NEW YORK -- Andy Ibáñez has quietly been one of the Rangers' best hitters in the second half of a struggling 2021 season.
As Texas nears 100 losses, assisted by a 7-1 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night for loss No. 96, few things have stood out. Ibáñez has been one of them, including a three-hit effort at Yankee Stadium.
While the Rangers' pitching staff surrendered three home runs to Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge, Ibáñez accounted for three of the Rangers' six hits.
"I just thank God I've been feeling really good at the plate," Ibáñez said through an interpreter. "I've been working really hard and I did well tonight, but at the end of the day, the team still lost and that's the No. 1 thing right now."
The utility infielder has the highest batting average on the Rangers' active roster at .274. He's slashing .474/.508/.702 over his last 15 games.
Before landing on the injured list with a left hamstring strain on Aug. 28, Ibáñez had seven straight multihit games. Since he's returned earlier in the week, he has three multihit games in his first four games back.
Ibáñez made his MLB debut earlier this season and struggled to adjust to the pitching at the big league level for the first month. The 28-year-old was optioned back to Triple-A Round Rock on May 21, but he returned to the club in mid-June and has been raking ever since.
"It's important for me to continue playing the way I play every single day, no matter what," Ibáñez said. "But it's also good for my confidence and for me to come in next year with that same level of confidence."
Manager Chris Woodward said he's liked what Ibáñez has been able to do this season, but he wishes the injury hadn't kept him out for those 10 games.
"He's come up and he's made an impact," Woodward said. "He's had to go through a couple stretches where he had to make some adjustments, but right now, I feel like he's as confident as he's ever been. He's handling good pitching, using the whole field and he's been versatile [on defense]. So overall, it's definitely been a success. I'd just really like him to finish out the season strong and on a good note, heading into the offseason and next year."
When looking ahead to next year, which both Woodward and Ibáñez are hesitant to do before 2021 even ends, they both agree that it's important for him to finish on a high note heading into the offseason.
With No. 2 prospect Josh Jung expected to make his MLB debut next season and the potential of adding a shortstop this winter, Ibáñez seems to be on the outside looking in. Woodward said Ibáñez has the hitting ability and the defensive versatility to be an everyday player, but the manager acknowledged that 2022 is a long way away.
"I've told him a few times and today in particular, that being versatile is going to be the key to giving him opportunities," Woodward said. "With what he's doing right now, if he finishes strong, he's going to have a pretty good idea going into Spring Training where he stands. The way he's played defense, his attitude, the way he's worked, and obviously what we've seen with the bat, he's been really good. I wouldn't say it's been a pleasant surprise, but it's been a real positive for us for sure."