Smith gets shot at short with Rangers’ Seager sidelined

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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.

Orioles sign OF Aaron Hicks, put Cedric Mullins on 10-day IL with groin strain

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BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles signed outfielder Aaron Hicks less than 24 hours after Cedric Mullins went down with a strained right groin.

Mullins went on the 10-day injured list, but the Orioles are hoping Hicks can help defensively in the spacious outfield at Camden Yards. Hicks was released last week by the New York Yankees with more than 2 1/2 seasons left on his contract.

“We had noticed that he was a free agent even before the injury,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “When the injury occurred and it became pretty clear this was going to be an IL, it seemed like a good fit even more so at that time.”

The Orioles are responsible for paying Hicks just $483,871, a prorated share of the $720,000 minimum salary. The Yankees owe him the rest of his $10.5 million salary this year, plus $9.5 million in each of the next two seasons and a $1 million buyout of a 2026 team option.

The 33-year-old Hicks hit just .188 in 28 games for the Yankees this year.

“We have stuff that we look at from a scouting and evaluation perspective,” Elias said. “It’s very different from just looking at the back of a baseball card, and we hope that we get a bounceback from anyone we bring here.”

Hicks batted .216 last season.

“Hopefully that’s a good thing for him,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of the Baltimore deal. “A lot of time here and a lot of good things happened for him here. I know the last couple of years have been a struggle. But hopefully it’s a good opportunity for him and certainly wish him well. Not too well being in our division and a team we’re chasing, but hopefully it’s a really good fit for him.”

Mullins left a loss to Cleveland after he pulled up while running out an infield grounder. Outfielder Colton Cowser – the fifth pick in the draft two years ago – is hitting .331 at Triple-A Norfolk, but he went on the IL in the past couple weeks.

“Certainly he was building a case towards promotion consideration prior to his injury and prior to Cedric’s injury,” Elias said. “We’ll just see where we’re at.”

Hicks was active for the game but not in the starting lineup. Austin Hays, normally Baltimore’s left field, was in Mullins’ usual spot in center.

When the wall in left at Camden Yards was pushed significantly back before last season, it made left field a bigger challenge defensively.

“In this park … you really need two center fielders,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Aaron’s got a lot of center-field experience. Played left field here before also. Brings the defensive aspect and then the switch-hitting.”