Pence continues to rake with 3rd spring homer

March 12th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers aren’t about to announce their 25-man Opening Day roster on March 11, but Hunter Pence is making a compelling case for being on it. At this point, it would be a stunning upset or an injury if he was not with the team on March 28 at Globe Life Park.

Pence, in camp on a Minor League contract, played the outfield for the first time this spring against the Angels on Monday, but he has been swinging the bat well since almost from the beginning of camp and that continued in the Rangers' 12-11 loss at Surprise Stadium.

Pence went 2-for-3 with his third home run of the spring and he is 12-for-30 at the plate in 11 games overall. He has a .766 slugging percentage while getting most of his playing time as the designated hitter.

“I don’t have to tell him this, but we need to keep seeing it, make sure that swing is real and that consistency is real,” manager Chris Woodward said.

Pence is competing with Carlos Tocci, Willie Calhoun and Ben Revere for a spot as the fourth outfielder. Tocci has been impressive in camp, but he has options. So does Calhoun, who is hitting .179 through his first 13 games. Revere is an experienced outfielder with speed, but he can’t match Pence’s overall firepower.

“It’s coming together,” Pence said. “I’m starting to really feel and be consistent and understand what I want to feel, and what I want to do. And there’s still room for improvement. I’m enjoying just kind of dialing in that process. Definitely the last two weeks everything has gotten a little bit better.”

Pence appears to have regained his offensive stroke after an extensive offseason overhaul. The challenge may be adapting to a limited part-time role.

“That’s what I am going to be evaluating is when the [playing time] isn’t consistent, can he stay in the strike zone and handle those at-bats,” Woodward said. “Regardless if he gets hits or not, does he stay in the strike zone with his swing. That’s the hardest thing to do as a guy coming off the bench and not getting consistent at-bats. I did it my whole career and it is really difficult.”

Miller continues progress

Shelby Miller’s goal was to get into the third inning with 50 pitches on Monday. He did so while allowing one run on two hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings against the Angels.

He should have three more starts in the spring with the aim of getting up to five innings and 80-90 pitches.

“That takes you into the year pretty solid,” Miller said. “I was in better counts for the most part today compared to the last start when I was falling behind more than you’re taught to do. So my main goal today was getting ahead in counts. I did a little better job of that, I still need to get the ball down and on the corners a little better.”

Beck ties Gold

First baseman Preston Beck hit a two-run home run while going 1-for-2 late in the game against the Angels. Beck, a fifth-round pick out of UT-Arlington in the 2012 MLB Draft, has never been on the big league roster for Spring Training, but he has seen extensive action as a late-inning reserve out of the Minor League clubhouse.

Those players are known as “Just in Case” players or “JICS” and Beck’s home run was a milestone of sorts. Beck is 13-for-47 in Cactus League games over the past four springs, tying him with Nate Gold (2006-08) for the most hits by a Rangers JIC. Both players also have three home runs.

Rangers beat

• The Rangers need multi-inning relievers. Zach McAllister pitched two scoreless on Monday, retiring six straight hitters and striking out two.

• Jose Leclerc was supposed to pitch in the afternoon game against the Angels, but the Rangers banged his appearance because of the weather. It was already a cold afternoon and it started drizzling early in the game.

“With the way the weather was and everything, it didn’t make sense,” Woodward said.

• Delino DeShields is 7-for-19 with three walks in his last seven games.

• The Rangers won the second game of Monday's doubleheader, 6-2, over the Royals when it was called after five innings because of rain. Rangers starter Yohander Mendez allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings, Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits and Logan Forsyth had a two-run double.

Up next

Right-hander Ariel Jurado will start against the D-backs at 8:40 p.m. CT on Tuesday in Scottsdale. Jurado has allowed five runs on 11 hits over six innings in three Cactus League outings. Zack Greinke is scheduled to pitch for the D-backs.