Texas Rangers: Joe Beimel
Spring cleaning: Left-handed bullpen piece
One of the key questions when camp began: Who will step up and be the left-handed bullpen piece for the Rangers? Of course, Texas doesn't have to have a left-handed reliever. The Rangers do have some right-handed pitchers who have a solid track record of getting left-handed hitters out, but they would prefer a lefty to have for those key hitters in critical situations. That's the role Mike Gonzalez had at the end of last year.
A handful of internal candidates are in camp. Let's take a look:
Joe Beimel: He dealt with some elbow tightness earlier in camp, but has made four appearances (four innings) and given up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts. He has had decent success against left-handed hitters.
Neal Cotts: Started in minor league camp and then switched over to the big league side after throwing well early in spring. But he's got a 7.11 ERA in 6 1/3 innings in Cactus League games.
Miguel De Los Santos: He finished last season in Double-A Frisco and is still working on his craft in the minors. He has allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings in Cactus League games this spring and was optioned to Frisco on Monday.
Michael Kirkman: Was forced to pitch two innings Tuesday (instead of one) because of Neftali Feliz's shoulder stiffness that limited him to three innings instead of four. Kirkman has been inconsistent in Cactus League games but has pitched better of late. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Cubs on Tuesday and has allowed just one run and two hits in his last four innings.
Martin Perez: He was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock on Monday but impressed scouts this camp. He remains one of the club's top pitching prospects and could certainly help this team at some point this season.
Robbie Ross: Perhaps the big surprise of camp. He has not been optioned back to the minors because he's pitching so well. With the race wide open, Ross will continue to get consideration. He's starting against the Angels on Sunday in Tempe with Yu Darvish pitching in a minor league game in Surprise. Ross has pitched four scoreless Cactus League innings with six strikeouts and no walks.
Ben Snyder: Was in Double-A Frisco the whole 2011 season and is quietly performing well out here. He hasn't allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings and has no walks with three strikeouts. He doesn't have the stuff of Ross, but he's getting left-handed hitters out and working hard.
Mitch Stetter: Came in after pitching for the Brewers last season. The sidearmer has allowed two runs on four hits with four walks and two strikeouts in four appearances (3 1/3 innings).
So how does it shake out? We still don't know. But at this point, the most intriguing pitcher is Ross. He split last season between High Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco and was a combined 10-5 with a 2.34 ERA and 134 strikeouts to 33 walks in 27 games (26 starts). He was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year. He was a second-round pick in the 2008 draft by the Rangers and he's shown an ability to command his pitches, throw strikes and avoid walks.
Part of the decision on Ross (if he is the best candidate by the end of spring) is whether the club wants to carry him as a left-handed reliever on the big league club as opposed to keeping him as a starter in the minors. The thinking remains that he can be a starter long-term. But we've seen in the past with this club that current starters begin their major league careers in the bullpen.
Ross' slider and cutter sure are looking good this spring and so far hitters (he's faced a mix of regulars and minor leaguers) haven't been able to get the barrel on the ball well against him.
So we'll see. There's still time for Kirkman and others to step up. But give Ross some credit: He isn't making the decision easy.
He walked three, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch during his outing. Darvish also struck out three.
You can read more about Darvish's start here.
Nathan allows three runs: Joe Nathan had another rough inning of work Monday. He allowed three runs on three hits in the sixth.
Outfielder Norichika Aoki hit a two-RBI triple with one out. Third baseman Cesar Izturis followed with a sacrifice bunt, which scored Aoki. Izturis somehow executed the bunt despite a pitch high in the zone from Nathan.
He started the inning allowing consecutive singles on 0-2 counts. Of his 23 pitches in the inning, 16 were strikes.
It's Nathan's second straight Cactus League appearance in which he has allowed three runs. Despite the runs, Nathan felt he had a solid outing.
Beimel returns: Joe Beimel made his first appearance on the mound since March 13 in the seventh inning. Beimel went through the order on 12 pitches without allowing a hit. He also picked up a strikeout in his outing.
Beimel was feeling under the weather before Thursday's game against the Oakland Athletics and hasn't pitched in a game since.
Andrus swinging: Elvis Andrus went 3-for-4 Monday. He started the game with a bunt single. He also singled in the second and sixth.
Andrus reached on base in the fourth on a fielder's choice. He was thrown out attempting to steal second two batters later.
Kinsler 2-for-4: Ian Kinsler went 2-for-4 with a strikeout. He led the game off with a double, which set up a two-run first inning for the Rangers. Kinsler singled in the fourth inning.
Young collects two hits: Michael Young had a solid day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with singles in the first and fifth.
Scheppers exits: Pitcher Tanner Scheppers went just 2/3 of an inning in relief of Darvish. He gave up a single and two walks. He had a chance to get out of the inning on a ground ball by Nyjer Morgan, but Kinsler couldn't turn it into a double play. Morgan was out at first, advancing Aoki and Rickie Weeks.
Following a walk to Ryan Braun, manager Ron Washington took Scheppers out of the game.
Gentry suffered the mild wrist sprain in the third inning Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians. He dived for a fly ball in center field and landed awkwardly on his wrist. There was no break revealed in his wrist following a fluoroscan.
Gentry will miss his fourth game Saturday due to the injury.
* Joe Beimel will throw during live batting practice Saturday. He was sick Thursday but returned to camp the next day.
*Greg Miclat is in the lineup Saturday at shortstop. He was absent due to symptoms consistent to a migraine Friday.
*Pitcher Justin Miller is scheduled to throw Sunday. He was out Friday with mild back stiffness.
Napoli felt mild tightness in his left groin Saturday and slowly worked his way back into the lineup.
"I had a little flare up," Napoli said. "It was sore but it’s spring training. They were being easy on it because I don’t need to be ready right now."
He worked on catching drills for the first time Thursday. Napoli said he tried to make an adjustment in his stance during the session. He tried to keep his feet straighter rather than tilting them toward his insoles.
"I get in a weird stance," Napoli said. "My legs get real low and my knees go together and it puts pressure on the groin."
Napoli said he's not sure how much of an impact the change will make but the injury is not a big deal.
*Pitcher Joe Beimel was sick for Thursday's game against the Oakland Athletics. He's feeling better Friday. Although he's back in camp, assistant general manager Thad Levine said he likely won't pitch until Saturday.
*Catcher Dusty Brown felt good throwing to the bases Thursday. He will travel with the team to Las Vegas this weekend for a two-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
*Greg Miclat is not at camp Friday due to symptoms consistent to that of a migraine.
*Pitcher Justin Miller will not pitch in Friday's game due to mild back stiffness.
Darvish talked to a few teammates and went about preparing for workouts in Surprise this morning. He'll then head over to Peoria with his teammates for the 20-minute drive down Bell Road. Darvish is slated to pitch two innings or around 35 pitches and the Rangers are expecting 150 media members, including a bunch of photographers, to watch his every move.
Full coverage of Darvish's start is right here on ESPN Dallas. We will be live streaming his start on the site, Eric Nadel and Steve Busby will carry the first two innings of the game live on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and we will also live chat during Darvish's start, where you can ask questions and give us your feedback on the Japanese pitching star. We'll open that chat room around 1:45 p.m. here on the blog, so join us.
Ben Snyder joked that he wasn't sure how many of those cameras would still be around when he pitches in the fourth or fifth inning today.
"I don't think they're here to see me," Snyder said.
* LHP Joe Beimel feels good and says he's looking forward to his first Cactus League appearance Thursday. Beimel hasn't had any more elbow stiffness issues and threw an inning against hitters on Monday and came out of it pleased.
* LHP Michael Kirkman is slated to throw two innings Thursday following Neftali Feliz's start and is looking forward to getting back out on the mound. Kirkman pitched better than his line indicated the other day, but he also knows he could have performed better against right-handed hitters.
"Some of those flares could have been ground ball outs," Kirkman said. "I need to keep the ball down just a little. I was throwing strikes, but kept some balls up. That's my goal tomorrow is to get the ball down and make quality pitches."
That included left-handed pitcher Joe Beimel, who had been dealing with elbow stiffness last week. Beimel had one strikeout in 15 pitches (11 strikes) in his lone inning of work. Here are some other results from today's three-inning game:
Martin Perez: 2 IP, 2 H (24 pitches, 15 strikes)
Neil Ramirez: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R/ER, 1 BB, 1 K (28 pitches, 16 strikes)
Wilmer Font: 1 IP (15 pitches, 9 strikes)
The hitters in the game were:
He'll run again today, along with the grounders and batting practice.
"I should be able to play in games in the next day or two," Hawpe said. "I'm ready to get back out there."
Other injury notes:
* Catcher Yorvit Torrealba (illness) is fine and he's starting at catcher in today's game against the Royals.
* LHP Joe Beimel (elbow stiffness) is scheduled to throw a simulated game today and is feeling fine. He's been throwing and going through his normal routine the past few days.
Beimel said he threw about 40 pitches Thursday and didn't feel any elbow stiffness.
"I just wanted to be sure, so I took a day or two to watch it," Beimel said. "But I'm good. I'm ready to get out there and face hitters and I had been throwing a lot, so it won't take long to get right back to where I was."
Beimel is competing for a left-handed bullpen spot. Left elbow inflammation hurt his 2011 season with Pittsburgh. He appeared in 35 games (25 1/3 innings) and had a 5.33 ERA. Lefties hit well against him last year, but in 2010, left-handed hitters batted just .221 against him.
* Catcher Yorvit Torrealba has returned to the clubhouse after missing the past two days with illness. He said he was coughing, had nasal congestion and was zapped of energy.
"I was dragging a lot," Torrealba said. "But I feel a lot better."
The catcher will participate in light activities today and should be ready for full workouts Sunday.
* C Mike Napoli was the DH in Friday's intrasquad game but just as a precaution to give the left ankle a break. He says he feels good and has had no issues, but the ankle will be tightly taped all year to give him some extra support.
* 1B/OF Brad Hawpe (right hamstring soreness) will hit in the batting cages and do light throwing on the field.
* LHP Kelvin De La Cruz (forearm soreness) threw an inning in the intrasquad game Friday and is back on schedule.
1. Derek Holland isn't just focused on his pitching mechanics this spring. He wants to improve defensively and is working with the manager to do that.
2. A union meeting is what caused the day to go a little longer than normal. Union chief Michael Weiner talked about the Ryan Braun case and also discussed Josh Hamilton with the media. The Rangers did not elect a new union rep, opting to wait a few months before doing so.
3. Koji Uehara is relaxed and working on a slider this spring. Manager Ron Washington was impressed by him, saying he was standing behind and saw exactly how much Uehara's splitter moves. "No wonder guys can't hit it," Washington said.
4. Left-handed pitching prospect Robbie Ross is thrilled to be at his first big league camp. He's throwing a curve now, wanting to add something that is slower to his repertoire.
5. LHP Joe Beimel is not worried about his elbow stiffness and hopes to be back on the mound Wednesday.
6. Washington is pleased with Neftali Feliz's attitude so far this spring.
"I'm not worried about it," Beimel said. "It was just a little stiff, but it feels better."
Beimel was on the disabled list last year with elbow inflammation, but said this feels much different from that. He said he was throwing a medicine ball as part of his workout and stretched out to catch it and felt some soreness.
"I'm just going to do some exercises today with it and be sure everything is fine," Beimel said. "I hope I can throw tomorrow."
Beimel is a candidate for the left-handed spot in the bullpen and wants to get back out on the mound as soon as he can to continue his work before games begin.
Other injury notes:
* SS Elvis Andrus (Plantar's wart on left heel) said he feels better today, but will still not do any running drills. He's going to hit in the cages and take grounders.
* RHP Mike Adams (hernia) will throw to hitters again on Wendesday and is expected to pitch in Friday's intrasquad game.
1. Yu Darvish's first Cactus League start is Wednesday, March 7, in Peoria against San Diego. Darvish threw 36 pitches to a couple of minor league hitters Monday and felt good after moving the screen away from him a little bit, freeing him up. More on all of that here.
2. The rotation is set for the first five Cactus League games. That includes Colby Lewis and Scott Feldman on Sunday, followed by Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando on Monday, Matt Harrison on Tuesday, Darvish on Wednesday and Neftali Feliz on Thursday.
3. The biggest position battle this spring is in center field. Here's a look at the candidates and an overview of the position.
4. LHP Joe Beimel remains day-to-day, but the organization isn't too concerned about the elbow stiffness. He could get back on the mound soon, but was not on a mound on Monday. Elvis Andrus (Plantar's wart) didn't participate in all on-field activities, but said he felt better.
5. Manager Ron Washington continues to work with the utility infielders in an effort to get a look at each of them. That's one of the open spots this spring.
6. The Rangers agreed to deals with 13 pre-arbitration players Monday, including Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz.
"We think it's day-to-day and when he's ready, he'll be ready," assistant general manager Thad Levine said.
Beimel was on the disabled list some last year (May 27 - July 14) with elbow inflammation, so he has had issues in the past. The Rangers were aware of the elbow issues from 2011, but since it was a nonroster deal, they were willing to sign him to a minor-league deal.
"It's a position of need and we want to have some competition in camp," Levine said.
Other injury notes:
* SS Elvis Andrus said he'll be back on the field today in the batting cages and taking grounders. He won't try to run the bases, however. He had a Plantar's wart taken off his left heel.
"It feels better today," Andrus said. "There's not as much swelling."
* RHP Matt West (arm fatigue) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today. The team wanted to be sure and give him an extra day as he came into camp with some general soreness.
* RHP Mike Adams (hernia) threw a bullpen session and to live hitters on Sunday and is scheduled to throw again Tuesday. He'll have a lighter day today. He said he feels good.
* 1B Mitch Moreland (wrist) continues to participate in all activities and is taking no more than 75 swings per day. He said it's working so well, that he thinks he may stick with that plan all season. He can get his work in with no problem with that swing limitation and feels he may have pushed it too hard at times, taking extra hacks in the cages.
Beimel, signed a few weeks before the start of spring training, is one of the club's candidates for a left-handed spot in the bullpen. The 34-year-old pitched in 35 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and was 1-1 with a 5.33 ERA in 25 1/3 innings before he was released on Aug. 30. He did have one stint on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation last year (went on May 28 and was re-activated on July 15).
Beimel held lefties to a .221 batting average in 2010, when he had a 3.40 ERA in 71 appearances (45 innings) for the Rockies.
Other injuries from workouts:
* Pitcher Matt West threw long toss but then stopped because of right elbow fatigue. He did not throw to hitters but is expected to throw Monday.
* First baseman Mitch Moreland participated in all of the activities on Sunday and said he felt good.
* Catcher Mike Napoli said his ankle held up fine through the workouts.
|Texas Rangers reliever Michael Kirkman talks about the short offseason, the adjustment to being a full-time reliever and the ins and outs of spring training.
"I feel good and I know this is a good opportunity for me," Kirkman said. "I've had a chance to come here the last couple of years and get some big league experience and I think that can help me now."
Kirkman isn't the only challenger for a left-handed relief job. The club traded for Kelvin De La Cruz from Cleveland, who hasn't pitched above the Double-A level but has good minor-league splits against left-handed pitchers. Joe Beimel, Martin Perez, Mitch Stetter and others will also get their shot at the left-handed relief job.
Kirkman said he's focused on getting all of his pitches refined (fastball, slider, split/changeup) and working on his mechanics.
"I've been throwing and getting ready," Kirkman said.
As spring training begins, we can take some pretty good guesses at what might happen should the pitching staff stay healthy (a big if when you consider some of the injuries in spring the last few seasons). Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish certainly appear locks for the rotation. The club is committed to giving Neftali Feliz a chance to start. That leaves one spot open.
It seems likely that Matt Harrison would keep his spot there and Alexi Ogando would head to the bullpen. That scenario would not impact long relief, as Ogando would be more of a late-inning weapon like he was in the postseason. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he won’t pitch in the sixth inning. The beauty of Ogando, as the baseball world discovered in the 2011 playoffs, is that he can pitch in just about any inning in relief.
So what about long relief options? The No. 1 candidate is Scott Feldman. First, he’s making a hefty sum of $6.5 million in 2012 thanks to the contract he signed after winning 17 games in 2009. He had microfracture surgery on his right knee after a disappointing 2010 season and missed the first half of the 2011 season. The Rangers wanted Feldman to agree to pitch in the minors once he was healthy enough to return, but he had enough service time to make his own choice and decided to stay in the majors. He said he wanted to help the big league club, and to his credit, he did. He made two spot starts to help give some pitchers some extra days of rest down the stretch and also pitched in relief, though a blister hampered him a bit. Feldman gives the Rangers someone who can certainly handle multiple innings and has the mindset of a starter.
|RANGERS POSITION OUTLOOK|
Jan. 23: Catcher
Jan. 24: First base
Jan. 25: Second base
Jan. 26: Third base
Jan. 27: Shortstop
Jan. 30: Left field
Jan. 31: Center field
Feb. 1: Right field
Feb. 2: DH/Utility
Feb. 3: Bench
Feb. 6: No. 1 starter
Feb. 7: No. 2 starter
Feb. 8: No. 3 starter
Feb. 9: No. 4 starter
Feb. 10: No. 5 starter
Feb. 13: Middle/long relief
Feb. 14: Late-inning relief
Feb. 15: Coaches
Feb. 16: Manager
Feb. 17: Front office
That left-handed spot will be one to watch this spring. The Rangers had Darren Oliver and Mike Gonzalez last year, but neither is on the roster now. Oliver will pitch for Toronto and Gonzalez, who had knee surgery, is still on the market. The Rangers have signed a couple of lefties to minor-league deals with invitations to big league camp. Among those are Joe Beimel and Mitch Stetter, who have major league experience.
Injuries could clearly alter what happens in the bullpen, but so could the fact that a slew of folks will be in camp with a chance to show something. One guy to keep an eye on is Tanner Scheppers, who is hoping to prove that he can become a solid reliever. He comes to camp knowing that’s the role the club sees for him, rather than starting right now. Cody Eppley, who appeared in 10 games last year, will also be in Surprise, as will some of the club’s high-level prospects who might not quite be ready for the majors yet. Yoshi Tateyama, who could have a big impact on Yu Darvish and his transition, can also pitch multiple innings, though he needs to get better against left-handed batters.
Watching how it all shakes out will be part of the fun of spring.
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