By Nate Miller
In Major League Baseball, the bullpen is quite often the lifeblood of a team. Today, more than ever, relief pitchers are pitching more than their starter counterparts. It takes a certain type of person to pitch out of a bullpen. They may not be the best pitchers, but if they can get outs, managers and front-office executives will find a place for them.
It’s not always easy carrying the rest of your team to the final out, but someone has to do it. Also, just like everyone else on their team, the bullpen goes through many ups and downs through the course of a 162-game MLB season. One such bullpen that is battling somewhat of a stormy 2021 campaign is that of the Texas Rangers. Here is a look at how they’re holding up so far this year.
From the very first week of spring training, it was clear that it would be a very long season for the Texas Rangers’ relievers. Two of their best arms went down right away. Both of them were candidates in the competition for the role of closer. Right-hander Jose Leclerc felt soreness in his right arm on March 13th, just days after pitching in a spring game against the Cincinnati Reds. A few days later, a joint decision was made by both Leclerc and the Rangers that he should undergo Tommy John surgery to repair damage in his right elbow. He will be out until the start of the 2022 season at the very least. He could be out longer if he has a setback in his recovery.
Another closer hopeful, right-hander Jonathan Hernandez, went down with the exact same injury as Leclerc. If that wasn’t strange enough, it happened at about the same time as well. He also made the decision to have Tommy John surgery to fix his pitching arm. When this happened, fellow right-handers Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy were put into a tandem situation to fill the closer’s spot. That did not last long, as Bush went down with a flexor tendon strain in his right arm in early April and is currently on the 60-day injured list. It isn’t even the middle of June yet, and the Rangers already have a season’s worth of problems. Hopefully, things will get better in July.
One bright spot this year for the Texas Rangers has been left-hander John King. So far, he has been the most consistent reliever on the Rangers’ roster. In 22 games this season, King has a record of 5-4, and a 2.25 earned run average in 32 innings pitched. His WHIP stands at 1.25 and he has given up seven walks while striking out 27 batters. He hasn’t always received a lot of run support, which is why he currently has four losses to his name. But he has shown vast improvement over his 2020 season in which he had a 6.10 ERA in six appearances. You can’t really hold that against him, however, as last season didn’t have the most ideal circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a little unfair to put too much blame on anyone in that situation. All things considered, the future looks bright for John King if he can stay healthy.
Lots Of Lefties
Having more than one lefty in your bullpen is quite the luxury these days, and the Texas Rangers have several left-handed pitchers at their disposal in 2021. Let’s start with 26-year old Taylor Hearn. He’s one of the taller relievers that you’ll see, standing at six feet, six inches, and weighing in at 230 pounds. So far this year, he is 2-1 with an inflated 4.99 ERA. He has walked 18 and struck out 36 batters in 30.2 innings pitched. The Rangers will need him to settle down if they plan on keeping him around for the duration of the season.
One of the other lefty arms is Brett Martin. The 26-year old reliever has a record of 1-2 in 2021. He has a respectable ERA of 3.13 in 23 innings pitched and has walked six and struck out 19.
The third lefty that the Rangers feature is 29-year old Joely Rodriguez. It hasn’t been the strongest start for Rodriguez, by any means. In 18 games, he has a sky-high ERA of 7.71 and he has struck out 20 batters in 16.1 innings of work. It could be any number of things that aren’t going right for Rodriguez. It could be his mechanics. It could be an anxiety issue as well. Whatever it is, hopefully both the Rangers’ coaching staff and the training staff will be able to pinpoint the problem so that he can pitch more effectively. We’ll see what happens.
One of the more recent call-ups for the Rangers is 33-year old right-hander Spencer Patton. It is uncertain how long Patton will be up with the big-league club as he is taking the place of the injured Ian Kennedy, who is recovering from a left hamstring strain. He hasn’t pitched much since that happened. In fact, he has only thrown one inning of work against the San Francisco Giants since his call-up.
Last but not least, you have right-handers Brett de Gus, Demarcus Evans, and Josh Sborz. All of them have decent arms, but de Gus has the highest ERA at 8.08 in 22.1 innings this year. The opposite can be said for Demarcus Evans, who has a very good ERA of 2.38 with 14 strikeouts in 11.1 innings of work. Finally, we have Josh Sborz. Sborz is 3-2 this season with an ERA of 4.38 and 32 strikeouts in 24.2 innings of work. The aforementioned three arms have a long way to go, but they are capable of getting to where the Rangers would like them to be.
All in all, the Rangers bullpen has been hit and miss this season, and they have kept fans on their toes. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the 2021 campaign unfolds.
Nate Miller is from Arlington, TX, and is a huge Rangers fan. He has an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Radio Broadcasting from Brown College in Mendota Heights, MN, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Marketing & Media from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. You can find him on Twitter @BasementShow34.