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Wednesday, March 24, 2010
A quick glance at the Rangers' bullpen

By Richard Durrett


SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers are lining up the rotation to include left-hander C.J. Wilson, meaning there will be a ripple effect in the club's bullpen.

Frank Francisco is the closer. That doesn't change. But Wilson was a key eighth-inning setup man (and backup closer) for the club in 2009. So who handles the eighth-inning setup roles in 2010?

Manager Ron Washington said Darren Oliver, Neftali Feliz and Chris Ray could handle that role. He added that he wouldn't hesitate to use Darren O'Day if needed there as well.

Oliver, a lefty, can get hitters out on both sides of the plate. He's likely to be the only lefty in the bullpen and Washington thinks the club is OK with just one lefty.

"No, it's necessarily something that we have to have," Washington said. "It certainly would have looked awesome with C.J. and Darren in there, but C.J. is making that awfully tough."

O'Day has a bone bruise near the back of his elbow and has thrown just three innings in Cactus League games (and one in the "B" game). O'Day didn't seem concerned on Wednesday, saying he didn't have any structural issues and felt like he would be back throwing off a mound soon. But he was scheduled to throw off flat ground on Wednesday and it could be a few days before he's able to throw in a game.

Ray had some soreness near his shoulder blade earlier this spring, but it was checked out and everything is fine. He allowed two runs on three hits in a Double-A game today. I didn't see that game, but Ray has had some command issues this spring. Washington talked about Ray before his appearance in Wednesday's game.

"I like the way the ball is coming out of his hand," Washington said. "We would like to get him more innings. We've got time to get him the amount of innings he might think he needs before we get out of here. He's been throwing the ball free, now it's just a matter of him putting it where he wants to."

If the Rangers are confident enough to start the season with Ray and O'Day ends up healthy, that leaves one spot available in the bullpen. I say that because Dustin Nippert is one of the long relievers after his 2009 and steady spring.

The top-2 candidates: Doug Mathis and Brandon McCarthy. My bet is Mathis ends up getting that additional multiple-inning spot. McCarthy could be sent to the minors, but he would have to clear waivers. The Rangers could also explore a trade for him. We'll just have to see. That's another one of those questions the club must answer before Opening Day.

Wilson has earned the move to the rotation, but it certainly impacts the bullpen.