SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With two weeks left before Opening Day, the Texas Rangers are still sorting through a few things. As part of our spring cleaning series, we'll take a look at another one.
Spring cleaning: Middle relief
We know that Joe Nathan is the closer. And while he's struggled at times this spring, he was pleased with his efficient and productive outing Thursday and feels that the ball is coming out of his hands the way he wants it.
Assuming the starting rotation is healthy (Neftali Feliz will long toss today and has said that his tight shoulder has been feeling better), Scott Feldman will be the club's long reliever and spot starter and Alexi Ogando can become a versatile piece in the bullpen. Mike Adams also has late-inning experience and believes he's caught up after coming to spring training behind. But what about the other spots? So far, those slotted for those spots have struggled.
Koji Uehara gave up four runs Thursday, including a home run to left-handed hitting Brett Jackson. Uehara normally pitches well against left-handers but just hasn't been able to find it this spring. Part of that is the dry Arizona air doesn't help his split-fingered fastball, though his command in general has been inconsistent.
Mark Lowe gave up a home run and said after the game that he was glad he was able to grind out of the inning with no further damage done.
"That’s the worst I’ve felt all spring as far as everything working," Lowe said. "Only giving up one run with nothing working … I’ll take it. I battled and made it through."
Yoshinori Tateyama has pitched better than both Lowe and Uehara this spring and is in line to get one of those spots, though manager Ron Washington concedes that the competition is wide open.
"They've still got time," Washington said. "Nothing has been decided yet. I've seen guys that play baseball in February and March and when the bell rings in April, they disappear. I've seen guys that don't do anything in February and March and when the bell rings in April, they come to play. Those are the guys we want."
As for the left-handed relief spot, as we've discussed, no one has stepped up tremendously. Robbie Ross is probably having the best spring, though in a perfect world the Rangers would prefer Ross go to the minors and stay stretched out as a starter this season. We'll see.
Washington notes that all of these pitchers will get probably three or four more appearances this spring to help sort things out. But how the roles line up could be something that's not decided until right before the season.