Tanner Scheppers has done all he can this spring to convince the Texas Rangers that he should be in their rotation, but it still might not be enough to get him out of a pivotal relief role.
The right-hander allowed two runs in six easy innings Friday as the Rangers beat Milwaukee 7-5 at Surprise Stadium. Prince Fielder homered for the second straight day, a two-run shot that gave the Rangers a 6-2 lead.
Scheppers needed only 75 pitches (52 strikes) to get 18 outs. The Brewers scored twice in the first inning on two doubles and a single, but Scheppers recovered to allow only two hits over his final five innings.
He struck out six and didn’t issue a walk, but might have issued an intentional pass when asked how he will feel if told he is going to the bullpen.
“I’ll just be happy to be part of the team,” Scheppers said. “I feel like I’ve showed them I can [start]. I feel like I can pitch deep in the game.”
In 14 2/3 innings, Scheppers is 1-1 with a 3.07 ERA and has limited opponents to a .208 batting average. He was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 76 appearances last season primarily as the Rangers’ eighth-inning reliever.
Scheppers needs to have persuaded Rangers officials that he isn’t just some No. 5 starter. He needs to have shown them that he can make an impact in the rotation and do it over 30-plus starts.
Otherwise, removing him from the late-inning role in which he flourished last season isn’t worth the risk, even though the Rangers have two openings in the rotation.
“As personal expectations go, you don’t want to label yourself a fifth starter,” Scheppers said. “I don’t want to put any kind of limitations on that. We have a lot of guys that have done it before, and I would be happy to be just in the fifth spot.”
Putting left-handed Robbie Ross, a middle reliever who has also pitched well as a starter this spring, in the rotation wouldn’t make nearly the same impact. A decision on the season-opening rotation is coming soon, manager Ron Washington said.
“He’s been consistent and throwing the ball well,” Washington said. “Over the winter we decided he was going to fight for a starting job, and we’re committed to that. If anything changes, we’ll change.”