Pence among injured Rangers eyeing return

Mazara, Gallo take batting practice; Texas wants to win 'em all

September 8th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- The Rangers could use their big bats over the next three weeks when they play their final 17 games against teams battling for a spot in the postseason.

, sidelined with a strained left oblique muscle, is hoping to be ready on Tuesday when the Rangers open a three-game series against the Rays in Arlington.

could be a week away from returning from right wrist surgery if he is able to take batting practice off live pitching when the Rangers return home. Both he and Mazara have been taking batting practice at Camden Yards and hitting baseballs onto Eutaw Street, well beyond the right-field wall.

? His situation is a bit murky after he returned to Arlington last week to get an injection for his lower back strain. He has been on the injured list since Aug 27, retroactive to Aug. 24.

“It’s still slow,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said prior to the Rangers’ 10-4 win over the Orioles to complete a series sweep on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards. “[Pence] should be back at some point, but slow progress. I guess the shot, it felt better but he is not able to really swing.”

Pence is a free agent after the season and the Rangers have been looking at some of their younger players in September. , who has started 12 games at designated hitter, has taken much of the playing time that would have gone to Pence under normal circumstances.

But Woodward still wants to get Pence back before the season is over. There is no question about Pence’s desire to play again.

“If he can play one game, he is going to try and play one game,” Woodward said. “I think he’ll be back. We still have 18 games, hopefully he can get 10. Not sure. I don’t think it’s going to be like if he has 10 games left he’s going to play all 10. I would like to get him back.”

Woodward believes the Rangers have benefited from Pence’s presence and leadership all season and would continue to do so if he is able to get back on the field.

“You want guys to want to play, you want guys to want to get back in there,” Woodward said. “It’s easy to pack it in and say, 'Nah, what’s eight games, who cares?’ It’s meaningful and I know Hunter wants to get back in there. He wants to help us win. We kind of owe it to him. He’s done a lot for the team this year.”

Woodward wouldn’t mind if Pence is able to do that for the Rangers next season as well. Despite the injuries, Pence made a strong comeback this season: He is hitting .297 with 18 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .552 slugging percentage in 83 games.

“Yeah, he’s invaluable to our ballclub,” Woodward said. “I don’t know how it’s all going to play out. Obviously, we have a lot of roster decisions to make but what he’s done for this organization and this team this year will be talked about for a long time.”

Playing to win

The Rangers’ final 17 games include five three-game series against contending teams. Two of those are against Oakland, plus one each against Tampa Bay, Boston and New York. There is also a two-game series in there against the Astros.

Woodward said the Rangers will try to do everything they can to win every game.

“I’m not taking any game off,” Woodward said. “I want to win. I don’t think I am going to sacrifice a win where it’s super-obvious it’s more about development that winning.”

Woodward said it should be the Rangers’ goal to win every series. Texas still has a chance to finish with a winning record, and Woodward said to do that means winning as many of these final series as possible.

“That would be more important than the .500 mark,” Woodward said. “The fact we have to win a number of series against teams that are trying to make the playoffs. We are trying to win every game. I said this from the second I got here, we’re not in this to be mediocre.”

Rangers beat

• With their 9-4 victory over the Orioles on Saturday, the Rangers are 9-4 this season when they either use a reliever as an opener (7-2) or go with a bullpen game (2-2).

• Rookie catcher started behind the plate on Sunday afternoon after getting Saturday off, going 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Prior to Saturday, he had played in eight straight games.