Right-hander Jose Leclerc wasn’t surprised to get the call that he was joining the Rangers’ bullpen. The 22-year-old reliever throws hard and has excelled since being promoted from Double A Frisco to Triple A Round Rock.
“I feel very happy. I know I’ve been working very hard to make it here,” said Leclerc through Rangers’ Spanish-language play-by-play man Eleno Ornelas. “You never know when it’s going to happen but I was waiting for it. It’s very nice. I can’t believe it that I’m here.”
Leclerc had 22 strikeouts with 13 walks and a 1.69 ERA in 21 1/3 innings for Round Rock. He’ll help spell an overworked bullpen. He tempered command issues when he stopped overthrowing his fastball, he said.
“When I got rid of that then I gained control of my fastball,” he said. “Just let it go and let a guy hit it.”
Michael Roth, who made his Rangers debut in Monday’s loss, pitching the final 3 2/3 innings, was designated for assignment. If Roth clears mandatory optional waivers, he’ll be optioned to Round Rock.
Manager Jeff Banister said Leclerc improved his command when he started repeating his delivery consistently from pitch to pitch.
“All indications and reports are that he’s been much better at that,” Banister said. “This is a guy who has swing and miss stuff, also. Having another guy with swing and miss stuff to add to the mix out there, it’s a plus.”
Yu Darvish will pitch a bullpen session Thursday with Frisco and make a second rehab start with the RoughRiders either Saturday or Sunday. Darvish threw 2-plus innings for Frisco on Monday night, his first appearance since going on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness.
Reliever Keone Kela, who threw his first inning for Round Rock on Monday night since right elbow surgery in April, is expected to pitch again for Frisco on Thursday. Kela struck out three and hit 95-97 mph with his fastball Monday.
Darvish and Kela won’t return to the club until after the All-Star break. Banister said the club will continue to be conservative with Kela. He’ll likely return to the Rangers soon after the All-Star break.
“He’s still a young guy. He’s had surgery, so there is a conservativeness that needs to happen, still a build-up required,” he said.
Perez not pressing
Left-hander Martin Perez isn’t letting the injuries to the rotation affect the way he approaches his starts. It still comes down to do his job, he said.
For much of 2016, that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s gone at least six innings in 14 of his 17 starts, including seven innings against the Twins on Friday in which he didn’t factor in the decision despite allowing only two runs on five hits. However, the Rangers have won his past eight starts.
The only thing Perez hopes to do is go deeper into the game to help protect an overworked bullpen. He’s gone seven innings three times this season.
“I think we just need to do our job. Stay focused and go more than six innings. Try to go long in the game but it’s not pressure on us,” he said. “The last two weeks we used a lot of bullpen guys. If we go long in the game they’re going to get to rest even more.”
Round Rock outfielder Ryan Strausborger was traded to the Mariners for a 2016 international draft slot position. The Mariners had the fourth slot, which is for $210,700. He was batting .288 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 45 games.
The Rangers have homered in 16 consecutive games, their longest homer streak since hitting a homer in 27 straight in 2002.
Shin-Soo Choo led off Tuesday’s game with a 420-foot homer to center field on the first pitch from David Price, Choo’s third leadoff homer on the road trip and fourth this season. He has 20 leadoff homers in his career.
Choo left the game in the fifth inning with lower back stiffness.
Left-hander Yohander Mendez was promoted to Round Rock from Frisco and started Tuesday night.