Without Greene, Rangers should trust German

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When the Rangers moved Michael Young from shortstop to third base after his Gold Glove campaign in 2008, it was clear there was no going back. The Rangers knew Elvis Andrus had more range and they wanted Young to be able to settle into his new position, so they signed Omar Vizquel to serve as a backup and a mentor. Sure, they could have helped themselves offensively if they were willing to use Young as a backup shortstop, but that wouldn’t have been the right way to play it last year.
Perhaps it is now. Andrus showed last year that he’s ready to be an everyday player, and Young settled in nicely at third, playing every one of his 1166 innings in the field at the position. The Rangers wanted to go with a similar arrangement this year, even though Vizquel had little interest in staying, but the Khalil Greene experiment never even got off the ground. Now the Rangers are stuck in a situation in which there are no quality utilitymen available in free agency and no solid backup shortstops on the roster. They can go with the oft-injured Joaquin Arias, but shoulder problems have turned him into an iffy proposition on the left side of the infield. The light-hitting Ray Olmedo is also in camp. But the Rangers’ best utility option is clearly Esteban German, even if he’s played all of 36 innings at shortstops in part of eight major league seasons.
So, the Rangers should again ask Michael Young to think of the team. Young was more than a little hesitant to move to third last year — understandably so, especially in light of the Gold Glove — and he probably prefer not to have to worry about shifting between positions at this point in his career. But if Andrus goes down for any length of time, the Rangers would clearly be better off with Young at short and German at third than Young at third and Arias/Olmedo at short. German is a career .278/.358/.383 hitter, and he can handle both second and third. He’s also good enough to serve as a DH against lefties if Vladimir Guerrero gets hurt.
Of course, the whole point might be moot at the end of the spring. There will undoubtedly be a couple of veteran utilityman available for next to nothing, and the Rangers may well grab one of them if they don’t like what they see from Arias next month.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.