ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 18: Mitch Moreland #18 of the Texas Rangers rounds third base after hitting a home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Park on May 18, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Texas won 6-2. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
The Texas Rangers have been linked to several replacement options at first base since high-priced acquisition and traditional slugger Prince Fielder was put on the disabled list last week in advance of his scheduled cervical fusion neck surgery on Tuesday.
Mitch Moreland, who's tried for a few years now to win the Rangers' trust as their everyday first baseman before they eventually moved on this off-season to get Fielder, is getting another shot and so far, so good.
Moreland played his second career big-league game in the No. 3 spot in the lineup on Sunday and flourished against one of the game's most feared pitchers — albeit a shell of his former self lately — Justin Verlander.
After playing most of the year as a platoon DH and even being used as a relief pitcher in a blowout loss to Colorado prior to Fielder's injury, Moreland is now getting another shot to prove his worth (possibly for another team in the future) as a hitter, because he's already a much better defensive option at first than Fielder is.
“I just want Mitch to be Mitch,” Washington told reporters on Sunday, in explaining his hopes about the move to the 3-spot, in The Dallas Morning News. “If he just stays being Mitch, that will be good enough. If they throw balls into the strike zone, then hack at them. Don’t try to do anything special. That’s all.”
On Sunday, Moreland keyed the Rangers' offensive explosion with three straight run-scoring hits. He finished the day 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored while also drawing a key first-inning walk that led to an early run. This season, Moreland is hitting .285 with two homers, 21 RBIs and 10 doubles with far betting slugging and hitting numbers than Fielder was producing.
“I just tried to go up there and get good pitches to hit,” Moreland told the Morning News. “I tried to battle through my at-bats and make something happen."
Moreland is far from secure in his new role, as the Rangers have been linked to several trade possibilities for first basemen since Fielder's injury was announced, but he's giving the club an old, familiar option, and he'll look to keep up his solid play this season.