Notes: Kiner-Falefa's hot bat; Lyles' changeup

March 4th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Utility infielder has become the hottest number on the Rangers' Spring Training hit parade. He is also forging a path to the Opening Day roster.

Kiner-Falefa, continuing to recover from an 0-for-11 to start the Cactus League season, logged a home run and a single in a 6-5 victory over the Giants on Tuesday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium.

Kiner-Falefa now has seven hits in his last 11 at-bats, with three home runs and five RBIs.

"I am really impressed with Kiner right now," manager Chris Woodward said. "He did everything we asked in the offseason and it's showing up right now. I'm really excited for him. Regardless if he makes the team, he is in a really good place. He has made some strides offensively."

Kiner-Falefa adjusted his stance in the offseason, going with a no-stride approach with some suggestions from special advisor Michael Young. He is also stronger and able to drive the ball.

The biggest change may be the Rangers ending the experiment of switching Kiner-Falefa to catcher. He is in camp with a real shot to make the team as a utility infielder. Not only is the bat coming around, Kiner-Falefa is reminding the Rangers that his best defensive positions are in the infield.

"Last year, I wanted to build off my rookie year, but it was tough with the catching and the pressure of [that]," Kiner-Falefa said. "Who I am facing rather than what our pitchers need to do is helping me a lot. I'm going into every at-bat feeling fresh."

Lyles focused on changeup
Rangers starter Jordan Lyles found success with a fastball/curve combination late last season with the Brewers, going 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts. This spring, he's working on a changeup to add to the arsenal, and that was his focus over three innings of work against the Giants.

Lyles gave up a three-run home run to Wilmer Flores on a curve, but overall, he was satisfied with his outing because of the progress of the changeup. Lyles threw the changeup just 5.6 percent of the time during his 11 starts with the Brewers, and opponents hit .214 off the pitch.

"I don't like the three runs, but overall, I wanted to get the changeup working and we were successful with that," Lyles said. "A great day working on the changeup. There's good and bad that goes with that. But that's what I wanted to work on today. And we did a good job working with it."

Tornado damages Nashville park
The deadly storms that tore through Nashville early Tuesday morning did some minor damage to First Horizon Park, home of the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate. But the Rangers reported no injuries to Nashville Sounds officials or their families living in the area.

Rangers pitchers Lance Lynn and Tim Dillard live in the Nashville area, but away from where the major damage occurred. Mike Minor, who went to Vanderbilt, has friends in the area, but his family lives in Knoxville.

One tornado touched down just a block away from First Horizon, but the only significant damage was to the guitar-style scoreboard that includes a 4,200 HD LED screen. The Germantown neighborhood near the park suffered significant damage

He said it
"My grandmother used to play it all the time in the house. Honestly when I was younger, I was like, 'Gram, can we play R&B music, a little rap?' And she was like, 'Nah, this will grow on you, Todd.' Eventually it did. It's like a fine wine. The music is great. It reminds me of home, it relaxes me, and it makes me happy." -- New Jersey native Todd Frazier, on loving Frank Sinatra music. Fly Me to the Moon is his favorite walkup music

Rangers beat
• Right-handed reliever Cody Allen, who has been dealing with elbow/forearm tightness, threw 12 pitches without issue in a simulated game on Tuesday morning. He recorded one strikeout, and is scheduled to pitch in a split-squad game against the Cubs on Thursday.

• Nick Solak made his fourth start and played his sixth game in center on Tuesday. Woodward wanted to get Solak comfortable in center, but now wants to see him get more time at third base.

• Matt Duffy was 1-for-3 in a start at shortstop against the Giants. Duffy was the Giants' starting third baseman in 2015, and he received a big ovation when he was introduced in the first inning. Duffy was drafted by the Giants as a shortstop, but he has played mostly third base in the Majors. He needs to show Woodward that he can still play shortstop to make the team as a utility infielder.

• Woodward on veteran reliever Edinson Volquez, who has not allowed a run over three innings this spring, "He is 96 on the [radar gun]. He doesn't look like a guy who has had elbow issues. It's coming out free and easy."

Up next
Right-hander Lance Lynn will pitch against the Rockies at 2:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday in a Cactus League clash at Surprise Stadium. Lynn allowed two runs in 2 2/3 innings in his first spring start against the Angels on Friday. Listen on Gameday Audio.