Woodward on Taveras: 'I can't take him out'

August 11th, 2022

HOUSTON -- It was going to take some unlikely heroics for the Rangers to overcome their struggles against the Astros in Houston, and Leody Taveras provided just that in Wednesday night's game.

Manager Chris Woodward labeled the top of the Rangers' lineup -- Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Adolis García and Nathaniel Lowe -- as everyday guys. Per Woodward, the rest of the spots will be determined through a battle of younger players looking to earn their spot for the future, with those who have good at-bats receiving more time.

It's safe to say Taveras earned some time after going 2-for-4 with a triple, a double and five RBIs in the Rangers' 8-4 win over the Astros in 10 innings at Minute Maid Park.

“I am proud of him,” Woodward said of Taveras’ performance. "He has come a long way in a short amount of time, and he’s proven to us that I can’t take him out.”

Wednesday's unlikely hero has had quite an up-and-down journey during his time with the Rangers. Taveras was hailed as their No. 1 prospect in 2017-18, and started to prove that potential in his four years in the Minor Leagues, especially in 2019 when he slashed a combined .279/.344/.376 in Class A Advanced and Double-A.

These numbers, along with the pandemic-driven cancellation of the Minor League seasons, led to the Rangers calling up Taveras in 2020. But he showed growing pains in his first two seasons as a big leaguer, posting a .188 average over his first 82 games, with seven homers and 15 RBIs.

The production was not matching what the Rangers were hoping for, so Taveras split his time between Triple-A Round Rock and the Majors throughout 2021. They ultimately decided to keep him in Triple-A to start the 2022 season, hoping that he would stay for good the next time he was called up to Texas.

The Rangers knew they had to fix some aspects in Taveras' game, with bench coach Donnie Ecker and hitting coach Tim Hyers dedicating time with him to help turn things around. The time with the coaches resulted in changes with the 23-year-old’s stance, approach and training that yielded good results in Triple-A to begin this season, as he slashed .294/.335/.485 in 49 games.

Those numbers, paired with the injury to Eli White, presented Taveras with the opportunity to prove he is here to stick this time. He's looking to show he is an everyday guy not just with production, but with confidence and maturity.

“You’re not going to be fully confident when you’re a big league player,” Woodward said. “There is a maturity you have about the way you carry yourself, the way you go about the business, the way you train and the way you talk about your past. With young guys, they start to struggle and panic a bit. I have seen that less and less with Leody.”

That maturity showed in his first at-bat on Wednesday, as Taveras hit a weak ground ball to first, but instead of panicking, he focused on his next chance. The results showed in his next at-bat, as he hit an RBI triple to deep right-center field off of AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander that tied the game.

“It helped me a lot and gave me a lot of confidence,” Taveras said about his hit off Verlander. “I faced one of the best pitchers in the game and did that.”

That confidence carried over through the rest of the game, as Taveras hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning to give the Rangers their first lead and a bases-clearing double in the 10th inning to punctuate the game for Texas. Taveras’ productive night set two milestones: new single-game career highs in both hits and RBIs.

Taveras' next step is being more consistent with his production -- as he showed in July when he slashed .341/.387/.529 and had the second-most hits on the team (29) -- and not letting skids get to him in order to potentially earn a role as an everyday starter.

“You are going to have your good days and you are going to have bad games,” Woodward said. “I think as an everyday player, there’s just a consistency to it all, even when you’re not great. Yesterday wasn’t his best game, and today he came back out and produced the way he did.

"He’s proven to me that he belongs out there every day.”