Texas Rangers

Rangers Reaction: Even after Friday's meltdown, bullpen has a passing grade so far

Adrian Beltre acted like he was going to charge the mound after his buddy, Felix Hernandez, hit him with a sixth-inning pitch.
Adrian Beltre acted like he was going to charge the mound after his buddy, Felix Hernandez, hit him with a sixth-inning pitch. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

The Felix Hernandez-Adrian Beltre Show returned to Globe Life Park to lots of gesturing and smack-talk between the two All-Stars and lots of yuks among those watching.

It might just be me, but it seems like the more that has been made of their all-in-good-fun antics the past few seasons, the more they have ratcheted up the antics. That isn't an accusation that it's not genuine, but maybe since it has been met with such approval, they're really letting each other have it.

It's been nine seasons since the duo last played together with the Mariners, and the head-to-head advantage is decidedly in Hernandez's favor. He has held Beltre to a .224 average (13 for 58) with one homer and only three RBIs.

Now add a hit by pitch to the ledger, and that was nearly the biggest pitch of the game. It was definitely Hernandez's last and worst pitch.

After getting Beltre to roll to third in his first two at-bats, putting him on with one out in the sixth gave just enough fuel to the sputtering Rangers offense to help them take a 2-1 lead.

Another Beltre grounder likely results in a double play, as his fourth-inning grounder had done and as his eighth-inning grounder did.

Alas, it turned out being another moment in the Hernandez-Beltre Show that will be remembered by Beltre faking as if he would charge the mound.

Here's some Rangers Reaction from a 6-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

1. Early-season statistics can be misleading, especially for relief pitchers and bullpens as a whole. One bad outing can make an ordinarily good pitcher look like he stinks, and the same goes for the bullpen.

But the 3.28 ERA the Texas Rangers' bullpen carried into Friday night wasn't misleading. The bullpen, with the exception of the season-opening series against the Houston Astros, had been good. The winning pieces had been really good.

So five runs allowed over the final two innings rate as a bit of a surprise. Add that Chris Martin and Keone Kela gave up four of them is also a surprise.

One more surprise? That was the bullpen's first late-game meltdown of the season, a year after they led the league in late-game meltdowns over the first two months. (Of course, the Rangers haven't had the chance to blow many games, as they have only four saves.)

Here are the good and the not-so-good so far.

Kela, despite allowing three runs and taking the loss, has been good and will be fine. The same goes for Martin, who allowed a game-tying homer to Mitch Haniger with two outs in the eighth.

Also in the good column are Kevin Jepsen, Matt Bush and Jesse Chavez, who has done all that the Rangers can ask (and more) from their long man.

That leaves Alex Claudio and Jake Diekman, the two left-handers. Claudio hasn't been the relief ace he was last season, but he's still a mystery to lefty hitters. Diekman has been inconsistent, and that was seen as he allowed one inherited runner and one of his own to score in the ninth in relief of Kela.

Considering that he missed almost all of last season and is pitching with rewired innards and new weight and strength, he's learning his new self as he goes. Diekman should get better.

Hey, it is only April.

That might be grading the bullpen on a curve, especially in light of its first meltdown of the season. If 2017 and expectations are the curve, though, the grade is pretty accurate.

But it is only April.

2. Mike Minor has made four starts this season. He has logged at least 90 pitches each time, struck out at least five three times, walked no more than two in any and has given the Rangers a bona-fide chance to win three times.

On Friday, he hit 94 mph with his fastball, did terrific work with runners on base and in scoring position, and threw 102 pitches. Minor allowed only run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings and was the beneficiary of some really good defense.

After 21 games, Minor is the Rangers' third-best starter behind Bartolo Colon, who is scheduled to pitch Saturday, and Cole Hamels, who pitched Wednesday. The Rangers really don't have much to complain about.

At some point, though, they're going to have to let him pitch on regular rest rather than using a spot starter or maneuvering the rotation around off days to make sure he gets an extra day. They might have to do it to close out this homestand.

Their reasoning for giving him five days is sound after he spent last season as a reliever and with his last MLB start before this season coming in 2014.

Minor, though, has insisted that starting again is no big deal. He has accepted the extra rest but has also told the powers that be that he doesn't need an extra day before every single start.

"I don't need it," Minor said. "But they're more cautious. I don't think they believe the athlete most of the time. They're just looking out for me."

The Rangers have five healthy starters and don't have an off day before Minor's spot is due again Wednesday. If Doug Fister isn't able to come off the disabled list before then, though he could very well come off before then, the Rangers might have to let Minor go on four days’ rest.

3. Jurickson Profar returned to the Rangers' lineup after passing the MLB concussion protocol ... which he admitted he couldn't do at Tropicana Field.

He said he felt fine the entire time after his fall Monday in the second inning, as he stood to watch his throw to second base and then toppled over Mallex Smith as he slid into the shortstop.

Profar said he stayed on the ground to catch his breath, not because he was seeing stars or was knocked out. When he stood up, he felt so good he wanted to stay in the game, but it was too late. He said that he didn't feel any concussion symptoms the following days.

So why couldn't he pass the test, known as the SCAT5 (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool, fifth edition)?

"It's a very difficult test," he said. "I think you guys should take it."

Is there a neurologist in the house?

Looking at the test, sure, it could be tricky. Those subjected to it have to recall five words and numbers sequences, and then do it two more times but in varying orders.

There are basic questions like, "What venue are we at today?" Profar said he nailed all of those.

And there are clinical elements that only a physician should judge.

Profar said that players had to undergo the testing in spring training to form a baseline that any future tests would be compared to. Apparently, the difference between Profar's spring test and the tests last week were troublesome.

"I was good, but the computer said I wasn't passing it," he said.

So what's the bottom the line here? Profar is OK. It's probably not the worst thing that he was held out. The testing might be imperfect — they're on the fifth edition of the test, after all — but it's necessary after all that has been learned about brain injuries.

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