There comes a time when my friends and I are at the game and Ron Washington slowly strolls, eyes-to-the-ground, to the pitchers mound and signals to the ‘pen and my friends turn and ask me questions like, “Who the heck is Wilmer Font?” I always smile and tell them everything I know. I plan on that happening often next season, and I’m looking forward to it.
With the off-season focus stabilizing on whether or not the Rangers will make a move to land a power bat to the lineup as we prepare to head into the new year, it’s time to focus on an aspect that could be just as important: the bullpen.
As ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett said here, the team’s bullpen is going to have a very different feel to it in 2013, but who exactly will the fans see jogging to the mound from right-center field in the mid-to-late innings at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington?
First, let’s take a look at who is set in the bullpen:
- Joe Nathan will be the closer…
Now that that list is summed up we can move on to who will not be rejoining the team’s bullpen next season:
- Alexi Ogando: Don’t panic. Ogando is still on the team. He’s just moving back to the starting rotation and could fit nicely in the number three spot to break up lefties Matt Harrison and Derek Holland if the team does not land a middle-of-the-rotation starter by the beginning of the season.
- Mike Adams: Adams signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Phillies around the same time that all the Josh Hamilton hub-bub was happening, so it might have gone unnoticed by some fans. Nevertheless, he commanded too much money and the Rangers were never really interested in retaining him for that price. Man I’m going to miss his warm-up music.
- Koji Uehara: This one stings a little. Uehara provided a lot of energy for the ‘pen and pitched really well towards the end of the season. In fact, during the epic collapse, he was one of the only guys that remained dominant. He signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the Red Sox on Dec. 6. He will be missed.
- Mark Lowe: All I can say is thank goodness Lowe will not be plaguing the team any longer. I always wanted to cheer for the guy because he is from my hometown, Sugar Land, TX, but one’s blind cheers can only go for so long. I don’t know why Ron Washington kept putting him in in close games, but he never panned out on the team and it seemed like he gave up the game-winning home run too many times (World Series Game 6, anyone?) for me to continue singing his praises.
- Scott Feldman: Scooter signed with the Cubs for one-year, $6 million in late November. So he won’t be in the bullpen, or in the rotation, or in the bullpen again, or in the rotation again for the 2013 campaign.
- Joakim Soria: The Rangers signed the former Royals closer to a two-year, $8 million deal earlier this off-season, but will not get him back until May as he is still rebounding from Tommy John surgery. The team took a similar risk with Nathan last year and it panned out relatively well. When Soria becomes healthy he will become the setup man for Nathan. The eighth and ninth inning guys will provide a lot of veteran leadership that could rub off on the following plethora of young talent.
- Robbie Ross: Unless Ross injures himself or messes up somehow in spring, he will be on the roster; it’s just a matter of where. Jon Daniels said recently that the team has contemplated moving him to the rotation if they do not land another starter. He will be competing with the next two fellows for that spot. If he is selected, the Rangers would have three southpaws in their starting five.
- Martin Perez: Though he did not pan out last season, Perez is still widely-regarded as one of the top young pitchers in the game and could be a No. 5 starter for the team. If not, he will probably get a chance to start the season in the bullpen.
- Justin Grimm: Grimm got a couple of spur-of-the-moment starts last season. He filled in the rotation when Holland went down and held his own when you consider he jumped from Double-A to the Majors in a matter of days. He will get a look from the office during spring, but should be considered as an outside shot, as Ross or Perez will land it most likely. If he does not get the starting job he could add another cog in the bullpen as he also appeared in three games out of the ‘pen in 2012.
- Tanner Scheppers: Scheppers was once looked at as a major starting prospect in the farm system, but, due to injury, has evolved into a middle reliever. He had a 4.45 ERA in 39 games last season. He proved himself, and, if he improves, he will surely land a spot.
- Michael Kirkman: Kirkman has run the gauntlet in the past few seasons, going back-and-forth between the Majors and Triple-A. He was supposed to be up all year last year, but Ross stole the lefty spot during spring training and never relinquished it. When the plague hit the Rangers pitching staff, he was called up and pitched in 28 games, posting a 3.82 ERA. He stands a solid chance to begin the season in the bullpen.
- Wilmer Font: This 22-year old got a look when the rosters expanded last season and, frankly, did not make the most of his opportunities, giving up two earned runs in two innings. He has a little more of a biased chance to make the squad just because he appeared last year, but he will really need to impress at spring training to do so.
- Josh Lindblom: Though he has said all the right things since coming over in the Michael Young trade, fans will consistently think of him as Young’s replacement. Lindblom denies that he wants any part of that. For the sake of the front office, he needs to make the opening day roster and pitch really well out of the ‘pen. He has considerable major league experience, though all of it comes in the National League.
- Jeff Beliveau: Beliveau provides another left-handed option in case something happens to Ross or Kirkman (or if Ross makes the rotation). He was picked up off waivers from the Cubs on Dec. 21 and was immediately placed on the 40-man roster. He played most of last season in the minors, but posted a 4.85 ERA in 17.2 innings in the Majors in 2012.
- Cory Burns: The Rangers traded the Padres for Burns in late November to add depth to their bullpen options. He provides just that and has another outside chance of making the 25-man roster. He appeared in 18 innings with the Padres last season, posting a 5.50 ERA in those innings.
- Tommy Hottovy: Hottovy is another left-handed bullpen candidate acquired through waivers this off-season. He came from the Royals, where he posted a 2.89 ERA in only 9.1 innings last season. He as a decent chance at popping up in the bullpen this season, but it is fairly unlikely that the team will take him above the other lefties in line ahead of him (However, him and Beliveau stand about the same chance at making the team at this point).
- Yoshinori Tateyama: The Japanese right-hander has been up and down over the past two seasons with the Rangers and was signed to a minor league contract earlier this month. He was used primarily to mop up other pitchers messes this season and did not do so well in that role. Yoshi did much better as a middle reliever in 2011 and has a lot of upside if he can limit the long ball. I would argue that, though he is the only player I included that is not on the 40-man roster, he has a considerable chance to make the major leagues out of spring training if he pitches well.