Posted on September 30, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
For the fourth, and presumably last, time this season, the Texas Rangers have activated outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the DL. Choo went to the DL on August 16 after breaking his arm on a fastball that hit him. He has missed more than 100 games this season because of four separate injuries. However, he has recovered faster than expected and the Rangers are hoping that Choo will be able to prove himself to be ready to be included on their roster for next week’s ALDS.
Choo is in the lineup for Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, batting 7th and playing right field. Despite having to stop and start four separate times, Choo is hitting .247 with a .784 OPS this season. Before being activated, Choo played in three instructional league games, going 6 for 15 with four walks and a home run. He also played seven innings in right field during each game.
The question now becomes whether or not Choo can get up to speed over the final three games of the regular season. If Choo can’t shake off the rust over the final weekend of the season, it could be risky for the Rangers to put him on the postseason roster. Obviously, Choo has done this three times already this season, which should work in his favor, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to do it again this late in the year.
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“We’ve got a decision to make if he’s able to make it through and whether or not we feel like he’s up to speed and ready to go,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said about Choo earlier this week. “We want him to be because he’s a quality player.”
While sitting out with a broken arm for the last six weeks, Choo has been able to do participate in all baseball activities except for swinging a bat. However, the Rangers are optimistic he’ll be able to find his rhythm at the plate quickly. “I think we all know that Choo, when it comes to seeing the baseball, swinging the bat, he seems to make progress fairly quickly,” Banister said. “I’m pleased. This is going to come down to whether he can he handle the actual load of work.”
While he is hitting 7th on Friday, Choo may be best utilized in the leadoff spot, where he’s had success this year and where the Rangers have struggled to find a permanent solution in his absence.
“A guy like Choo has a different tool set than some. It’s not just the hitting side of it. This is a guy who is a high on-base guy, too,” Banister said. “That’s as important as getting a base hit. That’s still an asset, in my opinion. You’d like to have all your players playing at a high functionality but it doesn’t always work out that way.”
If Choo is able to prove he’s ready for postseason baseball and earn his way back into the lineup, it’ll likely come at the expense of rookie Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields Jr. However, Choo is a more established player than either and has a chance to be a difference maker for the Rangers in the playoffs, especially if he can return to the leadoff spot and push the resurgent Carlos Gomez down in the order. The Rangers will just have to evaluate him over the final three games of the regular season to see if he’s ready for playoff baseball.