Taveras heating up, aims to secure job in CF

March 15th, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When asked if he felt a large amount of pressure on himself coming into spring, Leody Taveras didn’t need an interpreter to share his answer.

“No,” Taveras said. “I don’t focus on that kind of stuff. I just focus on my job and the things I need to work on.”

Taveras knows it’s go time, according to manager Chris Woodward. The Rangers' No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Taveras entered Spring Training as the presumed starter in center field. But with Woodward’s culture of competition taking hold, Taveras is now fighting to keep the job over Eli White.

Taveras made another push in Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Rockies, going 1-for-3. The 22-year-old made his Major League debut on July 24, 2020, then hit .227 in 33 games during the shortened season while also spending some time at the alternate training site.

Early in Spring Training, Taveras struggled at the plate, going 1-for-13 through his first six Cactus League games. He’s picked it up of late, going 3-for-7 in his past two games to raise his batting average to .200. Taveras said it took him a few games to get comfortable at the dish.

Those adjustments are coming “slowly but surely,” and Taveras' at-bats are getting better as he plays in more games, including some on back fields. He’s starting to concentrate more because he knows the Rangers need him on base, whether that’s as the leadoff hitter or out of the No. 9 hole.

“It’s fine, just sometimes you're off,” Taveras said. “The timing's off a little bit, so you try to change up a little thing to be more aggressive so that you can make better contact and be more aggressive instead of being more patient, but that's just the gist of it.”

Woodward told Taveras that spring is different coming into your first Major League camp, especially after getting a taste of the big leagues in 2020. The Rangers' manager has been happy with Taveras' at-bat quality in recent games.

“My thing to him was just, 'Be you, the one thing is keep trusting what you're doing,'” Woodward said. “'What you're working on is going to show up in the games. When you get in the game, compete. It means just making sure you're competing like that's your focus, and everything should take care of itself.'”

Woodward emphasized that he likes the push from both Taveras and White in the competition to start in center field. Both outfielders have shown the pillars of the culture that Woodward has wanted to create for the club.

“That's a part of the game that I love,” Woodward said. “Competition brings out the best if it's done right, if it's a healthy competition. Leody and Eli are pretty good friends. They're not cutting each other's throat to win the job. It’s just like a, 'May the best man win,' kind of thing. So I think it's good to push our younger guys. We have a lot of guys competing for spots right now, and I think it's really good for them."