Bullpen problems add to recurring theme


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers continue to be dealt a wave of problems on a weekly – and sometimes daily, it seems – occurrence.

It seems as if I have to start each article I write like this, and it’s not as if I’m writing about the same thing each time. Nope – the hits just keep on coming in more ways than just one.

It’s not just injuries that have destroyed the roster beyond repair, but it’s also ineffectiveness of guys everyone expected to be effective this year.

But, whether it has been injuries or ineffectiveness, what has been left is a bullpen ERA of 4.51, ranking them 13th in the American League.

The Rangers’ bullpen has also surrendered the most hits in the league, and opponents are hitting better against their bullpen than anyone else’s, at a .269 clip.

I don’t know about all of you, but I certainly had some expectations for Neftali Feliz this year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t even made it back out of Triple-A.

I was not expecting him to come back from Tommy John surgery and be the 100 MPH fire-balling phenom we saw in his first two full seasons, but I expected something other than what we have seen so far.

The same can be said for Alexi Ogando, who had been such a valuable presence on the Rangers pitching staff over the last three years.

I may have used this phrase a little too much when referring to Ogando this year, but he was a shadow of his former self before being shut down with elbow problems. His likely return won’t be until the end of July.

With his ineffectiveness, it makes you wonder how long he was dealing with the inflammation and soreness in his elbow. Regardless, he was another pitcher that was expected to be an important piece to the pitching staff in some way, shape or form.

Add Tanner Scheppers to that list, as well.

Scheppers was an integral part of the bullpen last season, posting a very impressive ERA of 1.88 in 76 appearances and 76 2/3 innings of relief. But, after being asked to start on Opening Day, Scheppers has been incredibly ineffective and has been shelved on the disabled list twice.

Then there is the case of Robbie Ross Jr.

Ross was also asked to hop into the starting rotation this year due to the numerous other injuries to projected starting pitchers and he, too, struggled in that role. Ross started nine games before being shifted back to the bullpen.

After being moved to the ‘pen, Ross struggled in his nine relief appearances and was subsequently sent down to Triple-A Round Rock earlier this week to work on his mechanics.

All of that has forced the Rangers to depend on guys like Aaron Poreda, Ben Rowen and Shawn Tolleson of late. Neal Cotts had a very slow start to the season, but it looks like he may be rounding back into 2013 form.

The two bright spots so far have been Joakim Soria and Jason Frasor.

Overall, the revolving door on the roster has involved just about every single piece, and that includes the bullpen.

Whether it be ineffectiveness, or injures, or both, the bullpen has struggled to find itself this year.

One common theme amongst those four guys – Feliz, Ogando, Scheppers and Ross – is the front office’s attempt to convert all of them to starters.

Feliz ended up having to undergo Tommy John surgery after he was converted to starter in 2012.

Ogando has been flexed back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen multiple times, and it looks like the constant role flux may have finally gotten to him, physically.

Scheppers and Ross were both making their first attempts at starting in the rotation this year, and it looks to have either, A) put too much stress on their arms and/or mechanics or, B) put too much stress on them mentally, which in turn caused other problems.

These are all theories at this point. Theories I’m sure some of you will agree with, disagree with or add to, which is not surprising considering the many question marks that continue to pop up throughout the season.

There are very, very few answers to go with all those questions.

In my mind, the most interesting aspect to the remainder of the season will be seeing how these guys – and others who are expected to return from the DL at some point this year – are able to respond when, or even if, they are able to get healthy.