Another arm was needed in the Texas Rangers’ bullpen, which led the team to purchasing the contract of veteran right-hander Scott Baker from Triple A Round Rock on Wednesday afternoon.
The Rangers’ starters averaged less than five innings a start the past eight games going into Wednesday. Baker, who was scheduled to start Wednesday at Round Rock, gives them a fresh long reliever.
The move, manager Ron Washington said, is geared towards helping the bullpen get straightened out over the next few days. But it marked a significant day for Baker.
“It was obviously a long road,” said Baker, who had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in April 2012.
“It really makes it special once you’ve endured something that’s taken this long.”
The 32-year-old Oklahoma State product had been a staple of the Minnesota Twins rotation from 2007-11 before undergoing the surgery. He got back to the big leagues last season, making three starts with the Chicago Cubs in September, and spent spring training with the Seattle Mariners.
But he was released by the Mariners in late March and signed on with the Rangers to pitch in the Round Rock rotation. He went 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA over six starts.
Baker has been a starter most of his career, but had no issues being called up for a relief role.
“As long as you’re healthy, I feel like it’s a non-factor,” Baker said of going to the bullpen. “I think I can get loose in a decent amount of time and, out of the bullpen, that’s the name of the game.”
To clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Baker, the team optioned outfielder Daniel Robertson to Round Rock. To make room on the 40-man roster, left-hander Pedro Figueroa (Tommy John surgery) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
More pitching news
Left-hander Robbie Ross is staying in the rotation.
Washington said the organization has not discussed the possibility of changing Ross’ role despite two consecutive starts in which he allowed six earned runs in each.
“The things he’s going through is what you call experience,” Washington said.
Tanner Scheppers, the Rangers’ other reliever-turned-starter, is also under the impression he’ll remain in the rotation. The Opening Day starter is on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation but is in the middle of a throwing program.
“My intentions are to go out there and be a starter until I’m told otherwise,” said Scheppers, who emerged as a dominant setup reliever last season.
Scheppers threw off flat ground Wednesday and is expected to long toss out to 150 feet on Thursday.
As far as left-hander Joe Saunders, the Rangers have yet to determine his next step. Saunders (stress fracture in left ankle) feels he’s ready to return after a four-inning rehab start at Double A Frisco on Tuesday.
Matt Harrison will pitch at home Thursday for the first time since April 6, 2013. Harrison, who underwent three surgeries last season, will be making his third start of the season.
He’s had mixed results so far, allowing two runs over six innings on April 27 at Seattle and then lasting only 4 1/3 innings Saturday at Anaheim.
Harrison feels he’s making progress, though, especially after a 70-pitch bullpen session earlier this week. He is getting back to his old ways of having the ball move up-and-down instead of side-to-side.
“It took a lot of pitches to do it, but by the end of it, it was better,” Harrison said.
Briefly• Infielder Jurickson Profar (torn teres major muscle in right shoulder) started his throwing program Wednesday, playing catch out to 60 feet. He said it went well and will progress each day going forward.
• Right-hander Alexi Ogando has allowed nine runs over 4 1/3 innings over his last five outings and leads the American League in appearances. But Washington believes Ogando is throwing better than the results suggest. Said Washington: “He’s healthy, his velocity is there. He just has to throw in better location and throw in better luck.”
• Ticket update for this weekend’s series vs. the Red Sox, as of Wednesday afternoon – Less than 2,000 reserved seats remaining for Friday; obstructed view, singles and standing room only for Saturday; and less than 8,000 reserved seats for Sunday.