Langford's return a boost for Rangers' lineup

June 2nd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

's first hit after returning from the 10-day injured list on Tuesday was a single into left field in Wednesday's 6-1 win over the Diamondbacks. The low line drive had a 111.9 mph exit velocity, Langford's hardest-hit ball in his young career.

Langford then scored from first base on a Jonah Heim double to put the Rangers up, 1-0, in the third inning of the eventual win.

Yeah, that hamstring is fine.

Langford, who was the Rangers’ No. 1-ranked prospect before graduating from MLB Pipeline's Top 30 list on Saturday, was sidelined for 20 games with a right hamstring strain. He suffered the injury running to first base on a ground ball during Texas’ 15-4 win over the Royals on May 4.

“I feel good,” Langford said. “It feels great. My body feels good, the swing feels good and I'm ready to be back. … I mean, the injury, it has been a little frustrating. I haven't really missed much time in my playing career. So it's been a little different with the recovery process. But it's been good. I’ve had a lot of time to kind of reflect and look at some things and I’m just ready to be back.”

At the time of his injury, Langford -- who entered the season among the favorites for AL Rookie of the Year -- was hitting just .224/.295/.293 with one home run, one triple, three doubles and 11 RBIs in 31 games.

It’s clear that Langford, who is just a year removed from a legendary career at the University of Florida, has struggled with the adjustment to big league pitching, even after tearing up the Cactus League this spring.

Even for a talent as good as Langford, the No. 4 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, it’s not a shock to see young players struggle to get acclimated.

Langford wouldn't say he needed the shutdown and reset to get back on track, but he doesn’t deny that it was good for him to take a step back and evaluate where he was at with his swing as he went through the ups and downs of his first big league season.

“There was a lot going on, a lot more than I like [with my swing],” Langford said. “I'd say the biggest thing is kind of getting back into playing. Guys start throwing different pitches at you. In the offseason, you're used to just hitting one pitch, and it’s a fastball, really, so getting back on time, fixing the timing of everything and seeing pitching, I think that definitely played a part in it throwing off my timing a little bit. So I’m just getting back to that.”

With , and mainly holding down the three outfield spots, Langford has been the Rangers' designated hitter in 20 games compared to 15 appearances in left field, entering Sunday. The 22-year-old acknowledged that DH-ing almost every day has been an adjustment for him, especially at this level.

“A little bit [difficult],” Langford said. “I've never done that, [DHing every day]. So it’s less on the mental side and more on the physical side, like keeping my hamstrings loose and stuff like that. It’s just [figuring out] how to take care of my body, and figuring out a routine to get into and making sure my body's ready to play, especially if I continue to DH and just learn how to manage that.”

Carter landed on the 10-day IL Tuesday with a lower back issue, which the Rangers announced as a lumbar sprain. With the fellow rookie sidelined, Langford has an opportunity to help spark a struggling Texas offense.

His impact comes not only at the plate, but on the basepaths. Langford's sprint speed ranks 13th in MLB at 29.6 feet per second.

“He's just a boost,” said shortstop . “He's young, he's fresh, he's energetic. It's kind of what we needed. It's a little kick in the butt for everybody else to kind of get things going, and it's fun to watch. He has been a big part of this.”

Langford returned to the Rangers' lineup after a short three-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Round Rock, and that wasn’t by accident. The Rangers went 11-16 in May while weathering injuries throughout the roster. Langford’s return will hopefully help get things back on track in June.

“We need this energy,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The way he plays, the bat, he’s just a really good ballplayer. We can talk about his hitting, but the way runs the bases, the way he plays the outfield, I think he does a good job. It's good to have him back.”