4/12/2014 7:02 P.M. ET
Washington trying to get Choice on track
By Dave Sessions / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Having started two games this year and entered late in four more, rookie outfielder Michael Choice has had to bide most of his time this season on the bench. So far that role hasn't been kind to him: he singled in his first at-bat for the Rangers on Opening Day and is 0-for-11 since then.
Choice had a great spring, hitting .369 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 28 games, but is hitting .083 in the regular season.
So Ron Washington is doing two things to help Choice find his way. First, the Rangers manager is giving Choice more playing time (he has started the last two games in which he played, and is expected to start Sunday.) Second, Washington is working with the 24-year-old to accustom him to the routine of a player who will predominantly come off the bench late in games.
"We're doing everything we can," Washington said. "Trying to keep his mind clear and relaxed, trying to keep him working, trying to keep him in a routine, trying to give him a heads-up when I think he should be getting loose in the dugout. … Hit in the cage, stretch, that's usually every game in the fifth or sixth inning, I tell him to start moving and get going. That's a routine he has to perfect."
Washington said the right-handed Choice will continue to see more time against left-handed pitchers (like Sunday's Astros starter, Brett Oberholtzer). And Washington was not about to ponder the idea of sending Choice down to the Minor Leagues -- though Choice does have options left and players returning from injuries will necessitate some roster moves in the near future.
"I haven't had a conversation going in that direction yet," Washington said.
Rangers 'leaning' toward DL stint for Beltre
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers haven't yet decided whether to send third baseman Adrian Beltre to the disabled list because of his strained left quad, but general manager Jon Daniels said before Saturday's game that the club is "leaning that way."
The Rangers would love to have Beltre back in the middle of the lineup, but Daniels doesn't want to see the injury magnify into something more serious.
"It's a tough thing -- you see a game like last night, you're dying to have his bat in there," Daniels said, referring to the Rangers' 1-0 win Friday, when they failed to score for the first 11 innings and left 16 men on base.
"But the last thing we want is for him to grab on it again and he's down for two or three months instead of two or three weeks," Daniels said. "In 2011, that happened, he tried to come back a little early from a hamstring and missed an additional three weeks because of it. That's the last thing we want. We're probably erring on the side of being cautious."
Hours before the game, Beltre tested his injured muscle by taking ground balls at third base -- first fielding balls softly tossed to him, then progressing to fungoes hit by manager Ron Washington from in front of the plate.
Washington said Beltre also jogged and hit off a tee Saturday, and the plan is to slowly progress with more exercises each day as possible.
"Today was a first step, the first time he got a chance to move on it since he came out of the game," Washington said. "We've got to take baby steps. Tomorrow if he comes in here and he's feeling good we'll go through the process and ramp it up a little bit and see how he recovers from that."
Beltre left last Tuesday's game in Boston with the injury and hasn't played since; if he is sent retroactively to the 15-day disabled list, he will be eligible to return on April 23.
Beltre is hitting .286 (8-for-28) in eight games this season, with no home runs and four RBIs.
Fielder working through slow start
ARLINGTON -- In 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, Prince Fielder has never had a lower batting average through the first 10 games of a season than in 2014. He entered Saturday hitting .150 with no home runs and three RBIs.
Fielder does not have a history of being a slow starter -- he hit .417 in his first 10 games of 2013, .324 in 2012 and .400 in 2011.
General manager Jon Daniels, who traded Ian Kinsler for Fielder last November, cited the early season's small sample size as a reason not to be nervous about Fielder's hitting. He also noted that Fielder drew two intentional walks and another four-pitch walk Friday night.
"We're 10 games in -- I don't really think anything about anybody's season so far," Daniels said. "I know he's like any player in a new organization -- he really wants to do well. You can sense that body language, he wants to come through for the guys. … I thought it was telling last night that regardless of what a week's worth of stats say, we saw how the other teams are approaching him and how they view him. I'm not worried about him at all."
Still, in 45 plate appearances this season, Fielder has not quite looked like his old self yet. He has been hitting balls on the ground considerably more than he usually does; the majority of the balls he had put in play through Saturday -- 51.4 percent -- were ground balls, an increase of more than 8 percent off his career high. He's also popping up in the infield more and swinging and missing at more pitches outside the strike zone than he has in recent years.
"His timing is off -- out front, behind," Washington said. "It's a matter of just one of these days, one pitcher's going to step on that rubber and he's going to be on time, and then we won't have any more questions about Prince Fielder. But right now, it's timing."
One aspect of Fielder's play both Daniels and Washington praised Saturday is his commitment to improving on defense. Washington said Fielder is "100 percent better" at his footwork around the bag than when he joined the team to start Spring Training.
Washington and Fielder put in some work at first base before batting practice Saturday.
"I want to keep him going through some repetitions, balls in the dirt, doing footwork around the bag," Washington said. "We just want to make sure that he knows what his technique is all about."
• Lefty Matt Harrison (back surgery) will make another rehab start for Double-A Frisco on Sunday. He threw 62 pitches Tuesday in 4 2/3 innings in his second rehab start of the season. "He'll be built up by the end of the month," GM Jon Daniels said. "I think by April 23 we said he theoretically could be ready to go 100 pitches, but that's not a deadline to activate him. We want to make sure he's ready to go. He's definitely taking strides each time out, but I don't think he's ready yet. I think he's going to benefit from a few more starts."
• Colby Lewis's return will be Monday or Tuesday against Seattle. The club has not announced a decision on which day yet, as the status of Adrian Beltre could affect which day Lewis pitches due to the need for a roster move to add Lewis.
• The Rangers entered Saturday's game with the Astros second to last in the Major Leagues in home runs with only four in 10 games. No Ranger had hit multiple homers yet.
• The cut Yu Darvish sustained Friday on on throwing thumb wasn't a problem when he got his work in before Saturday's game. Manager Ron Washington said, "I didn't see him throwing left-handed today, so he's fine.
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.