The Rangers still wonder what their season might be like if Adam Eaton had been healthy at the start instead of missing almost four months following surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in the middle finger of his right hand.
"It would have made a big difference," pitching coach Mark Connor said.
Eaton, who will take the hill on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, will make his sixth start since returning, and he's 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his last two outings.
The returns suggest that Eaton made the right move by having surgery. He had a similar finger injury last year after starting out 9-1 with a 3.18 ERA with the Padres, and he tried to solve the problem with rest, treatment and rehabilitation.
That plan didn't work, as Eaton went 2-3 with a 5.74 ERA after his return in August. This year, Eaton didn't try any shortcuts.
"It took time, but we were diligent and able to go through each hoop without any setbacks," Eaton said. "It was just a matter of getting my flexibility and strength back, and now I'm able to throw anything and everything I want."
TEX: RHP Adam Eaton (3-2, 3.86 ERA)
Opponents are hitting just .185 off Eaton this season. He has pitched 23 1/3 innings, and batters leading off an inning are 0-for-21 with two walks and a hit batsman against the right-hander. Travis Lee is 2-for-6 in his career off Eaton, the only current Rays player with more than three at-bats against him. Eaton's only career start against Tampa Bay came in 2004, when he allowed two runs in six innings in a 4-1 loss as a member of the Padres.
Shields is 1-4 with a 4.60 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break, but he's 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in six starts at home this season. The rookie right-hander has held left-handed hitters to a .266 batting average, but right-handers are hitting .324. Opponents are also hitting .326 with runners in scoring position. Monday will be Shields' first start against the Rangers. Player to watch
Mark Teixeira is a career .302 hitter against the Rays, with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 116 career at-bats. On the Internet
Official game notes On television
Fox Sports Southwest
KRLD 1080/AM; KLFC 1270/AM (Español)
Tuesday: Rangers (RHP Vicente Padilla, 12-7, 4.39) at Devil Rays (LHP Scott Kazmir, 10-8, 3.31 ), 6:15 p.m. CT
Wednesday: Rangers (RHP Kevin Millwood, 12-8, 4.58) at Devil Rays (LHP Casey Fossum, 6-5, 5.06), 6:15 p.m. CT
Thursday: Rangers (RHP Edinson Volquez, 1-2, 4.02) at Devil Rays (RHP Tim Corcoran, 4-5, 4.13), 6:15 p.m. CT
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.