Did Rangers' bullpen give fans hope for promising 2024 on Opening Day?

Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs v Texas Rangers / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Rangers began the 2024 season in thrilling fashion with a 10th inning walk off to beat the Cubs on Opening Day. The Rangers got a quality outing from Nathan Eovaldi, who went six innings and allowed two runs.

Albeit a quieter offensive performance compared to what we've seen from this lineup, timely hitting from Adolis Garcia, Travis Jankowski, and Jonah Heim were enough to ultimately get the job done. Both Eovaldi and the offense got some help they weren't often used to last year: quality bullpen innings.

Josh Sborz was the first reliever to enter the game, taking over for Eovaldi. Sborz gave up two hits, but also logged two strikeouts as well as a groundout to get out of the seventh inning. Sborz's pitch arsenal looked solid in his first appearance of the 2024 season. He was sitting 96 MPH with his fastball, 85 with his curveball, and 89 with his slider. The fastball and curveball were similar to last year and it seems he added a mile per hour to his slider after sitting at 88 last year. Both his horizontal and vertical movements were similar to last year as well.

New addition Kirby Yates took over for Sborz in the bottom of the eighth inning. Yates went three up, three down to retire the side. He got one groundout, one fly out, and one strikeout. Yates was sitting 93 with his fastball and 86 with his split finger, similar to last season. Both pitches had identical horizontal and vertical break as they did in 2023. He seems to be throwing a different slider than last year, though. The pitch doesn't break nearly as much vertically as it did in 2023, but is sitting at 85 as compared to 77 last year.

Jose Leclerc followed Yates, entering in the ninth to a 2-2 game. Leclerc technically gave up an earned run, but it was on a controversial blown call that saw the Cubs score on a pitch that was foul tipped (but ruled a passed ball). That play aside, Leclerc walked two and earned one strikeout while getting the other two outs on a groundout and a flyout. Leclerc's pitch repertoire looked solid in his first appearance; his velocities as well as vertical and horizontal movement were all identical to what we saw from him in 2023.

The other main addition to the bullpen, David Robertson, came on in the 10th after Travis Jankowski's game-tying pinch hit home run in the bottom of the ninth. Robertson got a strikeout then walked a batter to put two on (including the ghost runner placed on second at the beginning of extra innings). He got a ground out next before intentionally walking Cody Bellinger to load the bases.

Then, he got Christopher Morel to fly out to end the inning after Morel nearly took him deep for a back-breaking grand slam that instead was pulled down the left field line and just out of play. Robertson had similar velocity and movement on his curveball, slider, and cutter to last season. The pitch being identified as his sinker though (which looks more like a two-seam fastball with the horizontal movement) was a whole two miles per hour faster than last season, increasing from 93 to 95.

The four relievers the Rangers will be relying on looked solid in their debuts. All of them seem already in prime form in terms of velocity and movement. Though they got into trouble at times, they did all you can ask of your relievers: limit the damage and get outs in tough situations.

If they continue to perform like they did on Opening Day, the Rangers bullpen will be significantly improved and much more reliable in the 2024 season.