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Rangers show first glimpse of potential lineup

February 29, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward assembled his potential Opening Day lineup, both in personnel and order, for the first time this spring on Saturday against the White Sox. Nearly all the regulars started the 7-6 win over the White Sox, with third baseman Todd Frazier in the cleanup

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward assembled his potential Opening Day lineup, both in personnel and order, for the first time this spring on Saturday against the White Sox. Nearly all the regulars started the 7-6 win over the White Sox, with third baseman Todd Frazier in the cleanup spot he will hypothetically occupy when the season begins March 26.

Batting between Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun, the right-handed Frazier gives Woodward the ability to break up the lefties in the lineup and put a proven power hitter with a history of driving in runs in the fourth spot.

Frazier has 214 homers and .450 slugging percentage in 1,186 MLB games over nine seasons.

“The big right-handed bat with some power, it helps to put him between the lefties, especially with the three-batter thing,” Woodward said, referring to the new MLB rule that will require relievers to face a minimum of three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning.

Frazier batted fifth or sixth the majority of his starts for the Mets last season; he welcomes the opportunity to be the cleanup man in Texas. He drove in the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly in the first inning and singled in the third inning Saturday. He is hitting .444 (4-for-9) in five Cactus League appearances.

“Being the cleanup guy, you’ve got to be ready to drive in some runs,” Frazier said. “You’ve got to be prepared to use a little power as well and focus in on those RBIs. That doesn’t mean getting a hit every time, that means with runners in scoring position, finding a way to get a guy in.”

Designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo is in the leadoff spot to take advantage of his reliably high on-base percentage. Choo led the Rangers' qualifiers by nearly 50 points last season with a .371 OBP. Choo led off with a single against the White Sox, scoring on Frazier’s sac fly.

Elvis Andrus batted second Saturday, and Calhoun, Danny Santana, Rougned Odor and Ronald Guzmán batted fifth through eighth. Starting catcher Robinson Chirinos is still a few days away from playing after dealing with a right hamstring strain early in Spring Training, but other than the backstop position, Woodward had all his main contributors on his card Saturday.

“It’s nice to get all those guys playing together one after another,” Woodward said. “It’s a tough one because knowing exactly where everybody fits, we don’t have prototypical anything. Maybe Joey is the easiest, middle of the lineup. The rest of the guys can slot in wherever. It depends on the strides that certain guys take.”

A key reason why Woodward is already demoing the hypothetical season-opening lineup is that he would prefer not to shuffle the order on a daily basis, as he hopes to give players the comfort of having a defined role.

“I’ve gone back and forth on that in my own mind since last year, and I thought about this a lot as a coach,” he said. “Do I believe in one set lineup? Is it easier for a player? You see other teams that mix and match every day, I don’t think I would do it that way. It helps to have familiarity with where you’re going to be in the lineup. I don’t want to get into where nobody knows where they’re hitting every day.”

Woodward used 150 different batting orders last season. The most common batting order he used was only deployed three times. But there was far less variability in the top half of Woodward’s orders, especially in the first and third spots, where Choo and Andrus each started more than 100 games.