The Rangers made a flurry of roster moves Monday as the team returned from a deflating 1-6 road trip. Among them was the long-overdue decision to option outfielder Michael Choice to Triple-A Round Rock.
“He needed to go get himself together,” manager Ron Washington said.
Choice was on the Rangers’ Opening Day roster and has batted .177 (35-for-198) with eight home runs and 28 RBI for Texas this season. His eight homers rank fourth on the club, but Choice was mired in a 6-for-67 slump (.090 BA) over his last month with the club.
“We’ve still got a lot of faith in him,” Washington said. “We just don’t want his struggles to become mental.
“We kept running him out there but at some point the grind of a major league season can get to you. We just wanted to let him get out of this environment and let him work it out.”
Washington said the move was something the team thought about for a while, and it was just a matter of time if Choice’s struggles continued.
Choice, who was acquired by Texas for Craig Gentry in an offseason deal with Oakland, has never been sent down to the minor leagues. He made his major league debut as a September call-up with the A’s in 2013, batting .278 in 19 games.
The Rangers’ hopes are that a change of scenery will allow Choice to go through the (somewhat foreign) adjustment period he needs to go through.
“It’s tough to try to adjust at the major league level and do something totally different than what you’ve had success with that got you here,” Wash said.
"Very few guys are able to come up and contribute on day one," general manager Jon Daniels said. "That was our hope and there were times we thought that might be the case, but at this point we feel like he's best set to make that adjustment at Triple A."
Daniels drew a comparison to Nelson Cruz, who was acquired in a trade in 2006 and took almost two years to become a regular contributor at the major league level. Cruz cleared outright waivers before spending time in the minors after coming to Texas from Milwaukee.
Outfielder Jake Smolinski’s contract was purchased from Round Rock to accompany the Choice demotion. Washington said the plan is to use Smolinski the same way the club used Choice: to spell Shin-Soo Choo or Alex Rios in the corner outfield positions and occasionally as the designated hitter.
“We’re going to try to move him around,” Washington said.
Smolinski, 25, will be looking to make his major league debut. He has hit safely in seven of eight games with Round Rock, batting .267 (8-for-30) with six doubles and six RBI since a promotion from Double-A Frisco on June 25. He was selected to the Texas League All-Star Game after batting .267 (71-for-266) with 15 doubles, 10 home runs, and 35 RBI in 72 games with Frisco.
Infielder Donnie Murphy was designated for assignment Monday after batting .196 (22-for-112) with four home runs and 14 RBI over 45 games with Texas this season. He also spent time on the disabled list from May 8-22 with a neck strain.
The club has 10 days to trade, release, or outright Murphy to the minors.