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Buzz: Profar helping veterans stay fresh

HOUSTON -- Jurickson Profar made an impact play at shortstop and broke the game open at the plate in the Rangers' 6-1 victory over Houston on Sunday.

The 20-year-old infielder may be having a larger effect for the Rangers, more than what you see on field. Spelling regulars Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre at their respective infield positions while they play that day as the designated hitter is a small part of seven straight wins and a 12-1 record in the Rangers' last 13 games.

"It certainly looks like it's helping us because we look fresher," manager Ron Washington said Monday.

That's a big deal. The Rangers led Oakland by 6 1/2 games in the American League West on Aug. 12 last season. They lost the division on the last day of the regular season, and Washington said a few weeks later that maybe he pushed his regulars too much during the season. The Rangers were 43-40 over their last 83 games.

They are streaking and have gained seven games on Oakland in 13 days. Washington said Monday that "he has a complete team."

Having Profar around has helped. Kinsler, Andrus and Beltre have started a combined 23 games as the DH with Profar playing for them most of the time.

"They get a chance to get off their feet," Washington said. "It's ever more beneficial because he's doing the job. We kept him because he gained credibility in that clubhouse and the way he played ballgames. That wasn't just me feeling like that. That was the guys he was playing with that feel like that."

Profar has handled his role tremendously, Washington said, rotating between second base, shortstop and third base. In the last week alone, Profar, playing second base, made a spectacular diving snag of a line drive off the bat of Mike Trout in Anaheim. He made a play behind third base and threw a laser shot to first base Friday.

On Sunday, Profar made a terrific play deep in the hole at shortstop and made a sidearm throw to first base. He also had a two-run single that also led to another run on a throwing error as the Rangers turned a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 advantage in the top of the ninth.

"That's a tough job," Washington said. "The difference in what he's doing now and what a normal utility player does is with the team I have I'm able to give him more games. Normally it would be once a week or twice a week or once every two weeks. That's a utility player. He's a different type of utility player. To try and keep him engaged it works right now. So of course it's impressive."

Berkman's impact on Profar: Washington will have to be a little more creative when DH Lance Berkman returns to the lineup. And that could be later this week.

Berkman took Monday off after playing two games for Triple-A Round Rock -- he was 3-for-7 with a home run. He will be the DH on Tuesday and Wednesday for Double-A Frisco followed by another day off. That could position Berkman to play Friday against Seattle.

That could reduce Profar's playing time, though Berkman will likely play two games and take a day, leaving the DH spot open. Plus, Profar could play one of the infield positions and give Kinsler, Andrus or Beltre a full day off.

But that's something the Rangers can put off a few days.

"We'll deal with that when Berkman gets back," Washington said. "When Berkman's ready to play, he's going to swing the bat for us."

Berkman, dealing with hip and knee issues, said Sunday night he's feeling OK.

“All my physical ailments can be managed, and my swing feels pretty good," Berkman told the Austin American Statesman on Sunday night. That’s the main thing right now is to just get back in the batter’s box and see some pitches and try to get back in a rhythm at the plate.”

Baker gets 1B time: Jeff Baker will play against left-handed starters, Washington said Monday. With the way the Rangers' roster is currently constructed, that means he'll play first base, which will take some playing time away from Mitch Moreland.

"I've got to play Baker somewhere against left-handers," Washington said.

Baker hasn't found his swing after missing 30 games and returning July 19 from a sprained right thumb. He has six hits in 23-bats with one RBI and he hasn't homered. Baker was leading the majors with nine home runs off lefties when he got hurt.

"When you're out for that long, you can't replicate game situations and game at-bats," Baker said. "I'm 100 percent healthy. It's just a matter of getting my timing back and going out there and competing."

Washington expects that to change soon.

"I still feel good when he goes up there against a lefty," Washington said. "Something good is about to happen."

Short hops: The Rangers will honor Washington in a pre-game ceremony before Tuesday's game against Milwaukee for winning his 582nd game last week, breaking the club record held by Bobby Valentine. ... The Rangers have won the Silver Boot again from the Astros, winning 10 of 12 games with seven to go in the season series. It's the seventh straight season the Rangers have won the coveted Silver Boot.