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Profar eager to impress Rangers this spring

Utility infielder candidate will get first chance at short vs. Cubs
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Elvis Andrus will not be making the trip to Mesa on Saturday, when the Rangers open their Cactus League schedule against the Cubs.

Instead, Jurickson Profar will be the starting shortstop for the first game of the spring as he tries to earn a spot as Texas' utility infielder. He is off to a good start, according to manager Jeff Banister.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Elvis Andrus will not be making the trip to Mesa on Saturday, when the Rangers open their Cactus League schedule against the Cubs.

Instead, Jurickson Profar will be the starting shortstop for the first game of the spring as he tries to earn a spot as Texas' utility infielder. He is off to a good start, according to manager Jeff Banister.

"The body looks exceptional," Banister said. "You can tell over the winter he added weight and strength to the body and the legs … great smile, tremendous attitude. He is in as good of place as I could have hoped."

Profar was the Rangers' Opening Day left fielder, but he was demoted to Triple-A Round Rock after hitting .135 in his first 15 games. He stayed there for most of the rest of the season.

"In his own words, he said, 'This is 2018 and not 2017,'" Banister said. "He described himself as last year trying to do too much and do more. We talked about him relaxing and playing. He's going to move around [the infield], and he also knows we're not looking for him to get two hits in one at-bat. Just continue to be one team member and not try to carry the whole load."

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Profar had a quick response to the manager's praise.

"Yeah, but I want to stop talking about it and show people," Profar said.

Banister favors shortened extra innings
Banister said he would like Major League Baseball to consider some of the proposed rules that would shorten extra-innings games. One being considered is having an inning start with a baserunner already on second base.

"I would be all for a system that shrinks the extra-innings process," Banister said.

Banister cited two 19-inning games when he was a coach with the Pirates that had an impact on their club. In 2011, the Bucs were 53-47 before losing a 19-inning game to the Braves on July 26. Pittsburgh went into a tailspin and never recovered, finishing 72-90. The following season, the Pirates won in the bottom of the 19th against the Cardinals on Aug. 19th that left them 67-54. Again, the bottom fell out afterward as the Bucs plummeted out of contention to a final record of 79-83.

"Just with the collateral damage of the players involved, it was just a slow drip and we never recovered," Banister said. "How do you combat that?"

Chavez crosses to other side
Rangers pitcher Jesse Chavez was with the Blue Jays in 2016 and played a significant role in the famous Rougned Odor vs. Jose Bautista altercation. Chavez was on the mound the next inning after Odor slugged Bautista at second base. Chavez retaliated by hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch.

Chavez was immediately ejected from the game. Banister said the Rangers have no issues with him now.

Tweet from @Rangers: OFFICIAL: We have signed RHP Jesse Chavez to a one-year contract.Welcome, Jesse! pic.twitter.com/3I0y1fLyJr

"Jesse has always been a team guy," Banister said. "He competes, he works hard, he's an old soul type of player. There is no backing down or giving in. I love that about players. Jesse wasn't going to back down. He is part of a team and he is going to do what is necessary for his team."

Rangers beat
• Andrus has been sidelined with back spasms, but he said he is 80 percent better and took batting practice in the indoor cage on Friday.

• Banister said outfielders Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields have caught the coaching staff's attention with their fire and attitude this spring.

Hanser Alberto will start at second base on Saturday against the Cubs, with Odor at designated hitter. Alberto missed all of last year with a right rotator cuff injury and will be playing in a game for the first time since a rehab assignment with Triple-A Round Rock on June 6.

• The Rangers will be wearing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps against the Cubs to honor the memory of those who lost their lives in the Feb. 14 shooting.

Up next
Right-hander Clayton Blackburn will be on the mound when the Rangers play the Cubs at 2:05 p.m. CT Saturday in Mesa. Nomar Mazara will be in the lineup batting fourth and Ronald Guzman will get the start at first base, since Joey Gallo is not making the trip.

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, Jurickson Profar