The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros hosted their own home run derby on Wednesday night, combining for eight long balls. Unfortunately for the Rangers, six of the eight blasts were hit by the Astros as Texas fell by a score of 8-4.
The two Rangers homers came courtesy of Eli White, who continues to impress since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock last week. The two blasts were the first of White's big league career, and neither of them were cheap homers as he sent them to the opposite field at 392 feet and 369 feet respectively.
“This guy's as strong as they come,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “If you stand next to him, you don't realize how big Eli White is. He was standing next to Brandon Belt when we played the Giants, and he's bigger than [him]. People don't realize how strong and big this guy is. He’s as good of an athlete as we have in the organization. He's the fastest guy in the big leagues. And he's obviously got muscles, and fast twitch to go along with it. Power is not surprising.”
White, known more for his speed and defense, became the first Rangers player to hit his first two home runs in one game since Carlos Pena did it on September 19, 2001 against the Oakland Athletics.
“That was super cool,” White said on Zoom after the game. “It's something I've dreamed about since I was a little kid and fell in love with this game. I’m grateful for the opportunity out there."
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That opportunity came after needing to go down to Round Rock after struggling to find consistency after making the Opening Day roster out of spring training. But White was able to find his timing, and more importantly, his confidence. He slashed .343/.450/.537/.987 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 20 games before the Rangers brought him back to the show.
"I think it plays a big part in it, just stepping in the box and having confidence in yourself," White explained. "Not trying not to fail, but trying to succeed. [Also] getting in a rhythm and getting consistent at-bats."
White gives the Rangers defensive versatility and speed, two traits that Chris Woodward would love to have at his disposal on a consistent basis. White was initially an infielder and made the transition to the outfield over the past couple of seasons. While at Round Rock, he played five different positions while maintaining production at the plate.
Since returning to the big leagues, we've seen White spell Nick Solak at second base and Joey Gallo in right field. If White can maintain consistency against big league pitching, he might force his way into the starting lineup more often.
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