A week remains until Opening Day, and Texas Rangers scouts are out looking for possible roster upgrades before the regular-season roster has to be set at 3 p.m. next Sunday.
A scout was at the Kyle Lohse simulated game Friday in the Phoenix area, and scouts in Arizona have seen the recently released Jon Garland pitch just down Bell Road from Surprise. Scouts covering the Grapefruit League have gotten a look at Rick Porcello and Joba Chamberlain in Florida.
The search for a utility infielder also continues.
But those vying for the remaining five roster spots likely don’t need to waste much time looking outside the clubhouse at who might suddenly enter the picture for Opening Day.
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General manager Jon Daniels said Saturday that he doesn’t foresee any additions from outside the organization before the Rangers break camp Wednesday or open the season March 31 at Houston.
“You do your due diligence and see what’s out there, but I fully expect our 25 to come from our camp,” Daniels said. “I won’t speak in definitives, because things change, but barring something changing, that’s my expectation.”
Lohse remains a free agent despite coming off the best season of his career. He threw 90 pitches against college hitters, looking sharp, but the Rangers have no interest barring a drastic price drop.
Porcello is pitching well enough to secure a spot in Detroit’s rotation, putting a dent in trade talks for a right-hander entering his first season as an arbitration-eligible player.
“You can’t go into spring training expecting to acquire meaningful pitching help,” Daniels said. “It just usually doesn’t work that way.”
So, Nick Tepesch needs to look across the room for his competition to round out the Rangers’ rotation. Derek Lowe will continue to be stretched out but is looking more like a swing man in the bullpen.
Daniels, though, said that left-hander Michael Kirkman is pushing Tepesch after a splendid spring, but the Rangers must weigh his value to a bullpen that at present has three openings.
“That’s probably what the decision is coming down to,” Daniels said. “The flip side is Kirkman is likely to play a big role in the bullpen. It’s the Peter-Paul argument. He’s really gotten over the hump, and he looks poised to have some success.”
Righties Lisalverto Bonilla and Ben Rowen, long shots to make the team as relievers, were reassigned to minor-league camp Sunday.
Tanner Scheppers is among those in camp still vying for a bullpen job. His advantage is that the Rangers need a power arm, and only he and Josh Lindblom fit that bill. Cory Burns, a deceptive righty, keeps getting outs, as do left-handers Joe Ortiz and Nate Robertson.
Scheppers is aware of his situation but is trying not to put much focus on it.
“Just keep pitching,” he said. “I can’t worry about anything else. There’s always competition. Baseball is a performance-based game. I’ve just got to go out there and perform.”
The last spot on the bench is down to Leury Garcia and Jurickson Profar. The Rangers would prefer that each goes to Triple A Round Rock to get regular playing time and continue their development. That sentiment is stronger for Profar, who rates as the game’s top prospect.
To be a part-time player isn’t easy, especially for young players. Garcia is willing, but the Rangers continue to look for a veteran who might be more capable.
“We still haven’t made a decision,” manager Ron Washington said. “It’s less difficult if you’re an experienced ballplayer in that role. You’ve got to figure out a way to stay sharp, and you’re not seeing any action.
“That’s very tough for a young kid, but there are young kids who end up being put in that situation. As a manager and as coaches, you have some extra work to do things to keep him sharp.”
That looks to be a strong possibility with a week to go until Opening Day. The Rangers have 36 players left in big-league camp, and it appears that all 25 on the regular-season roster will come from within the organization.