Texas Rangers

Rangers closer unfazed by role down the stretch

Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson gave up two hits, two walks and two runs in the ninth inning Tuesday as a four-run lead to shrank to two in an 8-6 victory.
Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson gave up two hits, two walks and two runs in the ninth inning Tuesday as a four-run lead to shrank to two in an 8-6 victory. Star-Telegram

Texas Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson is on track to pitch more innings and make more appearances this season than in any of his previous five professional seasons.

After his mild struggle closing out Tuesday’s win against the San Diego Padres, his workload may lessen.

Tolleson, who surrendered two runs on two hits and two walks before securing an 8-6 win Tuesday, is at 61 1/3 innings in 61 appearances this season, his first as big league closer. He’s likely to surpass his personal-high of 71 2/3 innings a year ago when he worked a career-high 64 games out of the bullpen for Texas.

Manager Jeff Banister hopes to begin taking advantage of the extra arms in the bullpen since Tuesday’s roster expansion.

“He’s learned how to be a closer at the major league level, so that’s an added piece of the puzzle,” Banister said. “But I feel comfortable with Shawn. I feel comfortable with where he’s at.”

It’s exciting. I have never been in this type of situation and never been on this type of team. It’s what you play for.

Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson

Tolleson’s velocity hasn’t lagged, said Banister, who chalked up Tuesday’s struggles to getting behind in the count. In 11 appearances dating to Aug. 14, Tolleson has allowed four earned runs and given up a hit in 10 games.

“You get behind in the count, you get yourself throwing to the fatter part of the plate,” Banister said. “When you don’t have hitters in swing mode where you can get them to chase, that’s going to happen.”

Tolleson isn’t concerned.

“I feel good,” said Tolleson, who has 28 saves, tied for seventh in the American League entering Wednesday. “We go through little things, you come in and the body parts are not feeling their best. But it’s mind over matter, you do what you can to feel right. As long as it’s not a serious injury and you can get loose in the bullpen, the situation of the game takes over and you feel like you have your best stuff.”

With the addition of Andrew Faulkner, Luke Jackson and Ross Ohlendorf to the bullpen, Banister said he’ll use Keone Kela and Sam Dyson as potential closers when Tolleson could use a break.

“We can use a different bridge guy now,” Banister said. “We can back up those four [Kela, Dyson, Jake Diekman and Sam Freeman]. And give Tolleson a day down, if needed.”

In 11 appearances dating to Aug. 14, Shawn Tolleson has given up a hit in 10 games.

Although Tolleson has blown just two saves in 30 chances, including against the Blue Jays on Aug. 25, he’s entering uncharted territory with a team in contention. Not only is a he a first-year closer, but he’s also nearing 1,000 pitches for the season. Although he threw 1,166 a year ago, the bulk of those didn’t come with the game on the line. That’s been the case since he took over the closer role from Neftali Feliz on May 20.

The Rangers intend on monitoring Tolleson “extremely” closely, Banister said.

Tolleson, ever flashing the perfect closer mentality, isn’t fazed by any of it.

“It’s exciting. I have never been in this type of situation and never been on this type of team,” Tolleson said. “It’s what you play for. To have this role on this type of team is exciting. I don’t take it lightly.

“I want to win. [Tuesday,] I was thrilled we won. Obviously, I want to be sharper in my outing, but at the end of the day, it’s about having more runs than the other team. We’ll take any win we can right now.”

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @StevensonFWST

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