The Texas Rangers have posted their lineup for today's exhibition game against the Angels, and it includes Ian Desmond playing center field. Desmond played center field a few days ago, and earned praise from Jeff Banister for his performance there, with Banister saying that he'd consider Desmond as an option during the regular season if Delino DeShields needs a day off.
You would think that the Rangers would be maximizing Desmond's reps in left field this spring, since he's learning the position after being a shortstop most of his career, but this appears to be in part in preparation for going with a three man bench to open the season.
While most American League teams use a four man bench, the Rangers have indicated they might start the season with a three man bench. In order for them to do that, they're going to need some added versatility from the players on the roster. If Texas feels that Desmond can handle center field adequately enough that a true backup center fielder isn't necessary early on, then they aren't forced to carry Drew Stubbs or James Jones to fill that role.
Alternatively, since Desmond has spent most of his career as a shortstop, if the Rangers decide they don't want to devote a roster spot to a utility infielder who can play shortstop, Desmond would give them some added flexibility there, allowing Texas to, for example, carry Ryan Rua, who has played all the infield positions except for first base, as well as left field.
If the Rangers feel Desmond can give them adequate cover at either center field or shortstop, it would allow them to make their three man bench consist of a backup catcher, either Ryan Rua or Justin Ruggiano, and one player from the group of Stubbs, Jones, Hanser Alberto and Pedro Ciriaco.
I doubt the Rangers will use a three man bench for long...however, without many off days early in the season (the Rangers play 14 days in a row to start the season, 23 games in their first 24 days, and 36 games in their first 38 days), Texas appears to want an extra bullpen arm to help ease the workloads of their key pen arms. Keone Kela, Shawn Tolleson and Sam Dyson, in particular, were worked hard last year, and are going to be counted on to carry heavy loads this year...I suspect that the Rangers see keeping an extra arm to soak up innings as a long man or in garbage time as having value early on.
If things go to plan, the Rangers might be going to a four man bench at the time Josh Hamilton is ready to return. T.R. Sullivan says Hamilton has "turned a corner" and that a May 1 return for Hamilton may be realistic. If Hamilton gets back in early May, he could provide the Rangers with a fourth outfielder. If the Rangers have Stubbs or Jones in place, it would make sense to have Rua on the roster as a backup for the infield spots and a platoon partner for Mitch Moreland at first base. If Ciriaco or Alberto stick, then Ruggiano might have the edge over Rua, especially if he can handle first base well enough to be an option there against lefties.
But either way, the Rangers may be looking to prepare themselves for a short bench until Hamilton returns.