Tanner Scheppers’ role upon return


Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In what has been an array of injuries which has completely thrashed the Texas Rangers’ roster and left it in shambles, it has become very difficult for upper management to plan on anything.

But the season must go on and decisions must be made regarding the present and the future of the franchise.

The Rangers are going to have to make a decision pretty soon on what role hard-throwing right-hander Tanner Scheppers is going to fill when he is able to return from the disabled list.

Scheppers, 27, was the team’s Opening Day starter in 2014, but that ship may have sailed – at least for this season. Scheppers was only able to last a total of 18 1/3 innings in four starts before being shelved on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.

Not only was he unable to pitch deep into the game, but he gave up an alarming 27 hits, walked eight and surrendered four home runs while only striking out 13 batters. He will come off the DL sporting an earned run average of 9.82.

Not good at all.

But the Rangers simply cannot ensure he will head to the bullpen when he returns, so they currently plan to have him stretch out to be a starter in the minors when he is able to head down to AAA Round Rock on rehab assignment.

You can look no further than the situation with Joe Saunders a couple weeks ago.

Saunders, 32, was told by management to prepare to come out of the bullpen when he went on rehab assignment, but season-ending injuries to Matt Harrison and Martin Perez changed those plans in a hurry.

Saunders was able to get stretched out in his few rehab assignments, and he will make his return to the rotation on Wednesday in place of Scott Baker.

Regarding Baker, the Rangers still have not made a decision regarding his role. They may be waiting to see how rookie Nick Martinez performs in his fourth career start today in Detroit before making a call.

Regardless, there doesn’t appear to be room in the bullpen for a middle or long reliever, so the Rangers may end up outrighting him back to Round Rock, where he will again have the option to decline and become a free agent.

But the Rangers don’t have to feel as limited with Scheppers as they are with Baker because he is so versatile. For the moment, however, the spot he might be most valuable for the team – at this point – is the setup role.

The more glaring question is what the Rangers need to do about current setup man Alexi Ogando.

Ogando has been a shadow of his former self, posting an abysmal 6.65 ERA in 24 appearances while allowing 29 hits and walking 12 in just 21 2/3 innings of work. Scheppers could slide into that role, a role he was highly successful in last season.

That all depends on the health of the rotation by the time Scheppers is ready, however. As we have seen so far, there’s absolutely no telling what the team will look like when that time arrives.