With six days remaining before Opening Day, the Texas Rangers are staring at the possibility of two relievers beginning the season on the disabled list.
Right-handers Shawn Tolleson and Tanner Scheppers will be short of the 12- to 14-inning workload that manager Jeff Banister prefers for one-inning relievers each spring. They were assured of season-opening jobs earlier in camp.
Tolleson (forearm) pitched in a minor league game Sunday night without issue and is scheduled to pitch in another minor league game Tuesday. He’s up to six innings this spring in B games, minor league games and Cactus League games.
Scheppers, who is at 4 2/3 innings after missing most of last season with an elbow injury, had a precautionary MRI exam on his right ankle Monday, more than three weeks after a mild sprain of the ankle during conditioning drills.
Neither has worked on back-to-back days, another regular-season prerequisite. Nevertheless, Tolleson thinks he can be ready for Monday’s opener at Oakland.
“But that decision ultimately isn’t up to me,” Tolleson said.
Banister said that the importance of being available for the majority of the season takes precedence over being ready for Day One.
“This is a 162-game season plus the playoffs,” Banister said. “If it’s necessary to be conservative, it’s necessary to be conservative.”
The injuries to Tolleson and Scheppers could push the final bullpen decisions all the way to the 2 p.m. Sunday deadline to submit rosters.
If Tolleson and Scheppers are a go, they will join closer Neftali Feliz and newcomer Sam Freeman, a left-hander, in the bullpen. The final three spots are up in the air.
Keone Kela has pitched well enough to secure one, and so has fellow right-hander Jon Edwards. The Rangers like right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa’s effectiveness against lefty hitters, and he is in camp on a major league deal.
“It’s been a good experience,” Kela said. “I can’t say whether I’m going to go to Arlington. All I can do is go out and control what I can control.”
But there are more relievers still vying for the final three spots.
“We still have a number of pitchers who are still in play here,” Banister said. “The only guys who aren’t in play for the Opening Day roster are the guys who have been optioned out.”
The Rangers aren’t likely to have a traditional long reliever, but instead will rely on having multiple pitchers who can log two or three innings, depending on pitch count. Ross Ohlendorf could become a more traditional long man after mending a groin strain at Triple A.
Tepesch optioned out
Right-hander Nick Tepesch was optioned to Triple A Round Rock after missing out on the rotation to Nick Martinez and after a dismal performance Sunday in what was billed as an audition to be the long reliever.
Banister said that allowing seven runs in 32/3 innings didn’t force the Rangers’ hand. They wanted to add Tepesch to a Round Rock rotation that already includes fellow righties Anthony Ranaudo, Alex Gonzalez and Luke Jackson.
“He gives us starting depth that we’re comfortable with,” Banister said.
Martinez is scheduled to make his final Cactus League start Tuesday. While he nailed down the final spot in the rotation with a 0.84 ERA in his first 102/3 innings, he isn’t going to take a day off.
“The work is just beginning,” he said. “I feel good. You set a goal in the off-season, and after you achieve it, it’s a great feeling.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760