Injuries wreaking havoc with Rangers' lineup
Moreland latest to be affected as Washington tries to make best of situation
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Opening Day is less than two weeks away, and the Rangers still can't shake the nagging injuries that have plagued them since Spring Training started.
Mitch Moreland is sidelined with a tight oblique muscle in his left rib cage, and the Rangers aren't sure when he'll be able to get back into the lineup. The club is describing Moreland's injury as similar to the one suffered by Alex Rios, who was out for eight days earlier this spring with a strained intercostal muscle in his rib cage.
"Hopefully he'll recover as fast as Rios," manager Ron Washington said. "Everybody is different. Rios took eight days. Mitch might take five. It might take three."
Moreland is hitting .233 this spring, with seven hits in 30 at-bats, while Rios is 9-for-21. Rios might have been able to take a week off and still come back strong, but Moreland still needs more at-bats to get ready for the season. He has two hits in his last 13 at-bats, and this is not going to help.
"We'll see, maybe it won't be that long," Washington said. "Maybe it's not too serious. That's right, he needs at-bats. But he can't get them, so we'll move on."
If Moreland is out for an extended period, it could open up more regular playing time for Michael Choice, who is likely to make the team as a fourth outfielder and part-time designated hitter. It could also open up a spot at least temporarily for another left-handed hitter, either Jim Adduci or Engel Beltre. Adduci is having another good spring and went into Tuesday's split-squad doubleheader with a .375 batting average. Beltre, who is out of options, was hitting .318.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus has had arm trouble all spring. Another bad throw in the second inning of Monday's game left him with three errors, and he has not been able to throw at full strength since he showed up in Arizona. The Rangers are off on Wednesday, and Andrus may return to the lineup on Thursday. But that doesn't mean he'll have his complete arm strength back.
"It's just a recurring thing," Washington said. "We haven't seen the zip on his throws. We thought it was past him, but it flared up [Monday] night."
Josh Wilson started at shortstop for Tuesday's afternoon game against the Brewers. The Rangers had all three utility infield candidates in the lineup, with Brent Lillibridge playing third base and Adam Rosales at second base.
All three are the classic utility infield candidates. They all have Major League experience with multiple teams, they have played every infield position, they have all played in the outfield when needed, and they have never hit well enough to earn a full-time role for an extended period of time.
Moreland is the latest Rangers regular to show up on the trainer's report. Of the projected Opening Day lineup coming into camp, first baseman Prince Fielder is the only one who has not missed time because of a specific injury.
Shin-Soo Choo is still dealing with soreness in his left elbow and is limited to designated-hitter duty. Adrian Beltre was out of the lineup for a fifth straight day with a tight left hamstring but hopes to play Thursday.
"This is not typical," Washington said. "You're going to have some injuries, but hopefully early and you get past them. I don't have any reason behind it, and I'm not going to sulk. I'm going to put out there what we've got and go play. We're going to put healthy bodies out there. They may not be the bodies you intended, but nobody cares. We're going to put what we've got out there and keep fighting until we get the guys back we wanted to fight with."
Catcher Geovany Soto took Tuesday off, but he appears fully recovered from left ankle surgery on Feb. 22. He has played in three Cactus League games and had another 20 at-bats in Minor League games.
"I'm going to start playing in back-to-back games and play deeper into games," Soto said. "It's go time."
The Rangers do have Jurickson Profar healthy enough to play second base, Rios has had no troubles since returning from his rib-cage injury and Leonys Martin has been fine since a brief bout of back spasms at the beginning of the month.
Washington was hoping to have his regular lineup ready to go after the off-day, and he wants to start having them play nine innings together. Moreland may prevent that, but if Andrus and Choo can recover from their arm ailments in the next few days, Washington might be able to put his complete defensive unit out there together down the stretch.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.