The latest Texas Rangers pitcher to take on a more prominent bullpen role, aided by both injuries and performance, is right-hander Shawn Tolleson.
The right-hander worked a quick and clean eighth inning Friday and was the winning pitcher as the Rangers scored once in the ninth to beat Felix Hernandez and Seattle 1-0.
Tolleson could pitch anywhere from the sixth to the eighth, depending on how deep into the game the starting pitchers goes and on how rested fellow righty Jason Frasor is.
One spot that hasn’t changed this season is closer, and righty Joakim Soria has been as close to a sure thing as any other closer in the American League.
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No one should be surprised, manager Ron Washington said. Washington isn’t, and neither is Soria in his first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.
“First off, I think God for giving me another chance to come back,” Soria said. “I’ve been working really hard. It’s not a surprise.”
Soria earned his 14th save in 15 tries Friday when he carved up the top of the Mariners’ order. His ERA sits at 1.88. His opponents batting average is .149. His average against right-handed hitters is a major-league-leading .081 (3 for 37) for pitchers who have logged 30 at-bats against righties.
Those are numbers worthy of an All-Star appearance, but the 14 saves were tied for fifth entering Saturday. A lack of chances, brought on by the Rangers’ struggles the past month, could cost him in the player balloting.
Soria, a two-time All-Star with Kansas City, isn’t even thinking about the Midsummer Classic.
“It’s something that I don’t put much thought into,” he said. “It’s fun, but you can’t control it. If it happens, it happens.”