It has been exciting to watch the Texas Rangers play these last couple of weeks. The offense is surging, and the bullpen has been rock solid. Lefty Alex Claudio has adapted to the closer role, but can he take it over full-time in 2018?
Manager Jeff Banister said the Texas Rangers were going closer by committee after hard-throwing Matt Bush was stripped of the ninth inning role. Since then lefty Alex Claudio has seen a majority of the save opportunities.
The Rangers have gone through two closers this season, but have they finally found their missing piece? This season Claudio is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 54 games with six saves in eight attempts. Claudio has just 13 walks this season which is the lowest among any Rangers pitcher that has appeared in at least 20 games.
The fact that Claudio doesn’t walk himself into trouble has helped him immensely. Opponents are hitting just .232 off Claudio this season. Has he done enough to earn himself the full-time role next season?
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It’s clear that Claudio has the ability to be the ninth inning guy, but he’s also the Rangers best lefty reliever. Having lefty Jake Diekman next season could help Claudio’s chances of keeping the closer role long-term.
Right now the Rangers only have one reliever and that’s Claudio. The team is hopeful that Diekman can return sometime this season. That should increase the chances of Claudio keeping the closer role, but we’ll see how the rest of the season plays out.
Another pitcher that should have his named mentioned is reliever Keone Kela. This season Kela is 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 34 games with 46 strikeouts. Batters are hitting just .128 off Kela this season which is by far the best on the Rangers.
It’s hard to not give Kela a look at closer when he’s putting up stats like that. He hasn’t seen much time in the ninth inning role, but is a dominant reliever. Kela has been on the disabled list for much of August, but will hopefully return soon.
At the end of the day the Rangers have options for closer in 2018. If Claudio continues to succeed it’s hard to see Texas pulling him out of the role. Claudio has earned the closer role for 2018, but the Rangers still need to add legitimate experienced relievers in the off-season.