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Notes: Infield corners, Méndez, nasty sinker

@Sullivan_Ranger
July 8, 2020

ARLINGTON -- First baseman Ronald Guzmán has cleared the intake testing process and was able to join the Rangers’ Summer Camp workouts on Wednesday. Now he has to win a job against Greg Bird and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. As manager Chris Woodward mulls his options at the corner infield spots, Kiner-Falefa

ARLINGTON -- First baseman Ronald Guzmán has cleared the intake testing process and was able to join the Rangers’ Summer Camp workouts on Wednesday.

Now he has to win a job against Greg Bird and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. As manager Chris Woodward mulls his options at the corner infield spots, Kiner-Falefa is once again making a serious bid to be more than a utility infielder.

“Every day that's going by, he's making it more and more [possible],” Woodward said. “You see the changes in his body, the changes in his swing, and it's hard for me to not have him in the lineup. All I can ask is for every player to approach their role that way.”

Todd Frazier’s versatility allows Kiner-Falefa the chance to unseat Guzmán and Bird at first base. If Kiner-Falefa forces himself into the lineup, it likely would be at third base, with Frazier moving to first.

Guzmán may have been the leading candidate when Spring Training started back in February, but that status is disappearing. He was 7-for-33 in the Cactus League and was 0-for-2 with a walk during an intrasquad game Wednesday.

“We all need to see it,” Woodward said. “I need to see it. I need to see him in there competing in the batter's box. With him and Bird, we've got a decision to make at third. Earlier, I didn't rule out the idea of moving Frazier over to first. At this point, in a 60-game season, we're going to take the guy that's ready to go the best. If that means the way Kiner is playing, he's putting a lot of pressure on both those guys, and it's a good thing.”

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Bird was 3-for-29 in the Cactus League and was hitless in his first 12 at-bats in intrasquad games at Globe Life Field in Summer Camp before going 2-for-3 over the past two days.

“I love Guzy's defense, and Bird's really been impressive defensively,” Woodward said. “So, we know the defense over there we're comfortable with. But the at-bats, we need to see those. Guzy needs his at-bats right now. He needs to force us to make a decision one way or the other.”

Kiner-Falefa batted .378 (14-for-37) in Spring Training and has picked up in Arlington. He had two hits on Wednesday and is 6-for-11 over five intrasquad games at Globe Life Field.

Kiner-Falefa spent the three-month shutdown at his home in Honolulu, working out in his backyard and restoring his psyche with long walks on various Oahu beaches.

“Yeah, I was kind of on edge a little bit in the beginning, because my spring was going so well,” Kiner-Falefa said. “But just being able to go to the beach and wind down kind of helped me just stay ready. I think I would have been pounding my head into the wall if the beach wasn't there. Just being able to let loose and relax and enjoy everything that Hawaii has to offer just really gave me the mind of coming back and helping the team out.”

Méndez back
Left-hander pitcher Yohander Méndez has been taken off the suspension list and has been added to the 60-man player pool. The Rangers now have 58 players on the 60-man.

Méndez missed most of Spring Training with a sore left shoulder and then was placed on the suspended list when he sought outside medical treatment without the club’s permission.

The Rangers are short from the left side in camp beyond Mike Minor in the rotation and Joe Palumbo and Kolby Allard used as backup starters.

Joely Rodríguez was supposed to be one lefty setup reliever but is sidelined with a strained lat muscle and may not be ready for Opening Day. Brett Martin remains sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, although he is doing well in his recovery.

The only other left-hander in camp is Taylor Hearn. Woodward said Méndez is behind others but has been throwing live batting practice sessions.

“If he comes in and looks great, absolutely he has a chance,” Woodward said.

Hernández impresses
The Rangers used relievers in the intrasquad game Wednesday. Right-hander Jonathan Hernández retired five of seven hitters with two strikeouts. Woodward continues to rave about Hernandez’s 98 mph sinker.

“All I can tell you is I wouldn’t want to face him,” Woodward said. “He would be the last guy on my list I would want to face.”

Rookie catcher Sam Huff was given the assignment of catching Hernández. Rangers coach Hector Ortiz and Double-A manager Bobby Wilson have been tutoring Huff on his catching skills, and working with Hernández was a test.

“That was a tough matchup, as far as framing goes,” Woodward said. “But he did a good job. I know he missed a couple, but he’s been working really hard on his framing, his throwing, game-calling. We’ve got a lot of cool things we’re going to have him do, as far as game-planning and understanding our system so when he gets here, he’s not going to be surprised by anything. Hopefully, he can take the reins and go with it.”

Rangers beat
• Minor and right-hander Corey Kluber are scheduled to face off Thursday in an intrasquad game.

• Right-hander Ian Gibaut struck out two of the three batters he faced Wednesday. Right-handers Derek Law, Demarcus Evans, Luis García and Alex Speas also pitched.

• Outfielder Scott Heineman had a double Wednesday and is 6-for-10 with two doubles and a home run in Summer Camp.

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.