Rangers plan for Kiner-Falefa to be starting SS over Andrus

Rob Schumacher/The Republic
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The Texas Rangers will give Gold Glove-winning third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa the opportunity to be their starting shortstop next season and have told Elvis Andrus to prepare to play all infield positions.

Andrus, at 32 the longest-tenured Ranger after 12 seasons, is the only player remaining from their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.

Manager Chris Woodward said Tuesday that the Rangers wanted to give both Kiner-Falefa and Andrus clarity on the plans so they would know how to approach their offseason workouts.

“This wasn’t an easy decision based on what Elvis has done for the organization. We’ve had many discussions about this. But I think it comes down to, do we believe in Kiner as a shortstop? I want to see it. I want to answer that question,” Woodward said. “Can he handle the position? I believe he can.”

Woodward said Kiner-Falefa still had to earn the starting spot at shortstop, and has told Andrus he would have the opportunity to “prove us wrong.”

Andrus played only 29 games last season because of lingering back issues and hit only .194 with three homers and seven RBIs. He is owed $28.5 million over the next two seasons.

The 25-year-old Kiner-Falefa started 15 games at short, and made 42 starts at third base after earning that spot with his performance in camp before the pandemic-delayed and reduced schedule. The Rangers had signed veteran third baseman Todd Frazier last offseason, but he ended up splitting time between third and first base before getting traded at the deadline.

Kiner-Falefa hit .280 in his third big league season. The Rangers had even used him as a catcher his first two seasons as a way to get him in the lineup.

“He’s a natural shortstop. He’s always been a plus defender,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He’s taken a step forward with the bat, and I think as we look at not just this year but the next few years, you’ve obviously got a pretty unique free agent class a year from now, and I think as we look forward we want to make sure we’ve answered some of the big questions we might have not just now but in future offseasons and future times of potential acquisitions.”

Second baseman Rougned Odor, at 26 and also signed for two more seasons, will also have to compete to keep his starting job. He led Texas with 30 RBIs in 38 games and matched Joey Gallo with a team-best 10 homers, but hit only .167. Seven of his 11 hits in September were homers, and he struck out 47 times in 138 at-bats.

Nick Solak led all MLB rookies with 56 hits while primarily playing in the outfield. But his best position is second base, where he had 16 starts.

“He has to prove that he can handle the second base position defensively. That is probably the most important piece of this,” Woodward said. “Let’s focus on second base to see how good of a second baseman he can possibly be. I think we’ll see a better version of him.”

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.