Texas Rangers

Changes to Rangers’ bullpen might not make much difference, but it might be time to try

Rangers’ rookie Ariel Jurado took the loss Tuesday in Oakland

Rangers' rookie Ariel Jurado took the loss Tuesday in Oakland
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Rangers' rookie Ariel Jurado took the loss Tuesday in Oakland

The road goes on for the Texas Rangers, who stubbed their toes the past two games at Angel Stadium. Anyone who has followed them this season doesn’t need to be reminded about their troubles away from Globe Life Park.

But for those who don’t know, the Rangers are 8-17 in road games and 17-8 at home. They have a minus-7 run differential on the road, and are a plus-20 at home.

Asdrubal Cabrera has nine homers and 25 RBIs at home, both of which lead the American League, and has no homers and two RBIs on the road.

There are more ugly numbers available, but everyone should get the idea.

And what happened Sunday on the road shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

1. Six consecutive close games, all decided by one or two runs, put manager Chris Woodward in a position where he needed to use the Rangers’ four best relievers late in games while the other four gathered rust.

He knew Sunday morning that winning or losing in the late innings, the other guys had to pitch. He didn’t say that he would be holding his breath, in fear of what might happen with them on the mound.

And it happened.

Jeffrey Springs and Kyle Dowdy surrendered a 5-1 lead, and they wasted no time doing it. The Angels scored six times in the seventh, four of them charged to Springs, who also allowed an inherited runner to score, and one to Dowdy.

Springs didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced, and the final two runs of the inning scored on Dowdy wild pitches.

With Shawn Kelley and Jesse Chavez unavailable after pitching the first two games of the series and Jose Leclerc unavailable after a 23-pitch inning Saturday, Woodward had to go with Springs, Dowdy, et al, even though they hadn’t pitched in a week.

“That falls on me,” Woodward said. “Those guys have to get out there more often..

Woodward isn’t wrong. Pitchers need to pitch to stay sharp. But Woodward could also use more arms he can trust in high-leverage situations.

It’s time for general manager Jon Daniels to fix the bullpen.

The first move should be trying to sneak Dowdy, the Rule 5 pick the Rangers claimed on waivers just before the season, through waivers. He’s a nice guy with a good arm and a Texas connection, but trying to keep him active the whole season has cost the Rangers a couple games.

The Rangers are definitely short on advanced young arms, but they are also handcuffed by the Rule 5 rules. They need roster flexibility in their bullpen, and they can get some by trying to move Dowdy through waivers and possibly working out a trade with the team that lost him, the Cleveland Indians.

They could also add flexibility by designating seldom-used veteran Jeanmar Gomez for assignment. With an open 40-man spot, perhaps Triple A right-hander Josh Fields, whom Woodward knows well from their days with the Los Angeles Dodgers, becomes be an option.

If the Rangers want another left-hander, one who is better at retiring lefty hitters, they can swap out Springs for Kyle Byrd. Brett Martin is another option, but he can’t be recalled from Nashville until next weekend after being sent down May 21.

Daniels has moves to make. They might not make a world of difference, but it’s time to at least try something else.

2. Ariel Jurado looked overmatched much of last season as a rookie, and in spring training he looked as if he had taken the off-season off.

That has all changed into two months.

Jurado put together the second-best start of his career Sunday, allowing two runs in a career-high 6 1/3 innings, and in so doing bolstered his case to remain in the rotation, without the need of an opener, indefinitely*.

(* Check back after his next start Friday.)

At minimum, he has improved.

Jurado has always been a strike-thrower, but this season he has more confidence in and command of his off-speed stuff. That makes his sinker that much better.

As the Rangers continue to have need for starters this season and into the future, the pitching of Jurado as a starter and reliever has been a nice development.

Of course, young pitchers don’t have an easy road, and Jurado will hit some bumps. Mike Minor isn’t young, and he is going to hit some bumps, too.

The key is limiting the trouble, something that separates the best pitchers from the rest. Minor has found a way to do that this season, as he did Saturday night, and that’s why he has a 2.55 ERA and is leading all MLB pitchers in WAR.

It was a great weekend at the Big A for the rotation. Drew Smyly posted his first quality start of the season Friday, Minor posted one Saturday, and Jurado made the Rangers 3 for 3 in that department Sunday.

Jurado’s effort should keep him in the rotation indefinitely*.

3. Angels rookie Griffin Canning labored through the first three innings Friday, needing 72 pitches to record nine outs, but managed to get through the fifth with the Angels holding a 3-1 lead.

He struck out five, including Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara twice each, using a mid-90s fastball and a decent little slider. Canning was making his fifth career start.

The Rangers are waiting for their version Canning, the Angels’ No. 2 prospect, to arrive in the majors. Considering the Rangers’ top pitching prospect, Hans Crouse, in at Low A Hickory, this could be a long wait.

He is doing just fine, at 2-0 with a 3.35 ERA after eight starts for the Crawdads. They appear to be keeping a fairly tight leash on Crouse, who has logged only 37 2/3 innings.

Crouse’s buddy from last season, Tyler Phillips, has been the Rangers’ best minor-league starter this season He opened at High A Down East and was bumped to Double A Frisco earlier this month.

The pitcher with the best control in the minors, according to Baseball America, was roughed up Sunday in his third Double A start, allowing six runs and recording only four outs.

Phillips is only the Rangers’ No. 20 prospect according to BA (the Star-Telegram ranked him ninth after last season). But he as close to the majors as any other prospect, with Taylor Hearn hurt.

Left-hander Joe Palumbo has a 3.64 ERA for Frisco and 56 strikeouts in 42 innings. He’s on the 40-man roster, and that’s never insignificant.

But he’s not in the majors, as Canning is. The Rangers are in for a long wait until their Canning arrives.

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After 11 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.
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