FRISCO, Texas -- It would have to be considered a surprise if Tanner Scheppers comes out of spring training as a starter in the Texas Rangers' rotation. But with Derek Holland likely out until midseason, anything is possible. And Scheppers was told, even before Holland's left knee surgery last week, to come into spring training stretched out to start.
Of course, that doesn't mean the Rangers are looking at Scheppers as a starter. But the smart move is to stretch out a gaggle of pitchers and then make decisions during spring training as to what makes the most sense. Scheppers showed last year that he can handle late-inning relief opportunities. And with Joe Nathan now in Detroit, the closer spot is an open competition.
"I'm just going to go in there in the best shape of my life and be ready for whatever," Scheppers said Saturday as part of the Rangers' winter caravan at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco. "I want to do both. I want to pitch and help this team. It's not my decision to make that call."
No, that will come from pitching coach Mike Maddux, manager Ron Washington and the Rangers' brass after spring training is in full swing. But the club has to figure out how to line up the bullpen, along with determining how the relievers line up at the end of the game. Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz both have more experience closing than Scheppers. But all three are candidates.
Scheppers earned the job as the club's primary eighth-inning setup man last year and was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA. He had a 1.07 WHIP and after a rough August, he rebounded in September to give him some momentum over the offseason.
Scheppers knows that Holland's injury means someone else must step up.
"It opens the door for someone," Scheppers said. "There's going to be an opportunity out there. There's a lot of talented guys out there. We've got Colby Lewis that we signed back. We've got Robbie Ross who went to the winter leagues and worked out. There are a lot of great candidates for that."
Nick Tepesch is another internal candidate. And the Rangers are looking externally at some depth options. They have had discussions with Jerome Williams on a short-term deal, so he could also compete for that open spot.