Texas Rangers’ lineup works around Hunter Pence, not vice versa

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ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 21: Hunter Pence #24 of the Texas Rangers celebrates with third base coach Tony Beasley #37 after hitting a two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the third inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 21, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 21: Hunter Pence #24 of the Texas Rangers celebrates with third base coach Tony Beasley #37 after hitting a two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the third inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 21, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /
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Manager Chris Woodward has upped Hunter Pence’s playing time. The veteran has played well enough to force upcoming change in the Texas Rangers’ outfield.

Manager Chris Woodward has been writing Hunter Pence into the lineup card frequently as of late. Pence has played in six of the Texas Rangers’ last eight games. In those six games, he went 9-for-25 with 10 RBI, 7 runs scored and 2 home runs. He’s also been hitting anywhere between 4th and 6th in the batting order.

The 36-year-old has had a revived season to this point. His .321 batting average ranks 4th on the team and his .351 OBP ranks 6th. He’s routinely giving the offense a spark, and his aggression at the plate offers a welcomed change of pace to more patient hitters such as Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.

With what he’s displayed so far, how can Woodward keep him out of the lineup? The answer is, he can’t.

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SEATTLE, WA – APRIL 28: Hunter Pence #24 of the Texas Rangers hits a one-run double off of starting pitcher Erik Swanson #50 of the Seattle Mariners that scored Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers during the fifth inning a game at T-Mobile Park on April 28, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /

He was used as a platoon player vs. left-handed pitchers at the beginning of the year. Though, the Rangers recognized his superior numbers against right-handed pitchers as the month progressed. Against righties, Pence is slashing .323/.371/.581 with a mighty impressive 150 OPS+. His numbers against southpaws are worse, but they’re still worthy of playing time.

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He is spending time in the outfield and as DH. Gallo, Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo are able to safely get the occasional day off thanks to Pence’s productivity. As the season goes on, you wonder if Pence will play well enough to supplant Delino DeShields in the outfield.

DeShields is doing some good things this year. Despite a .188 batting average, the speedster has posted a .333 OBP and swiped seven out of eight bags. As usual, he seems to be performing just well enough to remain in the lineup on a relatively consistent basis. He has played in eight of the Rangers’ last ten games.

It will be interesting to see how Woodward compiles next week’s lineups. Texas has today and Thursday off; therefore, every player will be well-rested. There shouldn’t be a need to rest Gallo, Mazara or Choo. That means either Pence or DeShields will have to be left out. If Pence is in the lineup, Gallo will have to play center field.

Pence and DeShields each add a unique flavor to the lineup, but it’s tough to argue against the veteran right now. Him providing thump in the middle is more valuable than DeShields providing speed at the bottom, in my opinion.

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It’s just something to monitor over time, beginning with the upcoming week. Chris Woodward has relied heavily on Pence, and the fan favorite has not at all disappointed. As such, playing time should only increase. DeShields would draw the short end of the stick.

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