Josh Jung bids to impress as Rangers face Angels

The Texas Rangers will continue to give a strong look to top prospect Josh Jung on Saturday in the second contest of a three-game series versus the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

Jung, 24, was expected to miss the entire season after sustaining a torn labrum in his left shoulder while working out just prior to spring training. The initial plan was to keep him off the field to ensure a healthy return in 2023.

But Jung returned sooner than expected, first playing eight games for the Rangers’ Rookie League team in Arizona in early August before joining Triple-A Round Rock for 23 games.

Jung was promoted to the big-league club on Sept. 9 and started fast, getting five extra-base hits in his first six games with Texas (66-90). He endured a 0-for-19 stretch over five games but snapped out of the slump with two hits against Cleveland on Sunday.

Jung carried that over in a big way on Tuesday when he had two homers to highlight a three-hit game against Seattle.

Jung, who went 0-for-4 in the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Angels (71-86) on Friday, is hitting .208 with four doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs in 20 games overall.

“You see glimpses of what he can do for you, offensively and defensively,” Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley said. “It’s good to see that. Looking ahead, you have that type of potential in the lineup. He’s got power … really, to all fields.”

Jung’s biggest obstacle, it seems, is staying healthy. He sustained a stress fracture in his left foot that caused him to miss the beginning of the 2021 season. But he went on to hit .326 with 19 homers and 61 RBIs in 78 games combined between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock.

Texas rookie left-hander Cole Ragans (0-3, 5.40 ERA) will be on the mound Saturday to make his ninth career start. He is coming off a loss his last time out after surrendering four runs (three earned) in five innings against Cleveland.

Ragans, 24, faced the Angels on Sept. 20 and received a no-decision after allowing two runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Left-hander Jose Suarez (7-8, 4.06) will make his 22nd appearance (20th start) this season for the Angels on Saturday. He is 2-0 with a 3.42 ERA in five career games (four starts) against the Rangers.

Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who went 2-for-4 Friday, extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games.

Ohtani is hitting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and an .888 OPS at the plate, and is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA on the mound. He may not win his second consecutive American League MVP award because New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has 61 home runs and has a chance to win the Triple Crown.

“I definitely feel like this season is better overall,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “My pitching numbers are better and I’m just playing with more confidence after experiencing last year. I know I won MVP last year, but I feel like I’m having a better season this year.

“I feel like you guys are more of an expert on the voting, the writers, so I’ll leave it up to you guys. But I’m definitely enjoying it. I enjoy watching Judge. I watched him hit 61. Just as a baseball fan, it’s great watching him do his thing.”

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