The next couple of days shouldn’t be too difficult for manager Jeff Banister to find time in the same outfield for his two center fielders, both of whom are deserving of a spot in the Texas Rangers’ lineup.
Carlos Gomez is able-bodied again and expects to come off the disabled list Saturday and play for the first time since Aug. 13. DeShields made his 13th consecutive start Friday, the final 12 of those since Gomez started dealing with a cyst on his back.
With Joey Gallo on the seven-day concussion list, DeShields could slide over to left field Saturday and Sunday. But once Tuesday comes around, when Gallo can return to the active roster, that’s when the Rangers have a choice to make.
DeShields or Gomez?
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“This is about winning formulas right now and winning baseball games and all hands on deck,” Banister said. “We need players to contribute and win baseball games.”
The Rangers were 8-4 with DeShields in their lineup and had gained 1 1/2 games in the wild-card standings entering the opener of a three-game road series against the Oakland A’s.
DeShields had cooled some the past five games but was still batting .286 over his 12 starts with seven walks, nine runs and six steals. His on-base percentage was .386, and his defense ranged from steady to outstanding.
Even if DeShields loses out on playing time — which he knows is a possibility because Banister values his speed off the bench and because Gomez is finishing out an $11.5 million contract — he believes he has put himself in position to be the starting center fielder in 2018.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” DeShields said. “Producing, sticking with my plan and my approach. Whatever happens happens. I don’t write the lineup every day. Right now I’m in there, so make the best of it and help the team win as many games as possible. Who knows what will happen after this week?”
Gomez is a free agent after the season. Friday marked the one-year anniversary of his Rangers debut after they rescued him from the scrap heap, and he said that it has been a terrific year.
“I wish it would be nine more,” Gomez said.
Gomez said that he will wait until the off-season to focus on where he winds up next season and whether he plays on a one-year deal, which he is doing this season, or a multiyear pact.
All players want multiple guaranteed years, but Gomez also knows the importance of being comfortable in the clubhouse after the disastrous time he spent with the Houston Astros.
If it were up to him, he’d return.
“That’s not my decision,” Gomez said.
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He and DeShields have similar numbers in some areas, but also some significant differences. Gomez has much more power and is regarded as the better defensive player. DeShields is faster, though not significantly so, and is a better fit in the leadoff spot.
DeShields has a 1.9 WAR (wins above replacement). Gomez is at 1.8.
Gomez batted first to end last season and to begin this one, but was hitting in the bottom half of order at the time of his injury. Shin-Soo Choo has led off a team-high 57 times, seven more than DeShields and 37 more than Gomez.
The 2015 Rangers flourished in the second half with the DeShields-Choo 1-2 combo. Choo was batting .341 with a .400 on-base percentage, seven RBI and six runs in 11 games since Gomez’s cyst issue.
Chemistry could count for something, too, and the Rangers, 7-3 in the past 10 games, seem to have that. They are also 23-13 in DeShields’ past 36 starts.
An answer could come as soon as Tuesday.
“I feel like it could go either way at this point,” DeShields said. “They’ll put the best lineup out there they think will help us win.”
AL wild-card standings
Note: Top two teams, marked with x, would make the playoffs if season ended today
Texas Rangers rookie Ricky Rodriguez breezed through the ninth inning Thursday to record his first career save in his first career save opportunity (video by Jeff Wilson).
Texas Rangers left-hander Martin Perez tossed seven scoreless innings Thursday to beat the Los Angeles Angels and win his fourth straight start (video by Jeff Wilson).
Rangers at Athletics
3:05 p.m. Saturday, FSSW