Choo might see more time in outfield

Choo might see more time in outfield

ARLINGTON -- Shin-Soo Choo returned to the Rangers' lineup on Wednesday night after missing two games with lower back spasms. Choo was used at designated hitter for the 26th time as opposed to his nine starts in right field.

Choo began the season as the primary DH because that seemed to be the Rangers' best lineup and it was more conducive to keeping him healthy. But the need for him to be able to play the outfield appears to be increasing.

One reason is center fielder Carlos Gomez is out for 4-6 weeks with a strained right hamstring. The other is the impending return of third baseman Adrian Beltre off the disabled list possibly by the end of the month.

"I think there are going to be opportunities for Choo to play in the outfield," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.

Choo said that is something he and Banister talked about in Spring Training.

"Start the season at DH, and as the season goes along, play the field more," Choo said. "Yeah, I'm 80-90 percent running, and throwing is no problem. I can play in the field."

Jared Hoying, called up from Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday, is playing center field with Delino DeShields in left and Nomar Mazara in right. Choo gives Banister another option if he can play in the field.

"At some point, I'll play in the field more," Choo said. "Jared Hoying is a good player. The reason we've been doing good the last two years is our bench players did a great job. Somebody came up from the big leagues and picked it up."

Mazara's sliding catch

Choo landed on the DL four times last season, including from July 20-Aug. 3 with inflammation in his lower back. The spasms he had this week were the first physical issues he has had this year. He was relieved that it lasted just three days.

"I didn't really expect in [three] days to feel that much better," Choo said. "I know compared to last year's injury this year isn't even the same, but I'm pretty surprised today is that much better."

Beltre, meanwhile, is getting closer to returning every day. He ran hard in the outfield on Wednesday and took more batting practice on the field. It may be a matter of strengthening his legs and getting at-bats in extended spring training.

When Beltre returns, the Rangers will be faced with the task of getting both Beltre and Joey Gallo in the lineup. Gallo has been playing third base in Beltre's absence. The Rangers may have to decide if the best way to keep Beltre healthy and in the lineup is by using him at DH.

Banister said it's not a given that's the best way to go.

"When you are spending time on defense, you are keeping your legs working and staying engaged," Banister said. "You are not sitting for 2-3 innings. You sit around, get tight and then you've got to re-crank it."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.