Unheralded Rangers' X-factor states case again in long relief of Max Scherzer

Kansas City Royals v Texas Rangers
Kansas City Royals v Texas Rangers / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages

Sunday proved to be a big day in the midst of rocky season for the Rangers. Not only did it include a win and a Mariners loss, but it marked the return of prized starting pitcher Max Scherzer.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner showed out in his first start of 2024, retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced and striking out four. It was a huge boost for a Rangers team trying to make up a lot of ground in the playoff race.

While Scherzer shined in his season season debut, the attention immediately turned to fellow right-handed pitcher Jose Ureña. The 32-year-old veteran picked up his fifth career save following four innings of reliever, allowing just two baserunners, one of which was erased by a double play. This only adds on to his remarkable season, during which he boasts a 2.92 ERA next to a 1.12 WHIP — just remarkable for a pitcher with a career 4.75 ERA.

On January 16, the Rangers announced that they had inked Ureña to a minor-league contract with a non-roster invite to Spring Training. He only pitched in four games during the spring, logging 16 innings and allowing four earned runs. Nothing crazy, but not too shabby either. It was still a surprise when it was revealed he wouldn't make the Opening Day roster.

Rightfully so, there were a lot of question marks surrounding Ureña, who has been a below average pitcher for the majority of his career. He was most definitely a candidate to get released or DFA'd early on in the season any time the Rangers would make a move. He allowed five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings on April 13 against Houston, and I think if you told him after that he'd still be on the roster come mid-June, he would be shocked.

All Ureña has done since then is prove the Rangers made the right decision keeping him. He's been one of the few consistent arms in a struggling bullpen and even grabbed a few starts in the absence of Jon Gray and Nathan Eovaldi earlier in the year. He has been a Swiss army knife for a Rangers team that wouldn't be where they are without him.