play, but with limited power. His career Minor League average is .283 with a .345 slugging percentage. He has five Minor League home runs in 1,729 at-bats, and he's added five more in 289 at-bats at the Major League level.

Centeno's only extended stay in the Majors was with the Twins in 2016, when he played in 55 games and hit .261 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 25 RBIs. He had a .312 on-base percentage and a .392 slugging percentage.

But statistics, especially at the plate, probabaly won't be the determining factor in the backup-catcher decision, as much as who the Rangers feel can best supplement Chirinos. It's not an insignificant decision.

"My focus is on my defense," Centeno said. "I stay on my defense. Hitting, I'm not thinking much about that. Catch a good game and help the pitcher win the game."

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.

Texas Rangers, Juan Centeno, Robinson Chirinos, Jurickson Profar