SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Eli White has a new job description. He is no longer being referred to as a utility player.
His days of bouncing around the diamond are on hold. White is now a center fielder, and manager Chris Woodward said he has the ability to be an elite defender. If White can continue his offensive resurgence, the Rangers could have a serious candidate for center field in the near future.
“What he has done now is really impressive,” said Woodward. “He is starting to elevate balls and drive balls. He’s got elite capability with his ability to run down balls. He could take a huge step forward.”
The Rangers acquired White from the Athletics in the seven-player, three-team trade that included the Rays and sent Jurickson Profar to Oakland. White was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 12 prospect in the Rangers' system at the time of the trade, but has since fallen out of the Top 30.
He hit just .253/.337/.418 in 116 games at Triple-A Nashville last season, although 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases are hints of power and speed. The Rangers are also intrigued by White's strong finish, as he posted a slash line of .356/.449/.525 over his final 17 games before the season was cut short by a left shoulder injury.
The Rangers would like to see White do it over an extended period of time in Nashville. They also want to see him do it at one position. The A's were the ones who turned him into a utility player. Staying at one position -- center field -- could help his offensive production.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt, for sure,” White said. “I like being versatile and being able to play a bunch of positions -- that was fun for me. But it can only help me focusing on one position. If I ever need to play infield, I feel confident I can jump back in there.”
White is 7-for-16 with two home runs to start the spring, including two runs, a hit and a walk in the Rangers' 11-9 loss to the D-backs on Thursday. The Rangers still see him opening in Nashville.
“We need to see it in the season,” Woodward said. “I don’t want to get caught up in Spring Training. Balls are flying out here. I want to see him play every day. I want to let him relax and let that swing play out.”
Hernández, going against some of the Cubs' best hitters, retired nine of 12 batters faced, allowing two singles and a walk while striking out four.
The Rangers moved Hernández to relief last season because he had trouble maintaining his delivery and command for longer than two or three innings. Woodward said Hernández is doing better in that regard this spring.
“He has stuff that not many people have,” Woodward said. “He is 99 [mph] with movement. Any time you are in the upper 90s, it’s elite. It’s a matter of where you throw it. He has worked really hard on his release point and the consistency of the movement.”
He said it
"I was in the bathroom, but I heard it. It sounded like it went a long way." -- Joey Gallo, on Adolis García's third-inning home run against the D-backs on Thursday
• Robinson Chirinos, who has been held back early in camp by a store right hamstring, started at designated hitter on Thursday for the second time this spring. He is expected to catch for the first time on Saturday against the Brewers.
• The Rangers have four pitchers not able to pitch in games: Joe Palumbo (sore right heel), Yohander Méndez (shoulder inflammation), Taylor Guerrieri (tight neck muscle) and Juan Nicasio (strained back). Jesse Chavez (sore right shoulder) is expected to pitch this weekend.
• The Nashville Sounds have donated $100,000 toward providing immediate relief and supplies to victims of the tornadoes that hit the city on Tuesday. The Rangers are among organizations around baseball that are also contributing to cause. A number of Sounds officials were in Arizona visiting the Rangers when the storms hit and have returned to Nashville to assist in the relief efforts.
Right-hander Corey Kluber makes his second start of the spring when he pitches against the Padres at 7:40 p.m. CT on Friday night in Peoria. Kluber allowed two runs over three innings against the Dodgers last Sunday.