In a lot of ways, Delino DeShields’ season has mimicked that of the Rangers.
It went south fast for both and neither recovered.
Now with 40 games remaining, it’s all about planning for the future. And the same question must be answered by both: Is DeShields part of the long-term center field equation?
“We want to see the approach that makes him successful,” manager Jeff Banister said after DeShields was activated from the disabled list Sunday morning and before he had an infield hit in four at-bats in a 7-2 loss to New York. “I know he wants to be more than just an on-base guy, but it starts there. Grind out at-bats. Put the ball on the ground. Use his speed. He’s successful when he does that.”
If he doesn’t: It appears the Rangers are prepared to look in other directions for the present and future.
The Rangers seemed to make that clear last month when DeShields was sent to the minors as his batting average plunged to around .200 and his on-base percentage threatened to slip below .300.
The club turned to Carlos Tocci, a Rule 5 pick who is only active because the Rangers are determined to keep him long term, and then added Drew Robinson after three months in the minors. Scott Heineman, after missing 10 days at Triple-A Round Rock in late July, could be a September option. Long term, center field is considered one of the deeper positions in the organization, though the best prospects are at the lower levels.
On Sunday, the Rangers sent Robinson back to Round Rock but left every impression that he will be recalled Sept. 1, when rosters can expand. If DeShields hasn’t shown marked improvement by then, Robinson just might get a longer look in the laboratory that is September baseball for a losing team. Robinson went 2 for 6 in his short look over the last week.
“We like what we saw from Drew,” Banister said. “He made some nice adjustments in the batter’s box. We know what he can do defensively and with his versatility. He had more consistent at-bats, the swing-and-miss is down. We like the improvements, and we like the adjustments.”
Said general manager Jon Daniels: “It’s a situation where we don’t have a spot for everybody. From a player’s perspective, that’s hard to hear. It’s tough to be patient, but these things have a way of working themselves out.”
Nothing has worked out for DeShields this season. He broke the hamate bone in his left hand in the second game of the season, rushed back and never found his swing. While he showed significant growth on defense, his offense took a step back. He not hit for more power; he stopped hitting almost entirely. For the two months leading up to what became a three-day demotion, he slashed at a rate of .189/.293/.233/.526. He hit the ball on the ground regularly but weakly. And he couldn’t find a way out. He went 1 for 37 in the 12 games before the demotion.
He was called back out of necessity, but then came the headaches the Rangers believed were too consistent with those of post-concussion syndrome. He had banged his head on a dive in in early July. So after a three-game run in which he reached base six times in 13 plate appearances, it was back to the DL.
On Sunday, after clearing protocol, he took three pitches for strikes in his first at-bat then had consecutive ground balls. Didi Gregorius made a tremendous play on one, sliding to field it and springing forward to pop back up and throw to beat him. DeShields was ruled safe on a close play on the other. He flied out to right in his last at-bat.
“I’ve got to be consistent and do what I do,” DeShields said. “I know I can play. I know I can hit. I know I can play defense. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. Mentally, I’m confident. I’ve never strayed from that. I want to be out there. My timing was a little off today, but I felt good. I just want to feed off that.”
And this is where DeShields and the Rangers veer apart. There is no recovering the season for the team, but a strong finish for him could propel him forward.