Here are the latest burning questions and answers surrounding the Rangers entering their four-game series on Thursday against the Astros:
Q: Who will be the primary center fielder now that DeShields has been sent down?
A: Manager Chris Woodward said Joey Gallo will get the majority of the playing time in center field with Danny Santana also seeing action there, while Shin-Soo Choo and Hunter Pence will play left field. The Rangers' biggest concern is how physically taxing center field will be on Gallo. Woodward said they will watch that carefully as the schedule progresses.
“Joey is going to play unless I feel I need to give him a day off,” Woodward said. “I do need to be careful in center. If we see anything out of the ordinary with Joey playing center on a consistent basis, we may be forced to cut back a little bit.”
Q: Who will get most of the playing time in left when Gallo is in center?
A: Woodward said Choo will get a little more playing time in left field with Pence at designated hitter.
“To be honest, Choo rates out a little better, but that’s not the determining factor,” Woodward said. “I just feel Choo is probably next in line. He worked so hard, I feel like I’m rewarding him. They will both play. I don’t want to wear them out. They are both older guys.”
Q: Did the Rangers consider carrying seven relievers instead of eight and keep DeShields?
A: Not after Kelley went on the injured list. The Rangers felt they would need all eight relievers, even though Jeanmar Gomez has been struggling and Ariel Jurado and Brett Martin both have Minor League options. The Rangers called up right-hander Wei-Chieh Huang on Thursday to replace Kelley.
“We are going to need everybody at some point,” Woodward said. “We didn’t have the luxury of doing that, especially coming into this series … a four-game series against a good offense in this ballpark. It didn’t make sense to do that. It would have made things tough.”
Q: Is Jose Leclerc going back to closer with Kelley down?
A: No. Woodward is not ready to put him back in that role. Chris Martin will close while Kelley is down. But Leclerc will be used in the eighth inning and could get his old role back soon.
“He’s close,” Woodward said. “He’s getting there.”
Q: Are changes coming to the rotation?
A: Left-hander Drew Smyly is scheduled to pitch Saturday, but he may not be used as the starter. The Rangers are weighing the possibility of using a reliever -- either Jurado or Kyle Dowdy -- to start the game and then bring Smyly in after that. That would be using the “opener” concept that came into vogue last season.
Q: Will Miller remain a starter?
A: Miller is in line to start on Tuesday against the Royals, but the Rangers are off on Monday. That would allow them to bring back Mike Minor and Lance Lynn on four days' rest to pitch on Tuesday and Wednesday against Kansas City.
At some point, Miller would need to be re-inserted into the rotation. But if the Rangers do push back his start, it could also mean Miller being used in relief this weekend against the Astros on a temporary assignment.
“Yeah, I don’t think he has lost his starting spot,” Woodward said. “I thought he threw the ball well the other day.”
• For the second straight year, the Rangers have lost Minor League shortstop Chris Seise to shoulder surgery. Seise, the Rangers' No. 12 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, underwent labrum surgery on his left shoulder and will miss the rest of the season. Right shoulder surgery forced him to miss all of last season. He was the 29th overall pick in the 2017 Draft.
• Pitcher A.J. Alexy, who was one of three players acquired from the Dodgers for Yu Darvish on July 31, 2017, has a strained right lat muscle and has been shut down from throwing for six weeks. He is the No. 20 prospect in the Rangers system and had been pitching at Class A Advanced Down East.