Gil LeBreton

Rangers are left hunting to boost thin bullpen

If lefty Ross Detwiler doesn’t earn a spot in the rotation, he would be a welcomed addition to the bullpen.
If lefty Ross Detwiler doesn’t earn a spot in the rotation, he would be a welcomed addition to the bullpen. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

If lefty Eddie Guardado were alive today, he might well be pitching in the Texas Rangers’ bullpen.

Wait a minute. You say Eddie’s alive and well and 44 years old and has only been retired for five seasons?

Get him to spring training. There are Help Wanted signs in bullpens everywhere.

We were only kidding new manager Jeff Banister when we suggested Friday that the time may come this spring when Everyday Eddie, the prehistoric lefty, becomes the Ranger bullpen’s fallback option.

But a lefty who can retire a tough left-handed hitter remains a prized commodity these days.

Last season’s Rangers bullpen featured left-handers Neal Cotts, Robbie Ross, Aaron Poreda and Alex Claudio.

With Cotts, Ross and Poreda all gone, that means the most capable and experienced lefty reliever in the Texas camp this spring is ... well ... Darren Oliver, four days younger than Eddie and currently listed as a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels.

Banister contends that, after the obvious concerns about having his lineup return to good health, his No. 1 priority is assuring that the club has a solid starting rotation.

The first four spots are mostly set, and Banister is blessed with an abundance of options for the No. 5 starter role – Nick Tepesch, Ross Detwiler, Nick Martinez, Ross Ohlendorf and Anthony Renaudo, among them.

But he has no luxury of numbers when it comes to bullpen lefties.

Besides Claudio with his multi-hinged delivery and out-of-options Michael Kirkman, a third option, newly acquired Edgar Olmos, has been experiencing shoulder troubles and showed up on Friday’s injury report.

“I don’t worry about what we don’t have,” Banister repeated Friday. “Our coaching staff and I have to continue to evaluate what we do have.

“How do we make them better? How can we continue to make them grow? Do we have an option outside of being left-handed that gives us an option?”

That last question suggests finding a righty reliever who has the pitches and the wrong-handed splits to retire left-handed hitters.

A right-hander with a solid changeup and a Mariano Rivera-type cutter would do the trick, but teams don’t seem to be seeing those on Craigslist.

“We have a few guys in camp that have that type of arsenal,” Banister said. “But it comes down to whether they can consistently utilize those pitches and whether they recognize when to use those options.

“The other thing is if they’re in another role, are they in a more dynamic role that fits this ball club?”

Banister didn’t name any names, but Detwiler, acquired in a trade with Washington, presumably is a left-hander who may end up in a more dynamic role. The Rangers feel they owe Detwiler a shot at starting.

If he doesn’t earn it, he could become the second lefty in the bullpen.

Unsigned free agent lefties are in scarce supply. The Rangers have kicked the tires on Phil Coke and Joe Beimel, but both relievers appear to be waiting for teams to offer them a major league contract.

“We know that’s one area where we’re light,” general manager Daniels said. “We’ve expressed our level of interest to the free agents, but I’m not expecting to sign anybody at this point.”

Both Coke and Beimel, however, must not be paying attention.

Any experienced lefty reliever, at this point before the 2015 season, is highly likely to end up on that team’s major league roster.

Especially the Rangers.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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