ARLINGTON, Texas Josh Smith’s 21 months with the Texas Rangers have been about finding a place on the field for a shortstop by trade.
Corey Seager‘s hamstring injury settles that issue for at least the next four weeks.
Acquired from the Yankees before the 2021 trade deadline in a six-player deal that sent Joey Gallo to New York, Smith will be the first option with Seager sidelined after straining his left hamstring by running the bases.
Smith’s first game was a little rough with two strikeouts, including one when he was trying to call timeout in the new pitch clock era, and a missed, albeit difficult, barehand chance on a slow roller in a 10-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
That won’t change manager Bruce Bochy’s outlook much as the Rangers take a winning record into Houston this weekend for the first meeting of the season with the defending World Series champion.
“I feel really good about it when I see him out there,” Bochy said before the loss to the Royals. “He’s got really good hands, great game awareness. He’s going to be just fine. It’s probably going to be easier for him, to be honest. Now he knows where he’s going to be.”
Smith, who avoided his own stint on the injured list after needing only stitches when he was hit by a pitch in the face April 3, said he hasn’t played shortstop regularly since he was in the minors with the Yankees.
The former LSU standout played third base with Texas before the Rangers committed to opening this season with 2019 first-round pick Josh Jung there.
Left field was another popular spot for Smith, with 21 starts there last season and another five in the first 10 games this year.
Now that Smith is where he is most comfortable, the biggest task is simple: remembering who he is.
“I’m not Corey Seager. Corey Seager is not Josh Smith,” said the 5-foot-10 Smith, who is six inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than Seager. “I’m probably not going to go out there and hit 35 homers like Corey did last year, but I’m going to give everything I’ve got.”
Ezequiel Durán came with Smith in the trade with the Yankees and will be the second option with Seager out.
Smith hit in Seager’s No. 2 spot in the order in the first game without the three-time All-Star. Bochy said he needed a little more time to ponder how much Seager’s absence will reverberate in the batting order. The other three in the top four were unchanged from before the injury: Marcus Semien leading off, with Nathaniel Lowe third and Adolis García in the cleanup spot.
“I think Smitty can be a very good top-of-the-order guy,” Bochy said. “It’s up to me to adjust to the team, and now it’s a different lineup with him in the two-hole. That’s going to be up to me and our staff, maybe run things a little bit different.”
When Smith was traded, the Rangers had committed to Isiah Kiner-Falefa that season.
Before Smith could be part of a full season in 2022, Texas gave Seager 10-year, $325 million contract while also adding Semien at second for $175 million over seven years.
The Rangers could have moved Semien over while Seager was out and let Smith play second. Bochy said that wouldn’t be a consideration. Now Smith will get his most extended time at short in two years.
“He’s a good player,” said Seager, who is hitting .359 and was injured running to second on a double in his fifth consecutive game with an extra-base hit. “He’s here for a reason. He’s going to be fine. You don’t need to be anybody other than himself.”
NOTES: The Rangers sent left-handed reliever Taylor Hearn to Triple-A Round Rock a day after he allowed four runs in the seventh inning against the Royals.