Texas Rangers’ reliever Jose Leclerc to see “extended” time on IL

Jul 24, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jose Leclerc (25) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 24, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jose Leclerc (25) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Jose Leclerc’s 2021 bounceback season isn’t starting out great, as the right-hander will begin the season on the I.L. for an “extended” period of time.

Another key reliever is down for the count for the Texas Rangers to start their 2021 campaign, as Jose Leclerc is experiencing significant elbow discomfort.

The news broke this morning that Leclerc has already made his way back to Arlington to see Dr. Keith Meister.

Jose Leclerc had been struggling so far this spring over three games, pitching 3.2 innings with a  4.91 ERA, punching out three and sporting a WHIP of 2.18.

Another concern was his recent dip in velocity, but according to Chris Halicke of SI, the drop off was in line with his previous spring numbers.

For the Texas Rangers, losing Leclerc is extremely unfortunate.

After losing star right-hander Jonathan Hernandez and lefties Brett Martin and Joely Rodriguez to begin the year, Leclerc was set to assume the closer’s role.

That is arguably the team’s four best relievers on the shelf to begin the 2021 season.

In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Texas Rangers, the one true bright spot was how good their bullpen was projected to be.

Earlier this offseason, FanGraphs projected that the Texas Rangers’ bullpen would rank fourth- best in the big leagues.

Unfortunately, those projections included all four of Leclerc, Hernandez, Martin and Rodriguez.

What makes this injury even more significant is that it is his throwing elbow, as any time a pitcher feels any kind of elbow discomfort there is a reason for concern.

In Leclerc’s case, though, he has a history of arm injuries.

If you remember back to last season, he only pitched two innings before being put on the IL with a Grade 2 strain in his right shoulder, the same injury that kept Corey Kluber out of the Rangers’ rotation all of last season.

Texas Rangers
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Jose Leclerc’s injury represents another massive blow to the Texas Rangers’ bullpen

Now, there is no official diagnosis for Leclerc’s injury yet, but it’s safe to assume the worst.

The worst case scenario is that he will undergo Tommy John surgery and be out of commission for the next 18 months or so.

As for the best case scenario, Leclerc will be down for a month or two resting his arm and could begin a throwing program around mid-summer.

Fortunately for the Rangers and Jose Leclerc, the team-friendly contract he signed will keep him a part of the organization for several years.

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At the earliest, Leclerc will hit the free agent market after 2022, but two team options can keep him in Arlington until after the 2024 season.

He’s guaranteed $10.5 million over the next two seasons if the Rangers buyout his contract after 2022.

Either way, this will create another huge hole in the team’s bullpen, paving the way for a number of non-roster invitees.

Let the now expanded bullpen competition commence.

In my opinion, the leading candidates to take the two spots left open by Leclerc and Hernandez will be Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy.

Jimmy Herget could find his way back onto the roster, as well, with Hunter Wood being another potential option.

Matt Bush could come back for Texas Rangers
(Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images) /

Matt Bush seems the likeliest to take over the closer’s role, having the best spring out of the bunch.

In three appearances this spring, Bush hasn’t allowed a run and has struck out four opposing hitters over three innings.

His fastball/curveball combo have shown plenty of life and could make for another fun comeback story in the Texas Rangers’ bullpen.

Ian Kennedy coincidentally has the same stat line this spring and presents a multi-inning relief option.

Hyeon-jong Yang pitching Texas Rangers
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

Another name to watch is Hyeon-Jong Yang.

Yang has had a good spring, as well, appearing in three games and having pitched six innings, sporting a 3.00 ERA while having punched out eight batters.

He could make the roster as piggy-back starter or a long reliever.

It will be interesting to see how the Texas Rangers manage their bullpen knowing their options are dropping like flies this spring.

With their four best options beginning the season injured, some young guys and NRIs will be given a chance to earn their role on the team for an extended period of time.

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Hopefully Leclerc won’t need Tommy John surgery, but in the worst case scenario, we’ll see how well the Rangers fared at developing and keeping a steady depth of bullpen arms.