How Ian Desmond Could Give Josh Hamilton Playing Time

In yesterday's Cactus League tilt against the Cubs, Matt Bush stole the show. His 2 innings of scoreless relief were nothing short of spectacular -- at least as far as Spring Training results go -- and came from a player who hadn't touched a baseball in well over two years, no less.

Another thing that happened in the 5-0 Texas win was the Ian Desmond got his second start of camp in center field.

Desmond, of course, is undergoing the conversion from shortstop to left field. The Rangers have apparently decided to get a look at him in center field. With Delino DeShields exiting Tuesday with what the Rangers are calling biceps tendinitis, it's probably prudent for Texas to explore all options in case a contingency plan is needed at any point this season.

In the 1st inning, Desmond drew back toward the center field wall and made a basket catch before turning and throwing a strike to first to complete the double play. In the 3rd inning, he ran up to quickly field a single to shallow center field and threw such a beautiful strike to home plate that Munenori Kawasaki didn't even bother sliding. That's how far out he was.

These plays marked the second and third times this week that Ian Desmond has managed an outfield assist, showing that his athleticism and arm give him a versatility that allows him to play all over the field.

That's not to say that Desmond is suddenly one of the best outfielders in the game, but he has the tools to make that translate for certain. In watching him make those spectacular plays yesterday, I got to thinking: This could actually work out to get Josh Hamilton in the lineup.

Hamilton, as you may remember, is out until at least May after his balky knee began giving him issues again. Although I remain skeptical, Hamilton is reporting that he is 100 percent pain-free and ready to resume activities. Again, I'm not sure how much of that I believe, but let's take him at his word for a moment. Where does Hamilton fit back in when if he's healthy enough to play?

At this point, Prince Fielder is the designated hitter, and although he took some reps at 1B on Wednesday, it was likely only to keep him sharp in case he's called into action. Mitch Moreland is this team's 1B, and if there's any kind of shared playing time, it's going to come in the form of a lefty-righty platoon, the other half of which looks to be, at this point, Ryan Rua.

So DH is off the board. When Texas signed Ian Desmond, Jon Daniels committed to him being an everyday outfielder, even specifically saying that Desmond is the club's left fielder. Left field, of course, was Hamilton's position prior to Desmond's signing.

If you'll allow me to speculate a bit, you might remember that I talked about Delino DeShields recently, and I wondered whether he fits in anywhere after 2016 when, presumably, Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, Joey Gallo, and Jurickson Profar will be ready to contribute at the Major League level in varying capacities. For now, DeShields plays center field, but being a converted infielder himself, actually profiles more as a corner outfielder. Due to his speed, he ended up being the guy in center field in 2015 down the stretch, and he's the guy for now heading into 2016.

Stay with me here, because this is where things get a bit crazy. Let's say Josh Hamilton comes back healthy in May. He can't DH. As currently constructed, he can't play left field. Ian Desmond is all but guaranteed everyday playing time. What if, against right-handed pitching, Ian Desmond slides over to center field and Hamilton plays left field?

I'm not crazy enough to suggest that Hamilton can slide back into his center field position from his first stint as a Ranger. The knees just aren't there. But on the surface, sitting DeShields against right-handed pitching makes sense all on its own. It's just a matter of having a suitable platoon partner to pair him with.

And perhaps that platoon partner isn't necessarily another center fielder, but a left fielder. Got a right-hander pitching against you today? Slide Desmond into center, put Josh in left, and have DeShields as your late-inning pinch-runner or defensive substitution. Sure, DeShields is easily faster than Desmond, but I think we've seen enough to conclude that Desmond has the better arm. I'm not so sure you're losing much, if anything, defensively by making this move. In fact, based on what I've seen, if Desmond's outfield instincts continue to improve, he might actually be an improvement at any of the three outfield positions over the status quo.

Given the fact that we're still over a month away from this even needing to be a discussion within the Rangers organization, there's plenty of time for Ian Desmond to get acclimated on all fronts. If they find out this is a fit, then perhaps it's something that could end up coming to fruition. Because, the more I think about it, the more it just makes too much sense to me. In keeping a roster spot for Josh Hamilton, Texas will need to find creative ways to get him at-bats, and this is one way to do so without sitting down Prince Fielder or putting Josh in center field. And Ian Desmond is showing that he just might be versatile enough to make the whole thing work.

Follow Brandon Land on Twitter @one_strike_away