ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — When Marcus Semien was struggling at the plate during his first two months with the Texas Rangers, manager Chris Woodward was emphatic at times when repeatedly telling everyone that their new second baseman would be just fine.
The manager already had a relationship with Corey Seager from their days together with the Los Angeles Dodgers, so he was even more certain of what to expect from the shortstop who had already been a World Series MVP.
Texas still hasn’t had a winning record with its half-billion dollar middle infield, but Semien has been steady since breaking out of his early slump and Seager had a homer surge that took him back to Dodger Stadium for the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby.
“We’re just seeing the consistency we expected,” Woodward said. “It’s a lot of pressure on those guys coming in, I knew both of those guys could handle it.”
The Rangers were coming off 102 losses and their fifth losing season in a row when Seager signed a $325 million, 10-year contract, and Semien got a $175 million, seven-year deal just before the MLB lockout began last December.
“It’s a challenge for every player that comes into a new organization,” Woodward said “And with all the publicity that’s around those guys, you know, they’re expecting to turn this thing around, and it’s hard. You can’t just flip it like that.”
Texas (42-49) returned from the All-Star break with an 8-0 win at Miami on Thursday, the makeup of a game postponed at the start of the season because of the lockout. The Rangers then had to fly across the country to play 10 consecutive games on the West Coast. The Rangers went into the break after being swept in a four-game series at home by streaking Seattle.
Seager has 22 homers, only four short of his career high, after seven homers in a 10-game stretch right before the break. He got a day off Thursday, after making a cross-country trip to be with his teammates and then flying right back to California with them.
After going 2 for 3 with a walk and getting hit by a pitch against the Marlins, Semien was hitting a season-high .242 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs. His average is nearly 100 points higher than at the start of May, and almost 50 higher than on June 1.
“There’s definitely going to be months where guys start off slow, there’s going to be months in the beginning where guys have rough months, and months in the end,” Semien said. “Mine just happened to be as a new guy in the first month or two.”
Semien said he just wasn’t hitting well early, and that the issue “wasn’t any added pressure or anything.”
His 45 homers last season set an MLB record for second basemen, but Semien’s first with Texas didn’t come until his 44th game on May 28. Just over a week later, he went deep three times while setting a franchise record with seven hits during a doubleheader at Cleveland.
“Once you see the ball go over the fence a couple of times, you start to feel a little bit better,” Semien said. “And also when you’re controlling the strike zone better and not chasing pitches out of the zone that you don’t want to hit, it’s always a good feeling, too.”
Seager was hitting .251 with 52 RBIs. He had career-high streaks for homers (five games) and RBIs (eight) just before the break — that span also included the only time Semien and Seager have hit back-to-back homers for Texas.
“It’s fun to be beside him,” said Seager, who was only 19 when he and Semien were teammates in the Arizona Fall League nearly nine years ago.
Woodward was the third base coach for the Dodgers, and before he left after the 2018 season to become the Rangers manager, he challenged Seager to become a leader. The shortstop was the World Series MVP two years later, a year before reuniting with Woodward and Semien, who finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2019 and 2021 — the last two 162-game seasons.
The Rangers recovered from a 2-9 start this season and were 24-24 at the end of May. But after peaking at .500, they lost their first three games in June by a combined four runs. They had 20 one-run losses before the break.
“There’s been some heartbreakers … every night is like now we’re just this close,” Woodward said. “But when you have those guys that you know are going to be here, from an organizational standpoint that makes you sleep a little better at night. Especially when you’re trying to put a winning team together, and you’ve got those guys to rely on.”
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