Scheppers training to start, wants to close

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers has been preparing this offseason to be a starter in spring training, stretching out his arm during workouts with Derek Holland and the recently traded Ian Kinsler and Craig Gentry.

But make no mistake about it, Scheppers -- last season’s setup man to departed closer Joe Nathan -- has the role in mind he’d like to fill.

“I would love to be a closer,” Scheppers said before signing autographs at a toy drive at Rangers Ballpark on Tuesday night. “That would be a dream come true.”

Scheppers started at Fresno State and has made eight starts for the Rangers in the minor leagues. But he has spent his two seasons in the big leagues as a reliever after injuring his back in spring training in 2011.

Scheppers made 76 appearances last season, including pitching in the Rangers’ final six games as their bid to make the postseason for a fourth consecutive year fell one win short. He had a 6-2 record and 1.88 ERA for the season and was one of the final five picks for the American League All-Star team.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said at last week’s winter meetings that it would be a long shot for Scheppers to make the rotation. But Daniels also was the one to reveal that Scheppers is preparing for spring training to be a starter.

It does appear that, given the choice between being a starter and being the club’s eighth-inning man this season, Scheppers’ preference is to attempt to make the rotation.

The Rangers do have two former All-Star closers in Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria who could help replace Nathan -- signed the Detroit Tigers in the offseason.

“I’m prepared for either,” Scheppers said. “I’m going to give it a shot if given the opportunity. Anything can happen. I’ve been preparing my body to throw more.”

Based on last year’s results, Scheppers would make the most sense as the 2014 closer.

“As a player you want to maximize your opportunities,” Scheppers said. “I’m still young. I’m training to start. I have some people in my corner who want me to start and some people in my corner who want me to be in the bullpen."