The tale of the Texas Rangers woes have shifted slightly from offensive inefficiency to bullpen instability. Where can Texas turn for relief help?
The Oakland series has come and gone and was yet another painful reminder of where the Texas Rangers bullpen stands and where its issues lie. After regular strong outings by a Rangers’ starter, the bullpen stumbles when trying to slam the door shut and the instability has led to multiple late-inning losses. Now sitting at 3-8, the Rangers are in need of relief solutions but where can they turn to bolster their late-inning outings?
Big Leaguers on the Mend
It is worth noting that the Texas Rangers bullpen is not at full strength and the first sense of cavalry arriving will come in the form of Joely Rodriguez and Rafael Montero returning from injury. Rodriguez, a left-hander who signed with the Rangers this past offseason after a Major League hiatus saw him spend a couple of seasons in Japan. Rodriguez missed the start of the season and returned for the first time on Thursday against Oakland. Hopes were high for Rodriguez’s acquisition and he was expected to play a somewhat significant role in the bullpen.
One of the other current big league relievers that Texas has been without is Rafael Montero. The 29-year old righty was a breakout star for the Rangers last season. His first year with Texas was stunning making 22 relief appearances and posted a 2.48 ERA. His 0.966 WHIP showed his impressive ability to limit baserunners and a he posted an impressive 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Montero is set to return on Friday night which will be a much welcomed addition to the relief staff.
Potential Prospects Options
External candidates may be hard to come by with the format of the current season. Potential free agents have been without game action for so long, the question on whether they would even be up to speed in time to contribute meaningfully has to be asked. And the trade market is a mystery at this point with the expanded playoffs and shortened season, whether teams would part with worthwhile relievers remains to be seen. Plus Texas isn’t really in a ‘buyer’ position with a 3-8 record.
So with that, internal options are the next in line for the club. The prospect who would likely be the first to get a look in the big leagues is hard-throwing righty, Demarcus Evans. The Mississippi-native broke out in 2018 making 35 appearances in relief to the tune of a 1.77 ERA. He had a stellar strikeout rate setting down 103 in 56 innings. He followed up that campaign with stunning work in 2019 splitting time between High-A Down East and Double-A Frisco. At both levels his ERA was under 1.00 and his time with Frisco helped solidify confidence in his ability. He appeared in 30 games and struck out 60 with a 0.96 ERA. He is on the 40-man roster so if the Rangers decide to bring up reinforcements, he might be the first choice.
The name many fans will want to see join the team is Alex Speas. The flame-throwing righty has had to battle through his fair share of injury struggles in his first couple of seasons in pro baseball but has been the hottest prospect in the system since returning from Tommy John surgery. It’s been well-documented that during his initial return from the surgery Speas was throwing so well that the Rangers shut him back down as a precaution. Regularly pumping fastballs around triple digits, Speas joins a lengthy list of hard-throwing relievers the Rangers have produced in recent years. The problem for Speas is, he isn’t currently on the 40-man roster. So if the Rangers want to bring him up, a corresponding move has to be made.
The Rangers have a number of other prospects who could be options if the club needs relief help. Currently on the 40-man roster are Kyle Cody, Tyler Phillips and Taylor Hearn could all see time in Arlington this season as part of a bullpen. Hearn, the lone lefty, could benefit from working as a long reliever as well.
Montero’s arrival will be welcomed as was Rodriguez’s but if Texas needs more help, they don’t hav the luxury of waiting around to see how things play out.