TORONTO -- Rougned Odor loves coming to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays.
Since first getting a taste of what the fans at Rogers Centre can truly bring to the table during the 2015 American League Division Series, the 25-year-old second baseman has enjoyed the enthusiasm and passion of Canadian fans.
After that series ended, bad blood spilled into 2016, when Odor incited a benches-clearing incident by going after then-Toronto slugger Jose Bautista during a regular-season matchup in Arlington. Since then, Blue Jays fans have consistently and continually booed the native of Venezuela any time he’s returned north of the border, much to his enjoyment.
“It’s been like that the last four years, every at-bat, every time I run, every pitch,” Odor said. “I like it. I love to play here. For me, this is one of the louder stadiums, [the fans] are really loud. I don’t know if it’s because of the roof, but they’re one of the loudest stadiums, and that reminds me of playing winter ball at home in Venezuela.
“I love to play in the stadiums that are loud. So every time I come here, I think that I am playing in Venezuela in winter ball. In Venezuela, it’s really loud, they talk a lot, they [get mean].”
Since the moment Chris Woodward was named the Rangers’ manager ahead of this season -- after beginning his playing career with the Blue Jays and spending 12 of his 19 professional seasons in their organization -- people from Toronto have asked him about Odor. His answer remains the same as it did when he got his first glimpse of the infielder while on the coaching staff of the Mariners.
“I love Rougie,” Woodward said. “In Seattle, when he first got called up, our team didn’t like him. He came up, played with his hair on fire, turned double plays throwing them low, running, breaking up double plays, chest out, open shirt … and our guys are like, 'Who does this guy think he is?'”
Woodward tried to break it down for his players and get to the bottom of what it was they didn’t like about Odor.
“I asked our team in Seattle, ‘Why do you not like this kid?’” Woodward said. “They said he’s too this or too that, so I said, ‘Just answer me a few questions. Does he play hard? 100 percent. He plays harder than anyone, he plays really hard. Does he play to win? Clearly. Does he look like he’s a good teammate? Does he care about his team?' Adrian Beltre, who I respect deeply, told me he’s a really good teammate, cares about his team.
“So you only hate him because he’s good? Because he beats us, he hits homers off us, he’s getting under our skin? I want guys like that on our team, because I want to do that to the opposing team.”
When Odor became a part of Woodward’s roster, he shared with the young infielder just how much he enjoyed his personality and wanted him to embrace it.
“When I got the job here, I told him, ‘You don’t change a bit,’” the Texas skipper said. “’Don’t change anything about what you do, how you play, your bravado. We need that. Not everybody can be that.’ He has it naturally. He feels like he has to play that way so he gives us a little bit of an edge. I don’t want a bunch of robots. I want them to be who they are. That’s who Rougie is.”
In the series opener against the Blue Jays on Monday, Odor hit his 21st home run in the seventh inning, a solo shot. He took his time rounding the bases to give the fans at Rogers Centre what they wanted.
“They were talking trash to me,” Odor said. “That’s normal here. A lot of people yell at me. They tell me a lot of bad things, a lot of good things, and I just listen to what they say. … I kind of like it. That means they’re watching me a lot. So it’s fun.”
Added Woodward: “He loves that excitable environment, the playoff environment. He talks about it all the time. He’s mentioned that. Last night had nothing to do with him showing up the pitcher or showing up the other team, it was more to shut up the fans.”
Carpenter, 34, is making his second stint with Texas this season after one relief outing on June 4. He has spent the majority of the year with the Sounds, posting a 1.82 ERA over 34 2/3 innings and 35 appearances with 19 saves.