Commentary

High expectations placed on relievers

Koji Uehara and Mike Adams still getting acclimated, but they improve Rangers' chances

Updated: August 24, 2011, 3:02 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colby Lewis pitched poorly Tuesday night against the Red Sox.

About the only good thing Lewis accomplished in the Rangers' 11-5 loss was lasting six innings, which meant manager Ron Washington didn't have to even think about using his two trump cards: Koji Uehara and Mike Adams.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireMike Adams had a 1.13 ERA with 49 strikeouts upon his arrival in Texas. He's 1-2 with a 2.61 ERA and 11 strikeouts with the Rangers.

So, for at least one night, we were spared the ridiculous overreaction that occurs each time one of them pitches.

When Texas acquired Uehara and Adams at the trade deadline, they were each hailed as key pieces who would help the Rangers get to the World Series again.

They were billed as invincible. Unhittable. Superheroes, if you will, based on their numbers.

Uehara arrived with a 62 strikeouts and a 1.72 ERA, having allowed just 25 hits in 47 innings. Adams, equally impressive, had a 1.13 ERA with 49 strikeouts and an opponent's batting average of .155.

Guess what? We've discovered they're human.

Uehara has been average; Adams has been good.

For now, that's OK.

This ain't football. Your emotions can't ride on every pitch and every game.

It's too soon. Too many games remain. The AL West race won't be decided this week. Or next.

"Fans want you to be spotless, but that's not always going to get it done. It's not easy," Adams said after the game. "I understand that I'm going to give up runs and that sometimes I'm not going to be unhittable. On those days, you have to put it behind you and get the job done the next day."

Washington should feel much better asking Mark Lowe, Darren Oliver, Yoshinori Tateyama and Uehara to handle the seventh inning so Adams can pitch the eighth and Neftali Feliz can handle the ninth.

The addition of Uehara and Adams makes every reliever better because each player's role is clearly defined, and they're all positioned to have individual success.

Say what you want, but before Tuesday night's eighth-inning debacle when Oliver and Lowe combined to allow four runs, the Rangers' bullpen had a 2.31 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 15 walks in 66 2/3 innings since Uehara and Adams arrived.

Adams is 1-2 with a 2.61 ERA with 11 strikeouts and three walks, but he has allowed two homers.

The two-run homer he allowed last week against the Angels in the bottom of the ninth kept the Rangers from sweeping a four-game series and establishing a season-high eight-game lead in the AL West.

Uehara is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA since his arrival.

The Rangers are still learning how to maximize his skill set because he doesn't have a pitch that overwhelms hitters like Adams' cut fastball. Uehara uses guile and impeccable command, a necessity because his fastball hovers in the 90-mph range.

When his command suffers, batters crush his pitches. It's among the reasons he's allowed eight homers this season.

Adams and Uehara have such confidence in their ability, they throw strikes and challenge hitters. They've combined to strike out 142 batters while walking just 22.

It might also take Uehara and Adams some time to acclimate to the playoff race.

Don't laugh.

Uehara came from Baltimore, which has been out of the playoff race since May. While Adams participated in playoff race last year with the Padres -- who finished two games behind San Francisco in the NL West -- San Diego has struggled this season.

That's why San Diego traded Adams.

Each must handle the pressure and the intensity that will accompany the last five weeks of the regular season for the Rangers, who are trying to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Baseball is a game of streaks and slumps for pitchers and hitters. It's a season full of ebb and flows.

All you really need to know is the Rangers had no chance to get to the World Series again without adding Uehara and Adams because the bullpen was regularly blowing games.

Now, they do.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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