In the Texas Rangers’ season-opening three-game series against the Seattle Mariners a year ago, they used seven bullpen pitchers, including Jake Diekman on three consecutive days, Tony Barnette on consecutive days and Shawn Tolleson twice in the series.
It didn’t go well. The Rangers lost Games 2 and 3 as Tom Wilhelmsen was blown up for five runs in the eighth inning of Game 2, Tolleson was tagged for his first blown save in Game 3, and Keone Kela was soon out of action needing surgery to remove bone spurs in his throwing elbow.
The problems caused collateral damage, as manager Jeff Banister termed it, two weeks down the line, when the bullpen was seemingly taxed before the season had even warmed up.
It gives the flexibility and options to be able to do different things. Plus, with those moving parts, the ability to get a number of guys at-bats to keep them fresh throughout the season I believe is crucial.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister
Banister would prefer to prevent a repeat performance. To that end, the Rangers are contemplating starting the season with a short bench, meaning instead of four position players, they’d keep three, and have an extra arm in the bullpen.
This would allow them to potentially keep two long men in the bullpen to help spell a few starters during the first couple of times through the rotation. With starter Andrew Cashner unlikely to be ready the first 10 days of the season, the extra long arms (Mike Hauschild, Eddie Gamboa and/or Dillon Gee) would come in handy.
To do this, however, the Rangers would be forced to roll with only three bench players, which by all accounts, appear to be Delino DeShields, Ryan Rua and Robinson Chirinos, with Jurickson Profar starting in a corner outfield spot or being used as the designated hitter.
The versatility that players such as Profar and Rua bring to the lineup give Banister plenty of options from day to day. Whether it’s stacking his lineup with left-handed bats or vice versa, or the ability to give everyday players routine days off, Banister sees it as a huge asset for the club.
5 Different positions Jurickson Profar has played in a major league game, including shortstop, third base, second base, first base and left field. He started in center field Thursday night at Surprise Stadium.
Profar’s natural position is shortstop, but he also plays third base, second base, first base, corner outfield and perhaps even center field, where he started Thursday night for the first time this spring. The Rangers are intrigued after seeing Profar handle center for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.
“He’s developing a skill set,” said Banister, who added that DeShields remains the best option to back up Carlos Gomez.
Adding center to the list of options for the switch-hitting Profar might require an upgrade to the term “super-utility player.”
When Banister and his coaches went through an exercise Wednesday morning where they listed their depth chart across the diamond, Profar, of course, popped up all over the field.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister is considering using a three-man bench (as opposed to four) to keep a larger bullpen early in the season.
“Running across the board Profar is No. 2 behind everybody on that board,” he said, adding the exception of Rua at first base as option 2B.
“We really feel like we’re not going to skip a beat at those positions defensively,” Banister said.
The possibilities seem endless. Banister even proposed using catcher Jonathan Lucroy at DH from time to time to keep his bat in the lineup when he needs a break from behind the plate. He added that Lucroy and Robinson Chirinos are not foreign to playing first base. Chirinos even came up as a shortstop before moving to catcher.
“There’s all kinds of configuration of this lineup so that DH spot will be rotated around,” he said. “I like that kind of complication because it gives the flexibility and options to be able to do different things. Plus, with those moving parts, the ability to get a number of guys at-bats to keep them fresh throughout the season I believe is crucial.”
The flexibility of the lineup, of course, bodes well for the season, but especially early while the rotation waits for Cashner and Tyson Ross to join.
“I think you need to have length behind all of them,” Banister said, before referring to that series against the Mariners to start 2016. “We had to use the bullpen in a game we probably didn’t want to use the bullpen and it had a lingering effect. The collateral damage takes awhile. You may not see it in the first couple of days but it showed itself about two weeks afterward.”
vs. Padres, 3:05 p.m. Friday
Rangers probable pitchers: LHP Martin Perez, RHP Mike Hauschild, LHP Alex Claudio, RHP Jeremy Jeffress
Padres probable pitchers: RHP Jhouys Chacin, RHP Kevin Quackenbush, LHP Jose Torres