ARLINGTON, TEX. — Shortly before the 2016 season began for the Texas Rangers, Hanser Alberto had a banner day.
First, as he recalls it, he beat his teammate and longtime friend Elvis Andrus in the club's spring training free-throw shooting contest. Shortly after that, he brought the trophy into the clubhouse and learned he made the Opening Day roster for the first time.
"I celebrated twice," he said with a smile.
Years later, after he had to bounce all around the league this offseason for an opportunity to play more regularly, he celebrated four times after he tied a career-high in hits in a 12-11 nail-biter against his old club Tuesday. No one begrudged his success.
"Most of them told me they're happy for me, just because here I got the opportunities to play every day," Alberto said. "They know my talent. They know I can play, but there, I didn't get the opportunities. Here, I got more of a chance to play, and I've showed what I got."
"He's got a lot of really great relationships here," manager Brandon Hyde said. "Obviously, the guys on the Rangers love him. I know some of those coaches, and they're big fans of his — anybody that's been around Alberto loves him. He played with Andrus for a long time, and some of those guys on the other side. So, to play well in front of them and to play well in the park he played a lot of games in, obviously he must have felt great."
Alberto had a circuitous route from Texas to Baltimore, having been claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees early in the offseason, then by the Orioles in January, then the San Francisco Giants during spring training and back to the Orioles in early March.
He made the team as a utility infielder and has played his way into a more significant role, elevating himself to the leadoff hitter against left-handed pitching thanks to a .412 average against lefties entering Wednesday's game. He's batting .302 with three home runs, and has essentially been a regular the last three weeks.
"I feel very proud," Alberto said. "It was a lot of work. I was working so hard in the offseason, and when I came here, I continued the hard work and everything's going good now. I feel pretty good, especially because I get a lot of help from the coaches, a lot of support by my teammates. That makes me feel comfortable here."
Alberto carries much of what he learned in Texas with him. He credits their coaches and veterans Adrián Beltré and Carlos Beltran as mentors whose advice he still draws from. And he credits the sporadic role he had with the Rangers for teaching him how to take advantage of the one he has with the Orioles, which has grown into much more.
"The last four years, that's what I'd do in Texas," Alberto said. "I'd play sometimes, so my mind knows how to work that. Any opportunity that they gave me before I played more consistently, I didn't take it for granted. I just prepared myself the whole game and was ready to pinch-hit or whatever they asked me to do. I did it, and now I get the chance to play my position."
Right-hander Andrew Cashner was supposed to pitch Thursday in the series finale at Globe Life Park, but instead was pushed back to Saturday in Houston due to leg soreness, Hyde said.
Hyde said right-hander David Hess would start Thursday and Gabriel Ynoa in the series opener against Houston on Friday, with Monday's off day allowing them to pitch on full rest.
Around the horn
Hyde said right-hander Mychal Givens will pitch in higher-leverage situations again, though he wouldn't put the closer tag on him because he'll use him whenever the lineup dictates it. ... First baseman Chris Davis' at-bats were better than before his injured list stint Tuesday, Hyde said.