SEATTLE -- It appears the Rangers have settled on exactly how to use the bullpen. Manager Ron Washington spent most of the first half trying various combinations to figure out how best to utilize his relievers. He thinks he's found the right roles. They are:
Closer: Neftali Feliz
Middle relief, situational righty: Yoshinori Tateyama (he can also pitch multiple innings, but his splits are much better against righties)
Long relief: Scott Feldman
"I think they made that possible," said Washington on why the roles are better defined now than they were earlier in the year. "The increased effectivness has allowed us to set it up this way. Everybody has started getting the job done. It all started in that extra-inning game in New York and it's continued."
Washington credits much of the slotting to Lowe, who has pitched well recently in becoming a reliable eighth-inning setup man. Since that mid-June game in New York, Lowe has a 3.12 ERA (before Thursday's game) and has gotten some critical outs late in games. His two-seamer has found the bottom part of the strike zone and his breaking pitches have improved to give hitters a different look off his 98-mph fastball.
Washington said getting that right-handed relief in order with Hunter and Lowe had a trickle-down effect, allowing the bullpen to fall into place.
One plus to Feldman in the bullpen is that he can be the long man and Hunter can worry about his new late-inning role. Washington said Hunter could work the sixth and seventh and Lowe could take the eighth inning, meaning anything before the sixth is Feldman's.