Texas Rangers

‘He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball,’ and he will be Rangers’ closer in 2019

Jose Leclerc was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2018, and other teams took notice.
Jose Leclerc was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2018, and other teams took notice. rmallison@star-telegram.com

One of the decisions that was hanging over the Texas Rangers has been settled, though it really shouldn’t come as a surprise after the season Jose Leclerc had in 2018.

The Rangers Pitcher of the Year will open this season as the team’s closer after finishing in that role during one of the best seasons by a reliever in all of baseball.

Manager Chris Woodward said earlier in the off-season that he might consider using Leclerc in high-leverage spots earlier in games than the ninth inning, but he now wants Leclerc to get the final three outs.

“As it stands right now, he’ll be our closer,” Woodward said Friday night before the Rangers Winter Warm Up at Texas Live!. “He’s our best bullpen guy. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.”

Leclerc accepted the award as the Rangers’ top pitcher later in the night. He said that he was open to pitching an any role as long as it helped the Rangers win games.

Leclerc did that last season, posting a 1.56 ERA, finishing the season with a 21-inning scoreless streak, and owning the lowest opponent batting average (.126) by a reliever in the majors.

The .1257 mark was the fourth-lowest by a reliever in MLB history.

Leclerc finished with 12 saves, all after Keone Kela was traded July 30.

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After 12 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.