Minor League Insider: Round Rock pitchers have eye on majors

Posted Saturday, May. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Elsewhere on the farm Triple A Round Rock: With Express founder and CEO Reid Ryan becoming the president of the Houston Astros, Round Rock promoted CFO Reese Ryan to CEO. Reese, the youngest son of Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan, said in a statement: “I am honored to carry forward the success the Express has enjoyed as its CEO.” The Express said the front-office moves will have no impact on their player development agreement with the Rangers, which runs through the 2018 season. Double A Frisco: Manager Steve Buechele has been impressed by right-hander Neil Ramirez so far this season. Ramirez, who starts Sunday , is 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA over his first eight starts. High A Myrtle Beach: Infielder Rougned Odor, one of the organization’s top prospects, was batting .308 with 19 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs through Saturday. … Outfielder Jake Skole, the 2010 first-round pick, is having a better May than April. Through Saturday, he was batting .244 in 13 games this month compared to a .171 average in April.

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Cory Burns made his return to the big leagues Thursday and pitched an inning of mop-up duty later that night. He then spent Friday night facing the likes of Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning of a one-run game.

Burns retired Hunter on a flyout and struck out Cabrera, the reigning Triple Crown winner.

As Burns said, “It’s a neat feeling to go out and compete against guys like that, especially when you come out on top performance-wise like that.”

Burns is certainly grateful for his second chance in the majors, something that most of the relievers at Triple A Round Rock are hoping for. And Burns knows he’s fortunate that he got the call over others in the Express bullpen.

Left-hander Neal Cotts had an 0.82 ERA over 14 appearances going into Sunday, and had struck out 21 of 27 left-handed batters faced. Fellow left-hander Nate Robertson got off to a strong start but has faltered of late.

But the Rangers already have three left-handers in their bullpen and wanted to add an additional right-hander against the Tigers.

Burns, make no mistake, had his own credentials for the call up. He had a 1.38 ERA over 14 appearances with Round Rock, holding right-handed batters to a .231 average.

“All of those guys are pitching well and it could’ve been any one of us, but that’s not our decision,” Burns said. “I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity, and I’m out here to seize it and do my best.”

It’s safe to say that Cotts and Robertson are happy to see Burns get another chance. Sure, they would like to get their own shot at some point, but the Rangers have a good nucleus of team-oriented players at Triple A.

That’s not always the case at that level, which generally has a diverse mix of prospects happy to be there and veterans who believe they should be in the big leagues.

But Cotts and Robertson know where they are in their careers.

Cotts, 33, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2009 and didn’t know whether he’d have a job in professional baseball last year. He got an opportunity with the Rangers and almost broke camp with the 2012 team.

An injury late in spring training derailed those plans, though, and Cotts spent the season with Round Rock. He was in big-league camp again this spring but was sent back to Round Rock, where he has shined so far.

“I’m definitely really pleased and things are going well,” Cotts said. “I’ve got on a pretty good roll and trying to keep it going.”

That might be a little modest, according to Robertson, a 35-year-old who is hoping to get back to the majors for the first time since 2010.

“It’s been really fun to watch Neal because he’s putting on a clinic out there,” Robertson said. “His outings have been more along the lines of dominating. He’s just in a place right now where you don’t want to even mess with the guy.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Neal Cotts will pitch in the big leagues again.”

Robertson, who had an 0.90 ERA in April but has seen it balloon to 3.38 this month, understands that he technically could be competing with Cotts for a big-league opportunity when it comes open.

But Robertson and Cotts brush off that type of talk.

“I don’t look at it that way,” Robertson said. “We’re pushing each other and encouraging each other and hoping for the best.”

Said Cotts: “That could be said for any position down here whether it’s a reliever or pinch hitter. You just have to go out and play the game how it’s supposed to be played — it’ll take care of itself in the long run. And winning is a lot more fun than worrying about that stuff.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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