Texas Rangers: Pedro Figueroa

Skipper trying to figure out bullpen depth

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
7:45
AM CT
Sunday's ending in Seattle was a surprising way to end what was looking like a very solid road trip for the Texas Rangers. And in many ways it was still solid, sweeping the Oakland A's and finishing the six games tied with the A's for first.

But like so many things in life, it's how you finish and not how you start (ask the Dallas Stars this morning). The Rangers open a three-game series tonight with the A's. It's a good time to have Yu Darvish on the mound after the eighth-inning meltdown Sunday. Actually, Texas had two eighth-inning meltdowns in the series in Seattle, which cost them a chance to take the AL West lead all by themselves.

Rangers
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezAlexi Ogando threw an awful pitch to Kyle Seager, who didn't miss it for the go-ahead three-run homer Sunday.
The great thing about baseball is that there are so many opportunities to make decisions that have ripple effects. While the discussion can be fun and the strategy intriguing, it's also a reminder of how difficult it is to be a big-league manager. One decision to pitch to a certain batter or put a particular pitcher in the game can decide things, both good and bad.

Manager Ron Washington (along with his coaching staff) was in that position late in Sunday's game. The Mariners had chipped away at the lead and Washington was hoping to give his winning bullpen pieces a day off. Up 5-0, that looked promising. It was 5-2 when Shawn Tolleson came in and it became a two-run game fairly quickly after that.

So do you go with Jason Frasor in the seventh inning when it's a two-run game? Washington said no. He explained afterward that other pitchers have to get outs in the bullpen. That it can't always come down to the same arms, who risked being overworked. The skipper is right, of course. And April is the time to find some of that out. He did that with Aaron Poreda on Saturday and it worked. But when the other arms don't get it done and a 5-0 lead dwindles, it's natural for criticism to follow.

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Pedro Figueroa goes on DL; OF added

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
2:54
PM CT
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Another day, another pair of roster moves for the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers placed left-handed reliever Pedro Figueroa on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow inflammation Wednesday, giving them 11 players on the DL.

The Rangers also acquired minor-league outfielder Dan Robertson, 28, from the San Diego Padres in exchange for cash considerations, promoted him to the major leagues for the first time in his career and added him to the 40-man roster.

Figueroa left Tuesday night's game against Oakland after throwing only one pitch in the eighth inning -- he drilled right fielder Josh Reddick in the hip. He'll return to Arlington and have an MRI.

"I don't know what to think," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "When he walked off the mound it looked bad. The young kid is scared."

The Rangers claimed Figueroa off waivers from Tampa Bay in the offseason. He's 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA in 10 relief appearances.

Robertson has spent his entire career in the Padres system. He was selected in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft out of Oregon State. For his minor-league career, he's batting .304 with 131 steals in 723 games. This season he's hitting .364 (8-for-22) with two home runs, two doubles and five RBI in five games with Triple-A El Paso.

"He's got speed, can play all outfield positions," Washington said. "I can use him to pinch run. He has speed. A good base-runner, can steal bags."

Robertson said he heard he had been traded and was going to the major leagues late Tuesday night after El Paso's 21-9 loss at Las Vegas. After spending six years in the minor leagues, he was shocked by the news.

"I think it's every kid's dream," Robertson said. "I don't know if it's sunk in yet. I'm sure it will sink in when my cleats hit the dirt."

On the mend: Hot-hitting third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff was out of the lineup Wednesday to rest his stiff back. Kouzmanoff left Tuesday night's game after the top of the fourth inning because of tightness. The Rangers have a day off Thursday.

"Just back stiffness," Washington said. "Don't need to go out there and make it worse."

Feliz watch: RHP Neftali Feliz has been shut down briefly at Triple-A Round Rock to deal with a tired arm and "general soreness," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. Feliz has been working with team trainers at Arlington. "We envision getting him back on the mound soon," Levine said.

Wilson makes amends in Rangers' win

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
2:28
AM CT
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Texas Rangers infielder Josh Wilson gave the Oakland Athletics a pair of unearned runs when he booted a routine ground ball at third base in the fourth inning.

Four innings later, Wilson took what looked to be a sure win out of the A's grasp and lifted the Rangers to an improbable 5-4 victory.

[+] EnlargeElvis Andrus
AP Photo/Ben MargotJosh Wilson, right, is congratulated by Elvis Andrus after Wilson scores what turned out to be the winning run in the ninth inning against the A's.
With two outs and the Rangers trailing 4-3 in the top of the ninth, Wilson crushed an RBI double to left off A's right-hander Luke Gregerson, bringing Leonys Martin home with the tying run from second. Then Wilson raced home with the go-ahead run on rookie Michael Choice's single to center.

Redemption? That's not what was on Wilson's mind in the Rangers' clubhouse. He was just ecstatic to have played a part in one of the most improbable, crazy comebacks in his career.

"We've been on the other end of a couple of those, and they sting a little bit, especially against a division rival," Wilson said. "It's a great to win a game like that in the ninth inning."

There was enough drama for two games in the ninth inning leading up to Wilson's heroics. Pinch hitter Mitch Moreland rocketed a leadoff double to right center, then moved to third on Robinson Chirinos' sacrifice bunt.

Moments later, the Rangers appeared to kill their chances for a comeback with a self-inflicted wound. Apparently thinking the squeeze was on, Martin bunted. Moreland was caught off guard but ran home anyway, thinking the ball was headed up the first-base line.

Gregerson fielded the bunt and threw home, easily nailing Moreland.

"There wasn't a [squeeze] sign on," Moreland said. "I think Martin thought there was a squeeze. When he bunted I was probably a little too aggressive."

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Jim Adduci (finger) latest to go on DL

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
5:07
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The number of Rangers on the disabled list swelled to 10 with the addition of Jim Adduci on Saturday.

The outfielder suffered a broken little finger on his left hand sliding into second base in the third inning of a 12-0 win over the White Sox on Friday night and is expected to be out for four weeks.

The Rangers led 2-0 at the time when Adduci tagged at first base and advanced on Donnie Murphy’s deep fly to center field. A good throw from Sox center fielder Adam Eaton made it a close play, forcing a head-first slide by Adduci.

Adduci remained in the game and contributed two more hits including a double, raising his batting average to .462.

But when he awoke Saturday morning, Adduci had a swollen finger. Manager Ron Washington, demonstrating he hasn’t lost his sense of humor among all the mishaps, suggested Adduci "might have broken it in his sleep."

That the Rangers have managed to win 10 of 17 games so far without key personnel is a reflection on the entire organization, Washington said. While the team can’t control injuries, "we control our attitude, and things are working out well," he said

Had Washington known before the season that he could field a team with the number of players currently on the disabled list, he said he would have been "taken aback."

Adduci’s spot on the 25-man roster will be filled by 20-year-old switch-hitting infielder Luis Sardinas, who was promoted Saturday from Double-A Frisco. Sardinas, signed as a non-drafted signee in 2009, was hitting .238 with the RoughRiders.

Players on the disabled list don’t surrender their lockers in the Rangers clubhouse. And new additions, like Sardinas, are making lockers scarce.

"We’re down to only a couple of vacant lockers on the corners," said Rangers equipment and home clubhouse manager Richard "Hoggy" Price. “We usually don‘t see this until September [when the rosters expand]. But if they bring 'em up, we will find a place for them."

Help for Figueroa: Washington sees Friday’s addition of left-handed reliever Aaron Poreda as a move to take some of the load off middle-inning lefty Pedro Figueroa. Last week, Figueroa pitched in four games over a six-day stretch.

Figueroa became the 20th major league pitcher since 1914 to earn his first two wins on consecutive days. The Rangers' Robbie Ross Jr. was the last to do it in 2012.

Picking 'em up: Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is eligible to come off the disabled list in six days, was out taking ground balls a few hours before tonight’s 7:05 start at Globe Life Park.

Slow to praise: If Washington is conservative with his praise of center fielder Leonys Martin, there is a reason. "I just want him to keep playing. I don’t want him reading about how good he is."

Martin was a double away from hitting for the cycle Friday. His three hits raised his average to .315.

Stock Report: Bullpen up, offense down

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
8:00
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's Friday and that means we take stock of how various parts of the Texas Rangers have done over the past week.

STOCK UP

Streaking
Bullpen. After a shaky start to the season, the bullpen seems to have jelled into a cohesive group that has fairly defined roles. Alexi Ogando, who struggled in the spring so much that he lost his starting job and began the season poorly, has come around and is looking a little more like the guy who pitched so well in relief a few years ago. Jason Frasor brings a veteran presence. Joakim Soria has closing experience and even pitchers who the club is still figuring out -- such as Pedro Figueroa and Shawn Tolleson -- have improved in the past week. The group has some more confidence.

Kevin Kouzmanoff. So far, he's filled in very well for the injured Adrian Beltre, who can not return until April 25 thanks to a disabled list stint because of his strained left quad. Kouzmanoff has hit safely in every game he has played in a Rangers uniform and has shown a penchant for extra-base hits. Few can defend at third base like Beltre, but Kouzmanoff has done a solid job in the field.

Walk-offs. The Rangers have had four this season and two in this current homestand. Robinson Chirinos was the hero April 11 against Houston, a 1-0 win in 12 innings and Leonys Martin delivered an RBI single in the ninth Wednesday. Both walk-off wins in this homestand occurred in Yu Darvish starts.

Leonys Martin. He did it all during the Mariners series. He played solid defense, delivered a game-winning hit and has become a terrific bunter. The only thing he didn't do was yell loud enough (or low enough) for Shin-Soo Choo to hear him Wednesday on a pop fly to center. Martin is making a difference in the bottom of the order.

STOCK DOWN

Slumping

Hitting with runners in scoring position. It has not been a strong suit for this team, though they were a bit better in those situations Thursday. Still, the team is 11-for-71 (.155) with runners in scoring position in the past eight games.

Offensive catchers. The Rangers aren't getting much offensive production from their catchers. J.P. Arencibia had two RBIs Thursday but neither came on hits. He's hitting .071 on the season and Chirinos is batting .160. That doesn't mean the catchers haven't played well in other facets, but as far as hitting goes, it has not been solid.

Defense. The Rangers lead the AL with 15 errors in 16 games. And in the Seattle series alone they had a few other mistakes that weren't scored errors (but perhaps could have been). This team still isn't as crisp as manager Ron Washington would like it with the gloves or their arms, though middle infielders Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy have done a good job filling in when out there.

Tanner Scheppers. Big innings have cost Scheppers in three of his four starts and it was a six-run third that ended his afternoon Thursday (the bullpen and offense bailed him out). We'll see if he gets another shot to start when it's his turn in the rotation Tuesday, but he's got to find a way to minimize damage.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Mariners 6

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
4:35
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was a strange day at Globe Life Park as neither starting pitcher could do much of anything. The Rangers had a 4-0 lead, lost it and then managed to snag the advantage back in the fifth and hang on for an 8-6 victory. Texas takes three out of four from the Mariners in the process and has won three straight games for the first time since the last week of the regular season in 2013, when they won seven straight to force Game 163. It's also the first time this season the Rangers have been two games above .500. Some thoughts:

Big inning hurts Scheppers (again): Tanner Scheppers couldn't get through the third inning Thursday. After talking about the need to minimize damage when a five-run inning hurt him in his last start, Scheppers wasn't able to do it. Staked to a 4-0 lead, he gave it all back in two swings -- consecutive home runs from Robinson Cano (his first with the Mariners this season) and Corey Hart. Scheppers ended up allowing six runs (two scored with Hector Noesi on the mound) on six hits in his outing with three walks and two strikeouts. He's allowed 20 runs this season and 17 of those have come in three big innings -- two six-run innings and a five-run inning.

First-inning runs: The Rangers came into Thursday's game with three first-inning runs all season. They scored three with two outs to give Scheppers the lead. After an Elvis Andrus double, Alex Rios struck out for the second out. The Mariners walked Prince Fielder intentionally to pitch to the red-hot Kevin Kouzmanoff. It didn't work. Kouzmanoff doubled to drive home the first run. Mitch Moreland then delivered a two-out, two-run single to center to make it 3-0.

Two-strike hits: All four runs scored in the first two innings by the Rangers came on two-strike counts. Texas came into the game batting .208 in those situations, good enough for third in the AL (two teams have .209 averages). The Rangers increased that average Thursday and did it early. The most impressive at-bat came from Kouzmanoff, who fell behind 0-2, worked it back to 2-2 and hit the eighth pitch for a double. The Rangers also had a two-strike bunt by Leonys Martin in the third that helped score a run when J.P. Arencibia grounded out to the left side of the infield, scoring Moreland.

Kouzmanoff hot: The Rangers' fill-in third baseman just continues to hit, increasing his streak of hitting safely to eight games (that's all that he's played in a Rangers uniform). Kouzmanoff hit doubles in his first two at-bats and has three multi-hit games since getting called up. The Mariners walked Fielder twice to pitch to Kouzmanoff. It didn't work in the first, but it did in the seventh.

Fielder can't cash in: The slugger got two chances with runners in scoring position Thursday and wasn't able to convert. The struggling slugger is now 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position this season. One of those chances came with the count already at two strikes. Rios, who has vowed to stay aggressive on the bases even with Fielder hitting behind him, stole second base and went to third on an errant throw by catcher John Buck.

Relief respect: The Rangers bullpen pitched 6 2/3 innings Thursday and didn't allow a run. Hector Noesi gave up some hard hits, but both of the runs he gave up were inherited runners charged to Scheppers. Pedro Figueroa, Jason Frasor, Alexi Ogando and Joakim Soria got the job done.

Small ball: Martin was asked to put down sacrifice bunts twice Thursday with runners at first and second. He converted both times, and Arencibia, behind him, hit ground balls to score a run in each frame. The bunt eliminated the chance at a double play and Arencibia did what he had to by hitting the ball on the ground. The average won't be helped, but the catcher did his job in those situations.

Up next: The Chicago White Sox come to town with LHP Martin Perez (2-0, 2.70 ERA) opposing RHP Felipe Paulino (0-1, 7.98 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and TXA21.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Mariners 2

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
9:59
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Leonys Martin's single ended a wild ninth inning as the Texas Rangers earned their fourth walk-off win at home this season, 3-2 over the Seattle Mariners. Texas did all the damage with two outs. Kevin Kouzmanoff singled, Mitch Moreland walked and then the Rangers got some help. Donnie Murphy's ground ball to short should have ended the inning, but the flip to second was high. The error kept the inning going and loaded the bases for Martin. A wild pitch scored the tying run, and then, Martin's single to left ended it. A few quick thoughts:

Pitch counts: It seems to be a topic of conversation every time Yu Darvish pitches, but the 27-year-old ace threw 107 pitches in seven innings Wednesday -- an average of 15.2 per inning. He came into the game No. 2 in the AL in pitches per inning at 12.7, nearly four fewer pitches per inning than his average last season. Darvish had two full counts in a 19-pitch first inning and didn't get much more efficient from there. Darvish adjusted by throwing more breaking pitches earlier in the count for strikes, but his command of his fastball and slider was not as good as it was in his first two starts.

Ambushing the fastball: Knowing that Darvish was getting ahead on hitters with first-pitch strikes in his first two starts, the Mariners came in with the idea of swinging at first-pitch fastballs and got a triple off one from Nick Franklin with one out in the second inning to get Seattle in position to score. A single by Mike Zunino plated Franklin. Darvish also walked Dustin Ackley with two outs, and that proved costly, as Abraham Almonte's single brought home Ackley to make it 2-0.

Where's the run support?: Darvish has pitched 22 innings this season, and his offense has yet to score a run for him. Not one. Blame Felix Hernandez for that Wednesday, but it's been like that all season. Darvish has no margin for error. On Wednesday, the Rangers managed just four hits and were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position while Darvish was on the mound.

Defensive issues: In the two-run second for the Mariners, Shin-Soo Choo charged Almonte's single but seemed to hesitate before throwing home. His throw home was off target and went to the backstop, allowing a runner to advance. A few innings later, Martin and Choo had a communication issue, and what should have been a routine fly-ball out glanced off Martin's glove and hit the ground. It was scored a hit but was another mistake by the defense. Texas has 15 errors in 15 games this season, which leads the AL, but the Rangers have made other miscues that haven't been called errors.

Hernandez dazzles: It sure looked like the Cy Young version of Hernandez on the mound Wednesday. He allowed one run (in the eighth) on four hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. He was lifted after just 96 pitches following Martin's leadoff triple in the eighth. Martin scored on Michael Choice's sacrifice fly. Hernandez threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. In three career meetings against Darvish (the other two in 2012), Hernandez is 3-0 and has a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts and three walks. Darvish didn't have his best stuff but hung in for seven innings, allowing two runs.

Briefly: Kouzmanoff's ninth-inning single kept his hitting streak alive. He's hit in all seven games he's played for the Rangers. ... Moreland's first walk of the season came against Hernandez in the fourth. He also walked with two outs in the ninth off Fernando Rodney.

Up next: Right-handed pitcher Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 7.88 ERA) goes up against righty Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 5.63 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Astros 0

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
4:25
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- That's 15 straight series wins over the Houston Astros for the Texas Rangers as they secure their second 1-0 win in the past three days. It was the first time in club history that Texas had two 1-0 wins in the same series and the first time for two 1-0 games in the same series since 1982 vs. Boston Red Sox. Martin Perez pitched eight shutout innings and Alexi Ogando got the save in the ninth. Texas now has three shutout wins in the first 12 games of the season and they move to .500 on the season. Some quick thoughts:

Perez loves double plays: Young Martin Perez found a nice pace in Sunday's game, pitching quickly and with confidence. He allowed four hits, but no runs and the double play was very helpful for him. He induced four ground-ball double plays, including one to end the eighth inning, his final frame of the game. Perez was leading the AL with five ground-ball double plays before the game started.

Long start: For just the second time in his career, Perez got through at least eight innings. The only other time he did it was Aug. 11, 2013 against the same Astros. In that one, he got a complete-game victory, allowing just one run on four hits.

Don't steal from me: Catcher Robinson Chirinos' arm was impressive on Sunday as he threw out two Houston runners attempting to steal. He nailed Jonathan Villar in the third and Matt Dominguez in the fifth. He has thrown out four baserunners this season.

Andrus ejected: Elvis Andrus argued a called third strike to end the third inning and was quickly ejected by home plate umpire Alan Porter. It was a low strike call and Andrus didn't like it. The ejection also brought an end to Andrus' streak of hitting safely in every game this season. He was at 11 games prior to Sunday, so he won't catch Al Oliver's club-record 13 in 1979.

Solid substitutes: Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy made their presences felt in Sunday's game. Wilson moved over to shortstop and Murphy came in to play second when Andrus was ejected. They played solid defense, and provided some offensive help in the sixth. Wilson led off the inning with a single, went from first to third on a single by Shin-Soo Choo and scored on Murphy's sacrifice fly, which game in the spot that Andrus would have batted in had not been asked to depart early.

Ogando in for the save: With Joakim Soria having pitched for two straight games, Alexi Ogando got the opportunity to save Sunday's game and came through. It was his fourth career save, his last one coming in 2012 as he pitched when Joe Nathan needed rest that season, grabbing three saves.

Defensive gems: Prince Fielder made a nice diving stop toward the first-base line to take an extra-base hit away from Jesus Guzman with one out in the fourth. Fielder worked earlier this homestand on his footwork and short-hops at first base with manager Ron Washington and will get some more work on other aspects of his defense before the homestand ends. But that was a very nice play for Fielder to keep the Astros off the bases. ... Josh Wilson, playing shortstop after Andrus' ejection, ranged to his left and snagged a line drive from L.J. Hoes, preventing a hit in the fifth.

Rapid Reaction: Astros 6, Rangers 5 (10)

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
10:24
PM CT

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Texas Rangers comeback fell short on Saturday, as the Houston Astros scored in the 10th inning and held on for a 6-5 win.

Texas tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but a triple by Jason Castro, aided by a strange bounce off the wall in right, put him in position to score on Jose Altuve's sac fly to right. A few thoughts:

Great stop: Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar made a terrific diving play, backhanding a ball to his right and throwing to first to get Alex Rios with Elvis Andrus at second and no outs in the bottom of the 10th. The Astros wiggled out of the jam and preserved the win. The game could still be going on if not for Villar's play.

Baserunning blunder: After Rios hit a double off the wall in left-center to score Andrus and make it a one-run game, the outfielder tried to steal third. He was caught stealing for the first out of the inning, preempting the rally. The next two Rangers batters got out quickly, and any hope of tying the game at that point was lost. Rios also had trouble with a throw back to the infield in the 10th, missing the cutoff man, though it didn't allow the Astros an extra base (that happened on the odd bounce off the wedge wall).

Right Choice: Michael Choice didn't start the game, but he came in to pinch hit to lead off the ninth inning and belted his first career home run 412 feet into the Rangers bullpen to tie the score. It was only the 13th at-bat of the season for Choice, who hits mainly against left-handed pitchers. That included lefty Kevin Chapman in the ninth on Saturday, and Choice took advantage.

Two-out runs: Through three starts for Tanner Scheppers, he's had trouble finishing off innings with runners on base. That was the case again on Saturday as the Astros came back from a 2-0 deficit to score five runs -- four with two outs -- in the fourth inning to take the lead. Scheppers didn't allow a hit in the game until that frame but gave up three singles, a walk and a three-run home run to alter the game early.

Velocity up: When Scheppers was in the bullpen, he was regularly able to dial up his fastball to 95 or 96 mph. That didn't happen this season until Saturday. Scheppers touched 97 at one point and had that fastball in the 93-95 range consistently. That was an improvement.

Better finish: The fourth inning -- and Robbie Grossman's three-run homer specifically (with some help from the Globe Life Park jetstream) -- ruined any bid for a quality start, but Scheppers did bear down in the next three innings to get through seven. He needed 29 pitches as he retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced to finish off his start.

Hard-hit balls: Prince Fielder hit a few balls hard on Saturday, perhaps a sign that his timing is coming around. Fielder's single in the first was a one-hopper through the shift and probably the hardest ball he's hit all season. He also hit a long fly ball in the third. It's a small thing, but with Fielder struggling to do anything, it was noticeable.

Leadoff strikeouts: Neither leadoff hitter had a good night on Saturday. Shin-Soo Choo, who came in with seven strikeouts the whole season, had five in five at-bats, including four off Jarred Cosart (two of them looking). It was the first time he had five strikeouts in his career. The last time he had four strikeouts in a game was in July 2012 while with Cleveland. Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler wasn't much better, striking out in his first three at-bats against Scheppers (one of those looking).

Did it hit him?: Carlos Corporan was given first base in the sixth on a hit-by-pitch that plate umpire Rob Drake said hit the jersey. But it sure looked on the replay like it didn't hit him. That is a call the manager can challenge, but the Rangers chose not to do that. The HBP came with two outs, and Scheppers retired the next batter to end the inning.

Briefly: Donnie Murphy got a chance to play second base and took advantage with a double, a walk and two runs scored. … Andrus has now hit safely in 11 games to start the season. The club record is 13 by Al Oliver in 1979.

Up next: Left-hander Martin Perez (1-0, 4.50 ERA) takes the mound for the Rangers in the final game of this series against Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 4.91) in a 2:05 p.m. game.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Astros 0 (12)

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
11:20
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers have played four games in Arlington. They've won three of them in walk-off fashion. And Robinson Chirinos was the hero in the 12th inning. His single to right scored Kevin Kouzmanoff from second -- who got there by staying aggressive and getting to second on a ball in the dirt -- to give the Rangers a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros.

It was the longest game (by innings) to go scoreless in Arlington since Sept. 22, 1992, when the Rangers lost to the Minnesota Twins 1-0 in 13 innings. Nolan Ryan started the game for the Rangers with Pudge Rodriguez catching. Both Ryan and Rodriguez were at the game Friday.

Darvish dazzles: The Rangers' ace loves pitching against the Astros. Last season, he was one out away from a perfect game in Houston in April. On Friday, he had a perfect game through five innings before Matt Dominguez -- hitting .129 when the game started -- hit an 0-2 breaking pitch for a looping hit to left-center. Darvish retired the next three batters to end the inning with no damage done, but it ended his perfect game and no-hit hopes. In that at-bat, Dominguez hit a foul ball down the right-field line that Alex Rios nearly caught but wasn't able to (and it would have required he dive against the wall, which would have been risky). Shortly thereafter, Darvish gave up the hit.

Still, Darvish went eight innings and gave up that lone hit with one walk and nine strikeouts. It was a terrific performance. He now has pitched 15 innings of scoreless baseball.

Darvish established his fastball the first time through the order, then utilized the slider more the second time through. Once again, he was efficient, throwing 101 pitches in his eight innings of work. Darvish was in command and in control out there, not even getting to a three-ball count until he walked Jose Altuve with two outs in the seventh. It didn't hurt that the Astros rolled out a lineup that featured six batters hitting under .200 and another hitting .226.

Baserunning problems: Shin-Soo Choo did a terrific job of getting on base Friday, drawing three walks and a single in six plate appearances. But after a single in the 11th, Choo stole second base with one out and Elvis Andrus at the plate. Andrus hit a dribbler in front of the plate and Choo froze rather than moving to third. With Andrus' speed, it would have put even more pressure on the Astros, never mind possibly putting the winning run at third base with two outs, should a wild pitch or something have happened. Instead, Choo stayed at second and the Astros retired Alex Rios to end the inning.

10th-inning issues: Texas had a great chance to win the game in the 10th inning, loading the bases with no outs. Houston brought in Marwin Gonzalez and inserted him as part of a five-man infield with no left fielder. The Rangers needed a fly ball and couldn't get it. Mitch Moreland hit into a fielder's choice with the Astros throwing out Rios at home. Chirinos struck out and Leonys Martin grounded out to second.

Not quite in ninth: The Rangers rallied with two outs in the inning as Martin singled and Josh Wilson also singled, with Martin going to third. Choo had a typically solid at-bat, getting behind in the count but still drawing a walk. Andrus came up with the bases loaded and grounded out to end the inning.

Is that blood?: At one point in the sixth inning, TV cameras showed the top of Darvish's thumb was cut and he was bleeding a bit. It didn't seem to bother him as he continued to pitch.

Nice arm: Astros catcher Jason Castro threw out two Rangers runners Friday. He got Andrus trying to steal after Andrus didn't get a good jump to end the third, and he nailed Martin on a pitch-out call to end the fifth.

Nice catch: Martin had the highlight of the night, making a diving catch to end the seventh inning.

Offensive issues: The Rangers couldn't do much with the bats, though they had some chances. The best might have been in the seventh, when the Rangers put two on with one out and had the bases loaded with two outs and couldn't score anything. Houston opted to intentionally walk Martin -- the first time that has happened in his young career -- to pitch to Wilson and Scott Feldman struck him out to end the frame. Give Feldman some credit. His curveball was working and he pitched very well only two days after his father died.

Hesitancy hurts: With Kouzmanoff at first, Moreland laced a ball to the gap in right-center in the second inning, but Kouzmanoff didn't get a good read on the ball and hesitated. He ended up at third base but might have had a chance to score had he been running right away. That put runners and second and third with one out, but J.P. Arencibia struck out, and Martin grounded out to end the threat.

Big hand for Nolan: Ryan, a Hall of Famer and former Rangers CEO, was at the ballpark on Friday night and sat next to former president George W. Bush in the owner's box (his usual place from the past handful of seasons). He was shown on the video board between innings early in the game and received a standing ovation (while "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" played as background music).

Extra Bases: Bullpen does job once again

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
7:45
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It wasn't exactly a well-known trio of relief arms that came in and kept the game close enough for the Rangers to come back Wednesday. But for the second straight game, a group of Texas bullpen pieces came in and shut down the Phillies, putting their teammates in position for ninth-inning dramatics.

[+] EnlargeSeth Rosin
AP Photo/Jim CowsertSeth Rosin pitched two shutout innings to pick up the win Wednesday.
On Wednesday, it was the waiver pickup pitchers that did the job. Shawn Tolleson, Pedro Figueroa and Seth Rosin aren't exactly swarmed by autograph seekers prior to games. But the three players -- all claimed off waivers at various points this offseason -- combined for four shutout innings in the Rangers' 4-3 win.

Tolleson, claimed from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Nov. 20, 2013, allowed one hit in 1 1/3 innings, taking over for starter Robbie Ross after his pitch count climbed quickly and forced him out after five innings.

Figueroa came in with one out in the seventh and didn't get his outing started very well. The hard-throwing lefty had the radar gun soaring, but couldn't find the strike zone in a four-pitch walk to Chase Utley. But a well-located smash from Ryan Howard into Prince Fielder's glove turned into a double play to end the inning. Figueroa was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on Jan. 29.

The 25-year-old Rosin gave up a hit and had a strikeout in the eighth and ninth with the Rangers down by two runs. Rosin, claimed from the Dodgers near the end of spring training, is a Rule-5 draft pick from Philadelphia. So he has to stay on the roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Phillies for $25,000. Wednesday, he got his first win.

Once the rotation gets healthy, the ripple effect will impact the bullpen. And that could include some or all of these three guys. But early in the season, it's about hanging in games and in the AL West race. For one series, anyway, the trio helped the Rangers do that.

Ross pitches out of jams: It was a stressful 96 pitches for Robbie Ross in his first start in 2014 (and first start since making six of them for Double-A Frisco at the end of the 2011 season). In all five of Ross' innings, he had at least two runners on base.

"I'd give up a hit and then another and would be like, 'Here we go again,'" Ross said. "But I was able to get out of a lot of those jams."

Part of that was his ability to get swings and misses when he needed them. Ross had a career-high seven strikeouts and scattered seven hits. He also had two walks. Ross wanted one pitch back, a slider that caught way too much of the plate to left-handed batter Ryan Howard, who crushed it 411 feet and over the right-center field wall.

The Phillies, obviously aware of Ross' struggles against left-handed hitters last season, had five lefties in the lineup last night. Three of them got hits. But Ross was pleased that he was able to focus and hang in despite all of the trouble swirling around him. He didn't let the game get away from him, which made Wednesday a successful debut.

Moreland makes difference: After struggling for much of last season and having an otherwise uneventful spring training, Mitch Moreland started at DH in all three games against the Phillies. As the Rangers head on the road today for Tampa, Moreland has to feel like he's got a boost of confidence. He had an RBI single Tuesday and two extra-base hits Wednesday. That included a rare triple (Moreland's third of his career). Moreland joked that he jumped halfway between second and third as he made a long slide to get to the third-base bag, garnering a bunch of smiles from the Rangers' dugout.

Celebrations: The dugout celebration between manager Ron Washington and bench coach Tim Bogar was on display in the club's first two wins. It's a series of high-fives and a quick hug. Washington and former bench coach Jackie Moore used to hug after every win. Washington said he and Bogar will stick with this one for the season, something they quickly came up with at spring training.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Phillies 3

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
10:17
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's early, and yet the Texas Rangers already have a penchant for comebacks in 2014.

For the second consecutive game, the Rangers found a way to score the runs they needed in the ninth and took the series from the Philadelphia Phillies with a 4-3 win.

Some quick thoughts:

Comeback kids: Down two runs in the ninth, Adrian Beltre started the comeback with a single. Jim Adduci's pinch-hit single scored Beltre to make it a one-run game. Leonys Martin scored Mitch Moreland, who hit a double earlier in the inning, to tie the score. Then Shin-Soo Choo ended up delivering with a patient walk with the bases loaded to win the game. It was the Rangers' first walk=off walk since 1999.

Early chance goes awry: The Rangers had a terrific opportunity to score early runs and grab the lead on Wednesday and couldn't get the job done. Singles by Choo and Elvis Andrus and an errant throw by right fielder Marlon Byrd put them at second and third with no outs. The key at-bat was Prince Fielder's. He got the count to 3-2, then took a swing at a pitch out of the zone and struck out. Beltre's ground ball back to the mound wasn't fielded well by Kyle Kendrick, but Choo's hesitation got him caught in a rundown. Choo stayed in it long enough to allow both runners to move up, but with two outs, Alex Rios' ball to deep center was caught. Just like that, the Rangers got nothing.

Ross vs. lefties: One of the big questions going into the game was whether Robbie Ross could retire left-handed hitters consistently -- something he didn't do last year. He left a slider in the middle of the plate to Ryan Howard, who crushed it 411 feet to right-center for a two-run shot to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the third. And of his seven hits allowed, three of them came off the five left-handers that Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had in the lineup.

Decent debut: No, Ross didn't dominate the Phillies and he wasn't efficient, throwing 96 pitches in five innings. But Rangers manager Ron Washington wanted Ross to keep his team in the game. He did that; he just couldn't get any help from his offense. Ross pitched out of some jams and ended up with a career-high seven strikeouts. Ross had at least two men on base in every inning, yet limited the damage. All in all, not a bad first start.

Two-out RBI: Martin had a two-out RBI single to right in the seventh inning, scoring the Rangers' first run. It scored Moreland, who hit the third triple of his career, diving into third base ahead of the throw on a ball hit to the right-center gap.

Velocity up, control down: Pedro Figueroa's first four pitches on to Chase Utley were in the mid-to-high 90s. They also were all balls. But with one out and a runner at first, Howard smoked a Figueroa fastball right into the Fielder's glove for a double play.

Solid Seth: Rangers reliever Seth Rosin came in for the eighth and ninth and pitched well, allowing one hit and no runs in both frames. Rosin has tossed three scoreless frames so far this season.

More for Moreland: After a rough start to the season, Moreland found his stroke late in Wednesday's game. He had a triple in the seventh and a double in the ninth.

Up next: The Rangers are off on Thursday before heading to Florida for a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. The pitching matchups:

Friday, 6:10 p.m. CT: LHP Joe Saunders vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi
Saturday, 6:10 p.m. CT: RHP Nick Martinez vs. LHP David Price
Sunday, 12:40 p.m. CT: RHP Yu Darvish vs. RHP Alex Cobb

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Phillies 2

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
10:21
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre's walk-off single to right scored Shin-Soo Choo with the winning run as the Texas Rangers got their first victory of 2014, 3-2 over the Philadelphia Phillies. Some quick thoughts on the game:

Clutch: Beltre delivered in big moments twice on Monday, something he did with regularity last season. With two outs and a runner at third in the seventh, Beltre doubled the other way to score the tying run. Beltre was tops in the league last year with a .416 average in the "close and late" stat, which is how a batter fares when his team is leading by one, tied or has the tying run on base. He had two hits and two RBIs in those situations on Monday, including the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth.

Bullpen lineup: With a close game, manager Ron Washington lined up the bullpen the way he wanted to in the later stages. That was Jason Frasor to finish off the sixth and pitch the seventh, lefty Neal Cotts in the eighth and closer Joakim Soria in the ninth. They all did the job, allowing no runs on one hit with one walk and four strikeouts in 3 ⅓ innings.

Choo vs. lefty: The Phillies sent a steady diet of left-handed pitchers out against Choo on Monday and it worked. On Tuesday, they opted to take righty A.J. Burnett out and put lefty Jake Diekman in with Choo leading off the seventh and Choo punched a ground ball single to left. He ended up scoring on Beltre's two-out double to right. Choo had just a .215 average against lefties last season.

Perez solid: Martin Perez left with a deficit, but that doesn't change the fact that he pitched well overall in his first start of 2014. The lefty allowed two runs -- both in the sixth -- on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He was locked in a scoreless contest with Burnett until the sixth, when he allowed a leadoff double to Cesar Hernandez and then surrendered hits to three of the next five batters he faced. Perez's slider and changeup were excellent and he attacked the strike zone, something he talked about before the start.

Getting in replay flow: The Rangers challenged one play in the sixth inning on Tuesday and won it, getting the call overturned. You can read more about that here. But to me, what was more interesting was watching how the mechanics worked as the club decided whether or not to challenge. Earlier in the sixth, Washington showed how slowly he can walk to chat with an umpire so that Joey Prebynski could look at the replays. They showed the umpires got it right, so Washington looked in the dugout and got a sign from someone (likely bench coach Tim Bogar) not to challenge, and didn't. Later in the inning, walking slowly yet again, Washington got the go sign and the Rangers won the challenge. That's how you do it.

Missed opportunities: Prince Fielder came up with runners at first and second and no outs in the third inning and wasn't able to convert, popping up in foul territory near the Phillies' dugout. Beltre then hit into a fielder's choice and Alex Rios lined out to second base to end the frame. ... Fielder smoked a two-out double in the fifth -- the bat speed was extremely fast -- and Beltre hit a ball to one of the deepest parts of the stadium, but it was caught against the wall to end the frame.

Briefly: Former president George W. Bush was on hand, sitting in the owner's box. It was odd not seeing Nolan Ryan down there with him as the two have watched a fair number of games together at Globe Life Park since Bush left office. ... Catcher Robinson Chirinos, playing in his first game of the season, showed off his arm in the second, getting Jayson Nix trying to get to second base. It appeared to be a botched hit-and-run attempt, but Chirinos made a terrific throw that had Nix out by a lot.

Up next: LHP Robbie Ross is on the mound for the Rangers as they take on the Phillies and RHP Kyle Kendrick in the final game of a three-game series, which starts at 7:05 p.m. at Globe Life Park. Ross has been in the bullpen the past two seasons and now will get a shot to start for the first time since making six starts for Double-A Frisco in 2011. Seattle Seahawks quarterback and Rangers Rule 5 draft pick Russell Wilson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

A glance at the Rangers' Opening Day roster

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
8:00
AM CT
Adrian BeltreThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesThere are many new faces, but Adrian Beltre is still key to the Rangers' infield and lineup.

SAN ANTONIO -- The Texas Rangers set their 25-man roster Saturday as they get set to begin the season. Here’s a quick look at that roster:

INFIELDERS (5)
1B Prince Fielder
2B Donnie Murphy
SS Elvis Andrus
3B Adrian Beltre
INF Josh Wilson

The biggest question late in camp was how the Rangers would approach second base with Jurickson Profar out 10 to 12 weeks with a torn muscle in his shoulder. Murphy was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs and in three games in a Rangers’ uniform has hit well. Wilson has more experience and has been with the club longer in camp. Manager Ron Washington also likes Wilson’s defense. ... Fielder has to feel good entering the season after a solid spring training. He seems comfortable around this team and appears primed for a big year. ... Andrus says he’s fine and ready to go for the season after arm issues this spring. ... Lost in all the infield activity is Beltre, still the key, to me, for this infield and lineup. The Rangers need him to stay healthy.

CATCHERS (3)
J.P. Arencibia
Robinson Chirinos
Chris Gimenez

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With Geovany Soto out 10 to 12 weeks following surgery to repair a torn meniscus, Washington must figure out how to deploy his catchers. ... Arencibia did not hit the ball well this spring, though he showed slight improvement late. ... The 29-year-old Chirinos had a productive spring and appeared in 13 games for Texas last season after playing in 20 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

OUTFIELDERS (6)
LF Shin-Soo Choo
CF Leonys Martin
RF Alex Rios
OF Michael Choice
OF Jim Adduci
DH Mitch Moreland

Adduci impressed the Rangers at camp and his left-handed bat joins the bench over Kevin Kouzmanoff, who had a good spring, too. Adduci has options and speed, too, giving him the edge. Kouzmanoff will start in minors, but roster could change plenty in first few weeks. Adduci made his big league debut last year after 10 seasons and 889 games in the minors. ... Martin didn’t hit well for much of spring, but hit a HR on Saturday and is healthy. There are too many Rangers who can’t say the same. ... Choice was the offensive star of spring training. Now he gets the chance to show he can do it when the games count.

(Read full post)

Notes: Tommy Hanson happy with outing

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
5:23
PM CT
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- While Yu Darvish was the headliner in Monday's intrasquad scrimmage -- feel free to read all about his performance here -- there was another starter hoping to continue his progression this spring.

And with Monday's news that Matt Harrison is "unlikely" to be ready to join the rotation when the season starts (there was good news in that Harrison's MRIs were clean), Hanson becomes even more important. He's expected to challenge for a rotation job and so far, he feels like he's building his arm strength and working toward improving.

Hanson threw one inning -- 11 pitches (eight strikes) -- Monday and got two strikeouts.

"Command was good, it felt really good," Hanson said. "I threw a changeup in there, a couple of good sliders, a good curve ball and I threw my fastball where I wanted it. It was a good first one."

Other notes:

* Darvish threw one slider and it was a nasty one to Brent Lillibridge. One scout said: "It's almost unfair that he can throw that pitch this early in spring."

* 3B Joey Gallo had a single in his only at-bat, driving in a run. Just an observation, but he looks even bigger this spring. And I mean that as a compliment. He's just a big guy, but he can move.

* LHP Pedro Figueroa has good stuff, but was inconsistent. He gave up four runs on six hits in one-third of an inning of work, but ended up getting the win. Scouts like that Figeuroa throws in the mid 90s and has breaking stuff with movement.

* The Rangers worked on situational hitting after every half-inning, sticking a runner somewhere and making the batter put the ball in play in the right spot.

* OF Engel Beltre was the only player to have two hits, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored as Team Buechele beat Team Bogar, 7-4.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Colby Lewis
WINS ERA SO IP
10 5.18 133 170
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .324
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182