The Texas Rangers will have to decide whether pitchers Joe Saunders and Tommy Hanson fit into their pitching plans on Wednesday.
Saunders appears to have the inside track to break camp with the team as one of their starters, while Hanson was scheduled to pitch in relief Tuesday. Neither player has been told if they’ll make the team or what their potential role would be yet.
“Right now, to be honest, I don’t know what’s going on,” Hanson said.
Saunders isn’t sure of his fate, either, other than that he’s preparing to throw a bullpen session Wednesday.
But on Wednesday the Rangers will be forced to make a decision. That’s the final day they can pay a 25 percent termination fee on each player’s base salary or be obligated to pay the full base salary this season. Both players have base salaries of $500,000, the big-league minimum, which means the termination fee would be $125,000.
If either player breaks camp on the 25-man roster, their salaries escalate. Saunders’ base would jump to $1.5 million, while Hanson’s would go to $2 million The difference between the two contracts is that Hanson has a split contract and could be optioned to the minor leagues, although Hanson can opt out of his deal if the team decides to go that route.
For now, though, it appears that Saunders has the best chance of making the team. The veteran lefty signed midway through spring and hasn’t had great results to this point. He allowed nine runs (four earned) on eight hits over 1 1/3 innings on Sunday, but is going through a phase of “dead arm.”
Saunders expressed little concern about dead arm and still feels good about his chances of making the team.
“The great thing about dead arm is your arm feels fine, it’s just dead,” he said. “I’ve had it before. It’s dead for one start and the next start it feels good, if not stronger, so I was excited I got it and nothing was wrong. My arm felt fine, it was just dead.”
Saunders has a more proven track record starting than Hanson, too. He threw 183 innings for the Mariners last year and has averaged close to 193 innings every season for the past six seasons.
Hanson had success in a starting role early on in his career, but has struggled over the last two seasons. He made two relief appearances late in the season for the Angels last year, but seems lukewarm on the idea of doing it full time.
“I’ve only had two relief appearances in the big leagues, so I wouldn’t call that being comfortable but it’s still pitching,” Hanson said. “I can do it. I did it last year, so we’ll see.”