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Notes: Solak in LF; Taveras; Evans joins team

@Sullivan_Ranger
September 16, 2020

ARLINGTON -- Rangers utility player Nick Solak started in left field on Wednesday night against the Astros. That was his 17th start in left to go with 14 at second base and 13 in center. Rangers manager Chris Woodward said it’s not necessary for the Rangers to identify one spot

ARLINGTON -- Rangers utility player Nick Solak started in left field on Wednesday night against the Astros. That was his 17th start in left to go with 14 at second base and 13 in center.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward said it’s not necessary for the Rangers to identify one spot for Solak by Opening Day next season. He could be at second base if the Rangers decide to move on from Rougned Odor, or he could end up in the outfield if Eli White isn’t ready. Solak could also remain a utility player.

“It helps to have a little versatility,” Woodward said. “If he has one spot, great. But I think him having a little versatility helps. I still think his best position might be left field, but he has really impressed me at second base. He made all the plays and made some difficult plays.”

Solak, going into Wednesday night, had played in 47 games for the Rangers and was hitting .263 with two home runs, 20 RBIs, a .317 on-base percentage and a .351 slugging percentage. Over 33 games with the Rangers last season, Solak hit .293 with five home runs, 17 RBIs, a .393 OBP and a .491 slugging percentage.

The OPS has dropped from .884 to .668, but Woodward said playing multiple positions shouldn’t impact offense.

“You’ve got to focus on both sides of the ball,” Woodward said. “That’s part of the game. A lot of guys have made a living doing that -- ask Ben Zobrist, he has done it his whole career. Especially Nick. I think he puts a lot of effort into everything he does, including the offensive side. It may [impact offense] for some guys, but not for him.”

Taveras on Opening Day?
Beyond Solak, which Rangers rookie has the best chance of being with the club on Opening Day next year?

Woodward said it could be center fielder Leody Taveras.

“Just based on the quality of his game,” Woodward said. “He can man center field just about as good as anybody in the big leagues. That’s a huge plus. He could not hit at all and still be valuable. His speed, the way he runs the bases, is a huge asset. Obviously, you have to get on base, but the way he works the strike zone is a huge plus for a younger player.

“Even if he is not hitting, even if he is not getting hits, he’s still going to work counts and get on base via the walk. Which is very rare for a younger player, especially at his age. You factor all that in, once he gets the swing more consistent and putting balls forward in the zone, then [he] can really take off.”

Evans could be last rookie
Right-hander Demarcus Evans has joined the Rangers from the alternate training site. When he makes his Major League debut, he will be the 18th rookie to play for the Rangers this season.

He could be the last one. General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers don’t plan to call anymore prospects from alternate camp, a group that includes infielders Josh Jung, Davis Wendzel and Justin Foscue, and outfielders Steele Walker and Bubba Thompson.

A big part of that is not wanting to put players on the 40-man roster a year or more before they must be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Evans said it wasn’t easy being the last guy to get the call.

“I am still in shock a little bit,” Evans said. “I haven’t been able to sleep a little bit, I haven’t been able to eat a little bit. I’ve been nervous. Every time that phone rang last night, my heart has been beating."

Spring Training schedule announced
The Rangers will open their 2021 Cactus League schedule on Saturday, Feb. 27, against the Royals at Surprise Stadium. That is one of three games the Rangers and Royals will play next year, according to the Spring Training schedule released by Major League Baseball.

The Rangers will play 30 Cactus League games, including 15 home games in Surprise and two as a visitor against the Royals. The Rangers are expected to play two exhibition games at Globe Life Field on March 29-30.

The Rangers are scheduled to open the season on April 1 at Kansas City, with the home opener against the Blue Jays on April 5.

Rangers beat
• The Rangers are moving left-hander Wes Benjamin into the rotation and he’ll start on Friday night against the Angels. Kolby Allard goes into the bullpen after going 0-6 with an 8.80 ERA in eight starts.

• The Rangers have signed veteran utility infielder Andrew Romine and assigned him to alternate camp. He is a nine-year veteran who was released by the White Sox earlier this season and gives the Rangers infield depth with Elvis Andrus out.

• The Rangers have yet to be shut out this season, but they scored just one run on Tuesday night. That’s the ninth time they have scored just one run in a game, the most by one team in the American League.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.