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Pence at DH vs. LHP, but no platoon in order

Woodward wants to get veteran acclimated to team; Volquez battles in return; Texas showing new approach
@Sullivan_Ranger
March 31, 2019

ARLINGTON -- After the Rangers finish their season-opening series with the Cubs, they are scheduled to face right-handed starting pitchers in seven of their next eight games. That’s why manager Chris Woodward wanted Hunter Pence back in the lineup at designated hitter in Sunday's series finale, instead of Shin-Soo Choo.

ARLINGTON -- After the Rangers finish their season-opening series with the Cubs, they are scheduled to face right-handed starting pitchers in seven of their next eight games. That’s why manager Chris Woodward wanted Hunter Pence back in the lineup at designated hitter in Sunday's series finale, instead of Shin-Soo Choo. With left-hander Cole Hamels on the mound for Chicago, Woodward said there won’t be many more chances in the near future to get Pence's right-handed bat in the lineup.

Woodward reiterated that he is not planning a platoon at designated hitter between Choo -- a left-handed hitter -– and Pence. Woodward still plans to use Pence to give Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara periodic days off at the corner outfield spots.

“No. I mean, I trust Choo more than anybody on the team,” Woodward said. “He is the most professional at-bat we have. Just more of a chance to get Pence a couple of games early and make him feel he’s part of this. He is too good of a player. It’s a good problem -- we have too many good players.”

Woodward showed his trust in Choo on Saturday night in the Rangers' 8-6 victory over the Cubs. Choo struck out in his first four at-bats, including twice against left-hander Jose Quintana. Choo went up against Quintana again in the seventh with runners on second and third, two outs and the Rangers trailing, 6-3.

That could have been a spot to pinch-hit Pence, but Woodward stuck with Choo and he delivered a two-run single.

“I trust him fully,” Woodward said. “I am not a big fan of pinch-hitting. We are going to have to rely on all of our guys at some point. There is no reason to hit the panic button in Game 1 or 2 and say, ‘We have to win at all costs today.’ Yes, we are managing to win a game, no question, but we are going to have to trust these guys.”

Volquez survives first start

The best thing that can be said about Edinson Vólquez's first start since July 5, 2017, is that he survived. Volquez allowed four runs, including three in the first, on six hits over four innings and threw 80 pitches in the win over the Cubs. He struck out three and walked four.

“He was good,” catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa said. “It was a rough start, but it was the way he battled back. It could have gone south really easily, his first outing back against that club. Everything could have snowballed. But that just shows resiliency and that’s what he preaches. He kept battling and didn’t give up.”

Volquez, who missed last season while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, is scheduled to pitch Thursday against the Angels.

Rare walk/strikeout combination

The Rangers had 12 walks and 14 strikeouts in Saturday’s win. That’s only the second time in club history that Texas hitters had at least 12 walks and 12 strikeouts in a game. The other was a 2-1 loss in 15 innings to the Athletics on June 28, 1978.

The Rangers have won 11 straight games when they have walked 10 or more times. The last such loss was on Aug. 31, 1999, against the Tigers

“Our quality of at-bats was off the charts,” Woodward said. “Obviously, we left guys on base, but we’ll eventually get the big hit. We had good swings with runners in scoring position. The only thing you can do is keep applying pressure, force them to make pitches on you.

“If we gain that reputation, that’s where it comes in. Right now, teams expect us to chase. That’s what they are going off: they expect us to chase. As soon as we get a reputation where we don’t, we’ll get better pitches to hit or they just won’t know what to do.”

Rangers beat

José Leclerc's first save on Saturday night ran his scoreless streak to 22 innings, going back to July 25 of last season. Opponents are 6-for-32 off him in the streak.

Elvis Andrus had two hits on Saturday night, giving him 1,563 for his career. That passes Manny Trillo for the 10th most by a native of Venezuela.

• Mazara's four walks on Saturday were a career high.

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.