ATLANTA -- In the always work-in-progress Rangers bullpen, right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama is emerging as a late-inning option against right-handers.
The Rangers still need a power right-handed setup man who can get hitters on both sides of the plate effectively. But Tateyama does give manager Ron Washington someone who can get key right-handed hitters out late in games.
He proved that over the weekend in Atlanta. He came in to Friday's close game late and faced one batter, inducing a ground-ball double play off the bat of Alex Gonzalez to end the eighth and keep Texas in front, 5-2. Tateyama was back on the mound Saturday and struck out all three batters he faced, needing 20 pitches to do it. That included Brooks Conrad, who was batting left-handed. Tateyama was asked to get Gonzalez with runners and second and third and two outs in a 4-2 game on Sunday in the seventh and got him to ground out to third.
"Right now he's doing well," Washington said. "He's awfully tough on right-handed hitters. I hope to get more opportunities to use him."
The 35-year-old Tateyama has struggled against left-handed hitters this season. They are batting .269 against him with three homers and four RBIs in 26 at-bats. But righties are hitting just .166 with no homers and four RBIs. Tateyama has yet to issue a walk in 14 innings this season.
"I do feel more comfortable," Tateyama said through a translator. "I'm working on my changeup to lefties. That's the pitch I need to get over to them."
Tateyama said the pitch hasn't hit the strike zone as often as he'd like, meaning hitters can lay off it and wait on his fastball. Washington said Tateyama's backdoor breaking ball is also a key pitch to getting lefties out.
But Tateyama's deceptive delivery, ability to mix pitches and locate has helped him the past few games.
"I want to keep the ball low and keep throwing strikes," Tateyama said. "It's getting better."