Thursday Newsletter time: Upgrades to the Texas Rangers’ bullpen in 2022 will come from the injured list ... eventually
Right-handers Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez won't be ready to start the season, so Joe Barlow could be a key reliever
All of this talk about the Texas Rangers signing middle infielders and outfielders and starting pitchers, and there’s been almost no talk about fortifying the bullpen.
There have been some who have mentioned it via the comments section of the Texas Rangers Newsletter or Twitter or email. And there were some pre-lockout signings around baseball.
The Rangers have never been big on making splashy bullpen investments. Joe Nathan, who is making his debut his year on the Hall of Fame ballot, is the most meaningful exception in the Jon Daniels era.
Don’t expect that trend to end this offseason. Besides, the Rangers will be adding to the bullpen — from the 2021 injured list.
Right-handers Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez, who underwent Tommy John surgery last spring only weeks apart, are likely to be ready in late May or early June. That was the word from general manager Chris Young the last time the duo came up in an interview, in October at instructs.
There’s no sense in asking for an update now, with team employees not allowed to discuss players on the 40-man roster or MLB free agents.
Anyhoo, the Rangers will have to plug two late-inning roles to start the season. They ended the season in good shape there thanks to Joe Barlow, who seemed unflappable in saving games as a rookie.
Getting the game to him was an issue, as was simply being a position to use the closer. The Rangers trotted out Spencer Patton, Josh Sborz, Dennis Santana and Brett Martin in the seventh and eighth innings.
That might be how 2022 opens, though it seems likely the Rangers will add some veterans on minor-league deals. They had tremendous success with that last season with Ian Kennedy.
If the Rangers are going to spend on a reliever, that’s how they will do it.
That’s not because they spent $561.2 million on Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Kole Calhoun and Jon Gray. The Rangers just don’t put heavy resources into their bullpen.
Rule 5 minor-league losses
The Rangers have a full Triple A roster and were not eligible to make selections in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which took place Wednesday as scheduled.
The most significant departure is Uvila, a reliever who for the past few seasons has been on the radar as potential big-league help. It didn’t materialize in 2021, so maybe that was telling about his Rangers future, but his season started out as if it might.
The 40th-round pick in 2018 had a 2.90 ERA in 31 innings at Double A Frisco before a promotion to Triple A Round Rock, when the wheels came off. Uvila, 27, had an 8.74 ERA in 22 2/3 innings and walked nearly as many hitters (16) as he struck out (18).
LeBlanc is a former fourth-round pick (2016) who swatted 17 homers in 332 at-bats in 2021 at Round Rock. The 23-year-old Mendoza, acquired in 2018 in the Corey Guerrin trade with Oakland, was limited this season and logged only 37 1/3 innings a Low A Down East.
Laio, 25, pitched well at Down East in 2021 with a 2.73 ERA, but that number ballooned to 7.80 after a bump to High A Hickory.
The major-league Rule 5 draft will take place once the lockout is over.
The good news about this lockout is … there is no good news. But between John Moore, T.R. Sullivan and me, we’re going to keep cranking out the Rangers content. There’s always something to write, even when there doesn’t appear to be anything to write.
An absolute non-starter with the Wilson dogs and Wilson children. Enjoy. See you Friday.