When a team uses five of their seven relievers in one game, most of them for multiple innings, chances are that a fresh arm will be coming up from the minor leagues the next day.
Such was Wednesday, when the Rangers recalled Phillips Valdez from Triple A Nashville and optioned fellow right-hander Pete Fairbanks to Nashville.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Matt Bush was not an option. He won’t be until late next season.
Bush, who was pitching at Double A Frisco as he attempted to return from off-season elbow surgery, has a torn ligament in his right elbow and will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career.
The Rangers were planning to promote Bush within the week, and were expecting him to give them another proven arm at the back of their bullpen.
Instead, the search will continue for a group of seven, or eight, relievers who can lock down games when the Rangers are ahead or keep them close when they fall behind.
“Every team would want to have seven or eight guys and say, ‘These are our guys,’” manager Chris Woodward said. “We knew that coming into the season. We were trying to figure out what pieces we were going to use moving, what we can use now, what we can get out of them right now.
“You look at guys like Fairbanks and Brett Martin and some of the steps forward that these guys have taken and the obvious times when they’re going to take a little step back because they’re young. It’s important that we keep the perspective that these guys are still trying to navigate their way through the big leagues.”
The Rangers fell behind early Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Angels, who scored four third-inning runs against right-hander Ariel Jurado. Mike Trout delivered the big blow with a three-run homer before the Angels prevailed 6-2, handing the Rangers their fourth consecutive loss.
All teams are at their best when their starting pitcher gets them into the seventh or eighth inning. A team is usually ahead when that happens or the game is close.
Either way, the better arms in the bullpen will be called upon. In the Rangers’ case, that’s Shawn Kelley, Chris Martin and Jose Leclerc.
That leaves four others in the Rangers’ currently bullpen configuration. Three of them made the MLB debuts this season.
Bush would have been dropped into the the Kelley-Martin-Leclerc grouping and would have taken the vacancy created there when Jesse Chavez was moved to the starting rotation.
But an MRI exam revealed that Bush had a complete tear in the ulnar collateral ligament, as opposed to the small tear that was repaired late last season by inserting a brace into the ligament.
General manager Jon Daniels said that Bush was upbeat about having Tommy John surgery and mentioned that the death of Los Angeles Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs has helped put the injury in perspective for him.
Bush was taking the news much better than the Rangers.
“His mind-set in such a good place right now,” Daniels said. “It sucks on a human level for him. I feel for him. It’s disappointing.”
Daniels said last month that he would consider adding a veteran bullpen piece if the Rangers remain playoff contention. The trade deadline in July 31, and the Rangers are in a five-team mix for the second wild-card spot as the All-Star break approaches.
In the meantime, the Rangers will continue to shuttle relievers from Nashville as they are needed. Left-hander Kyle Bird, who opened the season on the Opening Day roster, is a candidate and so are right-handers Jake Petricka, David Carpenter and Kyle Dowdy.
Dowdy, who is on a rehab assignment, and Bird are on the 40-man roster.
Woodward said that it’s too early to consider Double A righties Joe Barlow, Demarcus Evans and Emmanauel Clase, though they could be options for a September call-up.
“We don’t really know what we have in a lot of ways because there’s just not a lot of experience,” Woodward said. “Obviously, with are core guys there is.”