Texas Rangers Spring Training: Center Field, Not First Base, is Top Priority for Nick Solak
SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Texas Rangers are working out Nick Solak at multiple positions this spring to try and find him at-bats. First base hasn't been a position he's worked out at yet.
We had a story on Sunday morning with some of manager Chris Woodward's comments about the depth behind Guzman at first base, in which Solak did not sound like a top candidate to fill that void. To confirm, I asked Solak if he's gotten any work over at first base yet.
"Not yet," Solak said. "I have a first base glove with me, but I haven't taken any reps or gotten any work over there yet."
It's not out of the realm of possibility that Solak gets some work over there eventually, but this is a strong indication that the team does not plan to utilize him there, at least for now. Manager Chris Woodward doubled down on that idea.
"At some point maybe we'll get him over there, but it's not a priority right now," Woodward said. "Center [field] is the biggest priority, third base is probably the second [priority], and then obviously second [base]."
Solak played both second and third base for the Rangers in his stint in Arlington in August and September last season. With the team having Rougned Odor and newly-acquired Todd Frazier set at those positions, the Rangers are finding different ways to get Nick Solak's bat in the lineup.
Solak has worked out at those positions thus far, but the clear focus from the Rangers is getting Solak reps in center field. Solak has played left field in the past, both at his college days at the University of Louisville and within the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He also bounced around from left field to center field with Tampa Bay.
While Solak sounds open to playing first base, he's working on improving at his three positions of focus.
"I feel comfortable," Solak said. "I'm continuing to get better at all three of those positions, and maybe eventually first [base], who knows, but wherever my name's at in the lineup, that's the focus of my work."
While Solak is relatively new to playing an elite defensive spot in center field, he has some skills that translate to that position. He spoke to those strengths on Monday morning.
"I think it's my speed," Solak said. "It's really fun to run around in the outfield, especially being an infielder my whole life. It's a different look in the middle of the field, similar to being a middle infielder, but you get to see everything from that view. Seeing the hitter, seeing the pitcher – it's all in front of you. I think being able to read the ball is easier from that position."
Nick Solak's best chance of making the Opening Day roster rests on his ability to play well defensively. If he can earn the trust of his manager with his glove and his bat picks up where it left in 2019, Solak could make a play for plenty of at-bats. It would also give the Rangers the flexibility to move Danny Santana around a little bit, which was a role he thrived in a season ago.
"If he shows well, he could get a lot of playing time out there," Woodward said. "If he hits like I anticipate, if he continues to have that progression of quality at-bats like he did last year, I'll want to get him in the games more often."
Danny Santana did this last year. He forced Woodward's hand with his bat. Solak could be a candidate to do that in 2020.
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