ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields still has confidence he can be an everyday player.
“My confidence is never going to go anywhere,” DeShields said. “My confidence is through the roof. I know what I can do.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward still has confidence in DeShields.
“I view him pretty highly,” Woodward said. “He is definitely a championship piece.”
So the Rangers are set in center field next season?
“He’s got to be productive,” Woodward said. “I think he can be much better. The way his numbers are right now, that doesn’t line up to forcing him in there every day. I don’t demand an above-average OPS. I would like to see the strikeouts go down and [him] constantly putting pressure on teams. Tough out. Stay in the strike zone. If he does all that, he can be very productive.”
DeShields has an idea of how he could do just that.
“I know what I can bring to the table,” DeShields said. “I just want the chance to go out and show it every day. Once I get that opportunity, people can really evaluate me as a player. I just want the confidence of somebody throwing me out there every day. Not saying [Woodward] is not that guy. I know I have to go out there and continue to prove myself.”
“Santana earned the right so that every time I looked at my lineup sheet, I go, ‘How am I going to keep Danny Santana out of the lineup today?’” Woodward said. “He earned that right. Hunter Pence started the year on the bench. He forced my hand to say, ‘I can’t take that guy out of the lineup. He’s too good.’”
What went right
DeShields, who was sent down to the Minors on May 9, made a strong comeback after being recalled on June 2. Over his final 86 games, he hit .271 with a .327 on-base percentage and a .368 slugging percentage. When he was sent down, he was hitting .182 with a .321 on-base percentage and a .284 slugging percentage.
Like some of the other Rangers hitters, DeShields had a difficult transition with some of the new bio-mechanic and analytical information presented to them this season.
“There were things they were telling me to do that didn’t make sense and I didn’t understand,” DeShields said. “But the more the season goes along ... I understood why. You can’t expect yourself to know it right away. It’s an adjustment period. Next year, it’s going to take off.”
What went wrong
DeShields struck out once every 4.08 plate appearances. That ranked 39th lowest of 104 American League players with at least 400 plate appearances. His .325 on-base percentage ranked 61st out of 104 players. The Rangers need DeShields to put the ball in play and use his elite speed to impact a game.
DeShields provided a reminder of what he means to the Rangers as a defensive player with a remarkable catch against the Angels on Aug. 28. In Texas’ 3-0 victory, DeShields raced to the wall, leaped up and robbed Brian Goodwin of a home run.
DeShields will enter Spring Training as a candidate to be the Rangers’ everyday center fielder. But there’s no telling who’s leading that race. Santana is another viable option, and who knows what other moves Texas will make this winter?
But DeShields remains in the mix.
“He’s got to prove to myself and the organization that he is an everyday guy,” Woodward said. “Can he be? I think he can be because of his ability that nobody else really has. He has the ability to defend and run at an elite level. At the plate, he has to be more productive.
“There are certain things he does that changes the dynamic of our team. I don’t know what we are going to do this offseason as far as addressing center field. I have every belief [that] he’s going to come in and earn a spot.”