Two spots. Three guys. The Texas Rangers middle infield situation isn’t going to end well for either Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor or Jurikson Profar. Someone is going to wind up changing shirts and history shows the more things change in Rangerland, the more they stay the same. Start printing the “Keep Elvis” bumper stickers, because more than likely the odd man out will be Andrus.
Jul 28, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Michael Young (10) reacts at bat against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rangers fans are far too familiar with issues at the pivot. When Ian Kinsler came up as The Next Big Thing, the question was: what do you do with a quality second baseman like Michael Young? After settling Young at short, the Rangers brought up phenom Andrus. That started Young on a world tour of the infield that saw him play every position except umpire. And eventually leave for the Phillies and Dodgers. Seeing this generation’s Mr. Ranger, in a Phillies uniform was as wrong as Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith in an Arizona Cardinals jersey.
But team management had to make that difficult move – and the result? The Elvis & Ian Show became as solid a pivot as the Texas Rangers have ever seen, good for 100 double plays a season, genuinely flashy glovework and a pair of American League pennants. But – and with the Rangers, there’s always a “but” – the expensive Kinsler could also be streaky, and his propensity for the ill-timed, rally-killing pop-up had GM Jon Daniels looking into the depth of the farm system. Coveting Profar’s youth, talent, and cheap salary, Daniels waved bye to Kinsler. Who notably waved back.
That led to the great mess that was 2014. The Rangers were the most intriguing medical drama on TV last season. CSI:Arlington began with heir apparent Profar tearing the teres major muscle in his throwing shoulder.
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The year-long, non-surgical rehab for Profar has been slow and plagued with setbacks. Those problems have bought Elvis a little more time at Globe Life Park, but his tenure is totally dependent on how well Profar comes back.
It’s fairly obvious that the Rangers will open camp as they left 2014 – Andrus at short and Odor at second. Profar has to have some game time in the minors. He missed the Arizona Fall League and from reports hasn’t played in a game situation in since last March when he tore the muscle. The consensus among those who follow the Rangers is that he’ll begin the year at Frisco or Round Rock. But when that shoulder eventually heals? Adios, Elvis.
Aug 4, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Former Florida Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez and left fielder Juan Pierre (right) watch highlights during the tenth anniversary celebration of the 2003 World Series Championship before a game against the Cleveland Indians at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
The Ranger playbook says that’s how it has to be. Doesn’t matter if you’re the franchise’s best ever at that spot, ask famous Detroit Tiger and World Champion Florida Marlin, Pudge Rodriguez how that works out in Texas.
Expect to see Elvis and Odor come to camp as the double play combination, with Profar in Frisco with Luis Sardinas waiting in the wings at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. At least – knock wood – unless somebody gets hurt. But if that doesn’t happen, if Profar comes back at a damaged goods price point, then history says fans must expect Elvis to be boxed up for shipping and The Odor & Profar Show to take the stage at the Ballpark. No matter how unpopular that move may be in the stands. Hopefully, when Daniels is ready to escort Elvis to the door, there will be a Cole Hamels or similar quality pitching arm on the other end of that deal.