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Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Who steps up in the eighth inning?

By Richard Durrett


Now that the Rangers have answered the questions regarding which pitchers are on the 25-man roster, we can dig into what it all means. Pedro Strop, Mark Lowe and Mason Tobin (and what a great story Tobin is being a Rule 5 pickup who hasn't pitched in two years because of injury and has never even pitched above Class A making the defending AL champions) are the last bullpen pieces to make the team.

We also know that Alexi Ogando is in the rotation. But by taking Ogando out of the bullpen, it leaves a big void in that eighth inning. The Rangers are confident in the guy who's ready to get the final three outs. But they have to bridge the gap in the late innings to get the game to Neftali Feliz. Who steps up in the eighth inning?

The two leading candidates are Lowe and Strop. Lowe did not pitch well in spring training and in an effort to find a pitch that was slow enough to keep hitters off-balance, he's just started learning a curveball the last two weeks. He's got a 97 mph heater, but hitters weren't having too much trouble with it this spring. Maybe the change-of-pace curve will help. Strop is an unknown quantity. He's pitched great in the minors, but in limited action in 2010 in the majors didn't pitch all that well.

By trading Matt Treanor, which cleared room for an eighth reliever, the club can do some experimenting there. They can try both guys and see if one steps up. If not, manager Ron Washington still can turn to Darren O'Day and lefties Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes. But the club would prefer a hard-throwing right-hander down there. That means they need Strop or Lowe to grab the ball and seize that spot.

How do you think it will shake out? My opinion: I'd go with Strop to start the season. And I think he'll show he can handle it.