Final roster decisions still muddled as Rangers break spring camp
(AP photo/Abbie Parr)
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Spring training came to an end Saturday for the Rangers, who watched right-hander Jacob deGrom deliver 3 2/3 scoreless innings and hit 100 mph multiple times in his final tuneup.
He has made the Opening Day roster. So have shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien and left-hander Martin Perez.
All that group had to do was show up and leave healthy, as was the case for many, if not for most, others remaining in big-league camp. There have been some surprises, though.
Left-hander Cole Ragans is threatening to make the team as a reliever. Ezequiel Duran has a solid chance as a utility player. Robbie Grossman is going to play every day, not just in a platoon as was expected.
But the Rangers did not finalize their Opening Day roster before exiting the Surprise Recreation Campus.
There are a couple hang-ups, namely the health of center fielder Leody Taveras, a rotation that will be short on innings, and some 40-man roster implications.
That doesn’t mean the writing isn’t on the wall in many cases, though.
What follows isn’t so much a projection as a reading between the lines of what’s been said the past few days in Arizona:
The Taveras situation
The Rangers have weighed keeping Taveras on the team if they are convinced that he will be able to bat right-handed a few games into the season, but they will put him on the injured list if there is any doubt about the condition of his strained left oblique.
If he is kept of the IL, that’s bad news for non-roster outfielder Travis Jankowski and catcher Sandy Leon. General manager Chris Young said that carrying a third catcher is a possibility, though manager Bruce Bochy said he would rather have the versatility of a position player.
If Taveras is active to start the season, the bench would likely be filled by outfielder Bubba Thompson and utility players Josh Smith, Ezequiel Duran and Brad Miller. Can the Rangers find enough at-bats for both Smith and Duran, and continue their development?
“Yes and yes,” Young said.
The innings-shortfall situation
Two starting pitchers, Opening Day starter deGrom and fellow right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, will enter the regular season a start or two short on their buildup, and the Rangers want length in their bullpen.
The two best candidates are Ragans and 2022 rotation member Dane Dunning. Young said the Rangers can keep both pitchers stretched out enough that they could make spot starts if needed, which would keep the Rangers from having to dip into the minors for a starter should the need arise.
They’re going to be short at Triple A Round Rock, too. Glenn Otto has a sprained right shoulder capsule and likely won’t be ready until late May. Spencer Howard (arm fatigue) should be ready sooner, but he’s still not going to built up enough to start until the last half of April.
The Rangers could find depth on the waiver wire or as pitchers around baseball begin to opt out of their minor-league deals.
It looks as if Ragans and Dunning have made the team.
The Ian Kennedy situation
Kennedy did not opt out of his minor-league deal Saturday, but the Rangers did not say that he has made the Opening Day roster.
The bullpen has four members locked up: Jose Leclerc, Will Smith, Jonathan Hernandez and Brock Burke. Ragans and Dunning would be five and six.
(The Rangers surprisingly optioned righty Joe Barlow to Triple A amid decreased velocity. The expectation is he will join the bullpen as soon as his velo returns.)
That leaves two spots. Taylor Hearn hasn’t pitched well this spring, but his ability to provide length gives him a leg up. That would leave one spot, which could go to Kennedy. Or lefty John King. Or out-of-options righty Josh Sborz.
King can pitch multiple innings and is on the 40-man roster. Sborz has not pitched well enough to make the team and would either have to be designated for assignment or place on the injured list. Surely the Rangers can find something with Sborz that isn’t feeling 100 percent.
A DFA would create a spot on the 40-man roster for Kennedy. So would placing Otto on the 60-day injured list. Jake Odorizzi, who was expected to fill one of the multi-inning roles in the bullpen, continues to be bothered by arm fatigue and could be out as long as Otto.
These last bullpen spots might not be decided until after the second exhibition game against the Royals on Tuesday or until the Wednesday off day before the season opener Thursday.
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org