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Profar hopes to improve hitting vs. southpaws

Rodriguez headed to DL; Mendez optioned to Round Rock
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar had three hits, including a double, in his first eight at-bats against left-handed pitching this spring.

That's a small sample but also the extension of a much more significant development. Profar, a switch-hitter, had excellent success against left-handers at Triple-A Round Rock last year, hitting .386 with a .433 on-base percentage and a .602 slugging percentage.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar had three hits, including a double, in his first eight at-bats against left-handed pitching this spring.

That's a small sample but also the extension of a much more significant development. Profar, a switch-hitter, had excellent success against left-handers at Triple-A Round Rock last year, hitting .386 with a .433 on-base percentage and a .602 slugging percentage.

That's a huge improvement over his career Major League numbers: a .188 batting average with a .270 on-base percentage and a .233 slugging percentage against southpaws.

"I just put more work into it," Profar said. "I started switch-hitting when I signed [in 2011]. I worked so hard to hit left-handed that my right-handed hitting went down."

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Profar is going to make the Rangers as a utility infielder. To have maximum value in that role, he needs to be able to hit left-handed pitching and play the corner-infield spots as well as he handles shortstop and second base.

"That's fair, yeah," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "You'd hope that a switch-hitter would be as complete as you possibly can, and he's improved this year and he started to improve last year with the right-handed stroke."

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Profar has played all four infield positions in the past but has been primarily a shortstop in the Minors. He did not play third base at Round Rock last season and had only two starts there in his brief time with the Rangers. But that may be where he is needed most this season to give Adrian Beltre time off.

The Rangers would also like to give Elvis Andrus more time off. He played in 158 games last season and the club would like to get that closer to the 147 he had in 2016.

"Last year, we were pushed a little bit based on where we were with the backup shortstop," Banister said. "Getting him off his feet, we've seen the success of Elvis when we get him rest."

The only guy who played more than Andrus was second baseman Rougned Odor. He appeared in all 162 games, including 157 starts at second and two at designated hitter.

Odor and first baseman Joey Gallo are both young enough to play regularly without the Rangers having to worry too much about rest. But they are also left-handed hitters who could need a day off against a dominant southpaw.

"The quest is to keep these guys at a level of highest performing spot they can be with enough rest," Banister said. "We show up every year wanting to do that. There are things that prevent you from doing that. There are injuries to other players. You can never predict a guy being injured or non-injured. That does change the plan to some degree."

Rodriguez headed for DL
Right-handed reliever Ricardo Rodriguez is expected to start the season on the disabled list because of a persistent case of biceps tendinitis. Rodriguez last appeared in a spring game on March 6.

"He threw some outings for us and we could tell out of the gate something was going on," Banister said. "That's why we slow played it. It's about getting rid of the inflammation, strengthening the shoulder and getting him on a throwing program."

Rodriguez made a successful return from Tommy John surgery after missing all of 2016. Last season, he went a combined 5-1 with 17 saves, a 1.34 ERA and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 35 games between Class A Advanced Down East and Double-A Frisco. That earned him a promotion to the Rangers in August, and he had a 6.23 ERA in 16 games.

Mendez optioned to Round Rock
The Rangers have optioned left-hander Yohander Mendez to Round Rock, where he will join the rotation. Mendez, who is the Rangers' No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had an impressive spring. He allowed four runs on nine hits over 12 innings, walking one and striking out 12. His mission is to improve his fastball command to go with a plus changeup and improved breaking ball.

Video: KC@TEX: Mendez strikes Burns out looking

Rangers beat
• The Rangers also reassigned right-handed pitcher Deolis Guerra to Minor League camp. He had a 6.75 ERA in five Cactus League appearances.

Alex Claudio was initially scratched from an inning of work on Sunday against the Angels, but he recovered enough to pitch the seventh inning. He allowed two runs on three hits and struck out one.

Up next
The Rangers are having Cole Hamels pitch in a Minor League game on Monday afternoon and let relievers work the Cactus League game at night against the Rockies. Tony Barnette, Steve Delabar and Kevin Jepsen are among those scheduled to pitch. First pitch against Colorado is set for 8:05 p.m. CT. The game can be watched live on MLB.TV and MLB Network and heard on Gameday Audio.

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