Two rookies in focus as Rangers seek spark

Hernandez pushed up in lineup; Terry shifts from DH to first base

August 7th, 2021

OAKLAND -- Manager Chris Woodward rolled out his latest lineup configuration for Saturday’s matinee against the A’s, headlined by batting second and making his first Major League start at first base.

Hernandez, 23, has only two games under his belt, but he's made a fast impression on the club with his work on both sides of the ball. In Friday's loss to the A's, in particular, the rookie infielder made several difficult plays look routine at multiple positions, a surefire way to earn some early staying power.

At second base, Hernandez helped start a pair of tough double plays in the fourth and sixth innings. Upon switching to third base, Hernandez applied the tag on center fielder DJ Peters’ outfield assist to nab Josh Harrison and send the game to the 11th inning.

Along with Hernandez’s excellent defense on Friday, he also notched the first hit of his young career, a slow dribbler up the middle that found the outfield. It was his only hit on the night, but Woodward was impressed with the rookie's solid plate appearances and ability to work deep into counts. Hernandez had a .424 on-base percentage with Triple-A Round Rock.

“He’s a little bit of an old-school two-hole [hitter], not the new-school where you put your best hitter in the two-hole. He’s gritty, he gets on base, he controls the strike zone, all the things I feel like we need right now to put some pressure on that opposing pitcher,” Woodward said. “I thought [Isiah Kiner-Falefa's] at-bats were great and I want those two guys at the top to set the table for our three, four, five guys.”

If having Kiner-Falefa and Hernandez hitting first and second, respectively, is able to generate some offense, then Woodward’s lineup construction would go down as a significant positive. The Rangers haven’t scored a run in the first inning since July 10, and since then, Texas is slashing .141/.218/.197 in the first inning. Needless to say, Woodward is searching for any combination that can generate early offense.

“I’m looking for anybody to step up at this point and take ownership of pushing us over the top as far as getting some runs on the board, and Yonny was honestly, in my opinion, our four best at-bats yesterday.”

Along with inserting Hernandez into the second spot, Woodward will also be rolling out Terry at first base, the first time he’ll play defense since joining the team.

“I'm really excited for it,” Terry said. “I’m feeling great about it. Honestly, I can’t wait for the game to start.”

Woodward noted that Terry's defense at first base wasn’t a strength when he began his career, but over the last couple years, the rookie has worked to improve that aspect of his game, specifically in his lateral movement. Terry is no stranger to the position by any means, having played 315 games at the position throughout six Minor League seasons, but Saturday provided him with an opportunity to showcase his progress at the Major League level.

“My defensive progress has been very good from where I started to where I’m at right now,” Terry said. “Reading ground balls, throwing, knowing defensive situations. I feel like overall, the progress defensively has been really good.”