Friday newsletter time: Rangers make quick bullpen move with underperforming reliever
(AP photo/Erin Hooley)
The Rangers were off Thursday, spending the day in Houston ahead the series opener tonight at Minute Maid Park.
That didn’t stop them from making a roster move.
Left-hander Taylor Hearn was optioned to Triple A Round Rock a day after he allowed four runs in the seventh inning in a 10-1 loss to the Royals.
Hearn didn’t have a great spring, and he then allowed eight runs in his first seven innings of the season. The Rangers are trying to win, and Hearn isn’t helping them do that even only 12 games into the season.
Hearn can and has helped the Rangers win. He’s also been a slow starter in his career, dating to the 2020 COVID season when he didn’t make the Opening Day roster.
The Rangers did not make the corresponding move but will today. Four of the candidates, though, pitched Thursday night for Round Rock — John King, Zack Littrell, Yerry Rodriguez and Dominic Leone.
King tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings but could still be the choice. The Rangers have a rested bullpen and could get away with seven relievers for a game.
Oh, and he’s on the 40-man roster. So is Rodriguez, and so is Josh Sborz. So is Joe Barlow.
Sborz, you’ll remember, is on the injured list with an ankle injury. He is also out of options, and the Rangers have a decision to make with him.
But if Barlow’s velocity has returned, he would seem to be the first man up. He had started a long-toss program late in spring training and saw results. He has tossed two scoreless innings so far this season.
Who’s in first?
The Astros have dominated the Rangers the past few seasons, especially at Minute Maid Park, and that probably should be expected considering the state of the two franchise.
Houston has been trying, successfully, to win the World Series. The Rangers have been trying, successfully, to strip down their roster, build a good farm system and then spend lavishly.
They play each other this weekend for the first time this season, and guess who’s tied for first place in the American League West?
It isn’t the Astros.
The Rangers and Angels are tied atop the division at 7-5, while the Astros are third at 6-7. Houston has struggled without second baseman Jose Altuve, who was injured during the World Baseball Classic. Michael Brantley and Lance McCullers Jr. are also on the IL, and the Astros were unable to re-sign Justin Verlander.
The Rangers have run into some injury woes of their own, and their depth is being tested just like the Astros.
But the Rangers are better. It will be interesting to see how they measure up to the reigning world champs, even if the Astros aren’t playing as well as they want right now.
Card of the Week
Kumar Rocker’s 2023 debut Tuesday night grabbed headlines, and deservedly so. He tossed five scoreless innings on two hits with no walks and eight strikeouts for High A Hickory. He looked like a 20l22 first-round pick, the third overall pick, should.
Also pitching that night, for Double A Frisco, was another right-hander, another high draft pick. Ryan Garcia wasn’t quite as good as Rocker, but he was good. Garcia, the Rangers’ second-rounder in 2019, allowed two runs in five innings in his Double A debut.
Considering all he’s been through physically, and because he is a friend of Rangers Today and the Rangers Today Baseball Podcast, Garcia’s 2019 Bowman Draft Chrome 1st Bowman is the Card of the Week.
Garcia is 25, so he needs to be in Double A, but he also earned it after a very good 2022 season and a great spring. His velocity has been up since he recovered from Tommy John surgery and multiple lat injuries, and he knows how to pitch.
The Rangers have an impressive lineup of pitching prospects. Garcia isn’t in the top tier, but he’s moving up. Keep an eye on him this season.
My current physical state. Enjoy.
— Corgilover (@Corgilover_1534) April 11, 2023
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com