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Rangers OF Carter finally earns first hit of 2024, remains confident in plate approach

Texas Rangers Evan Carter - The Canadian Press

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Evan Carter tries to keep a rough count of when baseball owes him and when he owes baseball.

The Texas Rangers left fielder was ready to reset the number at zero after an 0-for-15 start to his first full season in the big leagues coming off a strong debut and record-setting postseason for the World Series champs in 2023.

Then again, “Full Count Carter” — his nickname in the minor leagues — was leading the American League with seven walks when his first two hits of the season finally came in a 10-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

“If going four or five games without a hit, I’m throwing in like six walks, is the worst my career gets, then that’s going to be amazing,” the 21-year-old Carter said Saturday. “I would take that every day of the week.”

The first meeting against the Astros since the Rangers won a seven-game AL Championship Series between the Texas rivals was a great illustration of Carter's point about tracking his own baseball luck.

“The hardest ball I hit yesterday was an out and then the worst ball I hit was a hit,” Carter said. “Seems like everything I’ve hit hard this spring and this year so far has been an out. Maybe I should start focusing on bloopers and stuff.”

Carter singled in his first big league at-bat 10 days after his 21st birthday when he was called up as an injury fill-in last September.

He hit .306 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 23 games to finish the regular season, then reached base in all 17 postseason games, hitting .300 with an MLB postseason-record nine doubles. He also had 10 walks.

Carter went three consecutive games without a hit just once last year, on the final weekend of the regular season, before going hitless the first five games of 2024 when manager Bruce Bochy gave him a day off for the series finale in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, before a scheduled off day.

“I’m sure he was getting a little frustrated, as much confidence as he has,” Bochy said. “He knows he’s going to have to deal with these. Most important is how you handle it, at the level that he handled it. He got a day off, had two days off, so much more confident at the plate (Friday).”

Carter, who still has his rookie status, said he was nervous for his first opening day. Not necessarily more nervous than his debut last season. Just a different nervous.

“Last year was just kind of a no-expectation, go-have-fun, and now it’s like, ‘All right, you’re supposed to be part of the team and supposed to help win,’” Carter said. “I wouldn’t call it a pressure with the expectation, but it’s definitely cool to feel like I’m supposed to help. I like that feeling.”

He was feeling a little better after his first two hits, including a double.

Carter added three more in Texas' 7-2 win Saturday night to get his average to .208, including a double he thought was his first homer of 2024. It hit off the very top of the wall.

“We’re all human,” Bochy said. “He was taking his walks, still getting on base for us. But you still like to have those base hits, especially the first one to start the season.”


AP Baseball Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this story.