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Why Choo wasn't in Texas' Opening Day lineup

Pence starts at DH; Sadzeck DFA'd, may be traded
@Sullivan_Ranger
March 28, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward dropped a surprise into his Opening Day lineup, going with Hunter Pence as his designated hitter instead of Shin-Soo Choo against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester. The move gave the Rangers an extra right-handed hitter against the left-handed starter. But it also meant sitting the

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward dropped a surprise into his Opening Day lineup, going with Hunter Pence as his designated hitter instead of Shin-Soo Choo against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester.

The move gave the Rangers an extra right-handed hitter against the left-handed starter. But it also meant sitting the Rangers' 2018 Player of the Year, All-Star representative and clubhouse leader on Opening Day.

“I have a lot of time here, and I’ve proven why I am here,” Choo said. “I’m an everyday player. There is a reason why I am here. But the lineup is out of my hands. Any questions, ask the manager.”

Woodward said Pence is on the team to help against left-handed pitching. He added that the Rangers are likely to face a left-hander only 4-5 times in the first 20 games. That means Pence will get a minimal amount of chances to be in the lineup early in the season, and he wanted to take advantage of the immediate opportunity on Opening Day.

“[Choo] is the consummate professional in everything he does, and I really admire that, it’s a huge thing for our younger guys to see,” Woodward said. “To see him sit on Opening Day, it’s like a kick in the [pants], but it’s not. I told him this is one game. I know Opening Day is different than others, but it’s still just one game.

“I don’t get caught up in the hoopla of Opening Day. We have 162 games this year, and if I were to manage this game differently because it’s Opening Day ... I’m not going to get caught up in that. I am trying to keep it as consistent as possible.”

Woodward said his other option would have been to sit one of the two left-handed-hitting outfielders, either Nomar Mazara or Joey Gallo. That was not an attractive option.

Woodward informed Choo of his decision earlier in the week.

“He wasn’t happy, which I didn’t expect him to be,” Woodward said. “I expected some push-back, I wanted some push-back, which I expected. It just shows, ‘I want to play every day.’ That was the response I was looking for. But he was super respectful and professional about it.”

Sadzeck could be traded

Right-handed reliever Connor Sadzeck has been designated for assignment, and the Rangers have 10 days to trade him or get him through outright waivers so he can be sent to the Minor Leagues. The Rangers elected to keep left-hander Kyle Bird over Sadzeck.

General manager Jon Daniels said there is a “decent” chance Sadzeck would be claimed off waivers, but also said he could be traded before then. Sadzeck throws 95-100 mph, but he walked eight and struck out 11 over 8 1/3 innings in Spring Training. That reflected the inconsistency that frustrated the Rangers.

“I feel bad in a way because he tried to do everything we asked,” Woodward said. “It wasn’t a slight on him. We felt if we had more time, we probably would have taken it. It’s unfortunate because I really like the kid. He did everything we asked. In the end, it was going to take too much time to get it right. He has a great arm. The stuff is there. He has high-end ability, but where it was, it was inconsistent.”

Bird gives the Rangers two left-handers in the bullpen, along with Jeffrey Springs. Bird will be more of the left-on-left reliever, while Springs can be used over multiple innings, Woodward said.

The Rangers also kept Rule 5 reliever Kyle Dowdy. With Sadzeck out of options, the Rangers couldn’t keep two pitchers who have no roster flexibility.

Rangers beat

• The Rangers sent right-hander Adrian Sampson to Triple-A Nashville, where he will join Taylor Hearn and Ariel Jurado in the Sounds' rotation.

• The Rangers also officially placed pitcher Yohander Mendez (sprained ligament) on the 10-day injured list and Luke Farrell (broken jaw) on the 60-day injured list.

• Shortstop Elvis Andrus was in the Opening Day lineup for the 11th straight year. That ties catcher Ivan Rodriguez and infielder Michael Young for the most Opening Day starts in club history.

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.