Sunday, July 7, 2013
Rangers relief corps gets shot in the arm
By Randy Jennings
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Five Texas Rangers relievers pitched a shutout inning in a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros Sunday at Rangers Ballpark.
But for Cory Burns and Joakim Soria, a pair of right-handers added to the 25-man roster on Sunday, the three outs they contributed meant a little more. Burns was summoned from Triple-A Round Rock on short notice.
Cory Burns started Sunday in the minors and ended it with his first major league win.
“It was pretty much a routine day, except with a two-and-a-half-hour commute,’’ said Burns, who had a five-day stint with the big club in May.
For Soria, a former closer for the Kansas City Royals, getting back to a major league mound has been a 22-month ordeal. He last pitched in a major league game on Sept. 11, 2011. So his 1-2-3 sixth inning on Sunday was the culmination of months of rehabilitation.
“It was a great feeling,’’ the 29-year-old said. “It was emotional, knowing family and friends were behind me. I’ve been feeling really good. I’ve never been a power pitcher, so 92 mph with the fastball is pretty much what I throw.’’
Manager Ron Washington gave Soria a high-five when the pitcher returned to the dugout after finishing off the sixth.
“To rehab as long as he did, to stay on target as he did, it had to be a special moment to get back on a major league mound,’’ Washington said. “I’ve seen him like that before.’’
The manager said Soria drove home this message: Don’t baby me.
Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski said he was struck by how comfortable Soria seemed to be. Not what he would expect from a pitcher going so long between major league appearances.
Soria said he was comfortable because he has been working well in rehab starts and in bullpen sessions.
Pierzynski, who staked the Rangers to a 3-0 lead with a three-run homer in the first, said Soria threw all fastballs and they had “good life’’ on them.
“I told him congratulations and welcome back,’’ Pierzynski said. “He’s been an All-Star closer. He’s gotten me out a lot more times than I have gotten hits off him.’’
Burns, credited with his first win, came into a tense situation in the fifth. Houston had scored an unearned run to tie it at 4-4, and had runners at first and third with no outs. Burns managed to get out of trouble on a popup and a strikeout-caught stealing double play.
“It was a tight situation, but that’s what we are trained for,’’ Burns said. “My job is to minimize the damage as much as I can. Getting my first win is great, but it is more important that it is a Texas win.’’
The splash made by the two relievers comes at an opportune time. Left-hander Robbie Ross and right-hander Tanner Scheppers have had a heavy workload in the first half of the season. Both struggled on the homestand.
Washington said with more arms, that could mean more relief stints of just one inning going forward.