HOUSTON -- What was the Rangers' problem in 2012?
"The stretch run killed us," manager Ron Washington said.
The success on the Rangers' current road trip, which concluded on Monday, suggests Texas is in better shape to withstand the rigors of this stretch run. Jurickson Profar may be the difference.
Profar started at second base on Monday as he continued his rotation around the infield. Ian Kinsler started at designated hitter as Washington continued his rotation of using his starting infielders -- Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre -- in that role. Profar's adjustment to handling the different positions has made Washington more comfortable about getting his starters time at DH.
"They get a chance to get off their feet, and it's even more beneficial because Profar is doing the job," Washington said. "When we kept him, we did so because we felt he had earned credibility in the clubhouse and could help us win games. That allows the other players to get off their feet and still be in the ballgame. We look refreshed down the stretch."
Profar has made highlight-worthy plays at three positions on this trip. He played shortstop on Sunday and made a terrific backhanded play on Brett Wallace's seventh-inning grounder. Switching positions regularly has not bothered Profar.
"You just catch the ball and throw it," Profar said. "It's all the same thing."
Offensively, he went into Monday's game hitting .266 in his past 18 games, including a two-run single in the ninth inning on Sunday. It's not a meteoric rise, but still impressive considering Profar has to play multiple positions.
"That's his job, and he's doing it," Washington said.
The Rangers have been able to rotate designated hitters, because Lance Berkman has been on the disabled list since July 7. He could come off on Friday, so Washington may not be able to use his infielders in that role as much.
"We'll deal with that when Berkman comes back," Washington said.
When Berkman was active, Washington got Profar playing time by using him in left field. That's not going to happen anymore this season. The skipper watched Profar enough in left and decided he's not ready to play out there.
"Maybe we'll start that trial in Spring Training next year and allow him to make mistakes," Washington said. "We can't afford to do it now."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less