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Monday newsletter time: Rangers on cusp of dynamic Vanderbilt duo pitching together again

(AP Photo/John Kekis)

 

ARLINGTON — Rangers officials went to sleep Sunday night having pulled off the near-impossible: having the 2021 Vanderbilt 1-2 pitching punch basically in their farm system.

The Rangers still have to like what they see on Kumar Rocker’s physical and then sign the No.3 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, but they expect that he will one day be pitching in the same Rangers rotation as 2021 No. 2 overall pick Jack Leiter.

They are both looking forward to that moment. Rocker said he can’t wait to watch and learn again from Leiter, who was a professional even in college, and Leiter said he can’t wait to pitch alongside the player who made him better last year.

Rocker’s bad luck in the 2021 draft, when he was selected 10th overall by Mets but couldn’t pass their physical, became the Rangers’ good fortune. That’s just about the only way they could have orchestrated a Leiter-Rocker reunion.

The sense here is that the Rangers would have taken either shortstop Jackson Holliday or outfielder Druw Jones had they been available at No. 3. Once they were the first two players off the board, the Rangers weighed the risk of signing Rocker vs. others in the draft and felt the right-hander was the safer choice.

If he’s healthy, and the Rangers believe he is, the baseball part isn’t all that risky.

It’s power stuff, with a fastball that topped out at 99 mph during a five-start trial in the independent Atlantic League. The slider and curveball remain plus pitches.

In the same vein as Owen White, Rocker wants to punish hitters. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, he has some mound presence that others don’t have.

The Rangers haven’t determined if Rocker will pitch before the season ends. He said he would like to have a foundation of some minor-league innings under his belt before hitting the offseason and what should be his first full professional season in 2023.

That will be determined by the Rangers’ medical staff. The ultimate goal is Rocker’s long-term health, and the Rangers might decide that pitching again in 2022 isn’t worth it.

They can still get their Vandy 1-2 punch rolling toward the big-league rotation without him throwing in another game.

A needed break

The All-Star break is upon us, though this year it’s only three days off for the Rangers before getting back at it Thursday.

They will do so at Miami for one game, as they begin to make up the games postponed because of the MLB lockout.

The Rangers will play Thursday afternoon and then hop on their plane for a nice short trip to … San Francisco.

That’s only 5 1/2 hours.

The Miami game kicks off a four-city, 11-game road trip to open the second half. Just what this team needs.

(Insert multiple eye rolls here.)

The Rangers finished baseball’s first half Sunday with a whimper, losing 6-2. The loss completed a four-game sweep for the Mariners, who have won 14 straight games, and dropped the Rangers’ record to a disappointed 41-49.

They were flirting with .500 only a few weeks ago.

The Rangers didn’t play terribly in the series, or in the first half, but they didn’t play well enough. Their bullpen didn’t pitch nearly well enough, including Garrett Richards giving up three runs Sunday in the seventh inning. They haven’t figured out how to win close games, which is illustrated by their 5-20 record in one-run games.

Manager Chris Woodward said the Rangers occasionally lack the winning mentality needed to not chase pitches out of the strike zone or to not make a costly pitch or to not forget to hold a runner close and just let him steal a base.

And it seems no one can move a runner from second to third.

Those things all happened Saturday in a 3-2 loss in 10 innings.

“We do have to make some progress to win games,” Woodward said. “Some of this is actually dictated for us to win, and we’re just not doing it as well as we need to.”

Marcus Semien homered for the game’s first run, and Corey Seager had an RBI single in the seventh.

Glenn Otto pitched well Sunday, allowing three runs in six innings and leaving with a 3-1 lead. He was struck in the right wrist and ribs by a broken bat early in the game, but remained in the game.

Seattle pounced on Richards in the seventh to put away the game.

“I wish I could have had a few back,” Otto said.

ICYMI …

Just when you think it can’t get much busier, a week like last week hits. My goodness.

But this is the busiest month of the season, with the draft, the All-Star Game and the lead up to the trade deadline, which this season falls on Aug. 2. Club executives from around the league don’t like it, not because of the work but because of the chance that something might slip through the cracks or not be completed with the same thoroughness as it would during a normal month.

Makes sense.

Anyhoo, here’s the latest from Rangers Today in case you missed it (and a few other reminders).

Friday on the Farm: Owen White is coming for you

Rangers farm report: Why no Bubba Thompson?

A problematic Rangers draft history

Taveras coming on strong

Subscribe (for free) to Rangers Today Baseball Podcast YouTube channel

Subscribe (for cheap) to Rangers Today

 

Doggy video!

I need to know where this store is. Enjoy. See you Tuesday.

 

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Jeff Wilson, jeff@rangerstoday.com

Jeff Wilson

Sports reporter for two decades. Sports fan for life. Covers the Texas Rangers. Graduate of TCU. Colorado native. Author of Purple Passion: TCU Football Legends (https://t.co/2fmXLyympx). Follow me on Twitter at @JeffWilsonTXR

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