Part of the fun of spring training is trying to pinpoint who will be on the Opening Day roster. Watching players battle for locker space is one of the things that makes this game great. However, while it may be fun for the fans, it can be very stressful for the coaching staff and front office of any team. Determining who are the best choices to fill out your 25-man roster is no simple chore. Right now, the Texas Rangers are facing the task of choosing the best man to secure the final three outs. Here is a look at the candidates who could solve the Rangers’ closer conundrum.
Experienced but Injury Prone
The first arm on manager Chris Woodward’s list is right-hander Jose Leclerc. At this point, Leclerc is the lead candidate, but Woodward isn’t ready to hand him the spot just yet. Despite having done the job in the past, he’ll still have to compete for it. Perhaps, more importantly, he’ll need to show that he can stay healthy. In 2020, he was shut down for four weeks with a Grade 2 strain in his right shoulder. It’s the same injury that sidelined righty Corey Kluber for the majority of the shortened 2020 season. Leclerc definitely has his work cut of him.
New and Familiar Faces
At the moment, there are no guarantees that fans will see just one man in the closer role. Woodward is weighing his options. Besides Leclerc, he is also taking a good look at the newly signed Ian Kennedy and old friend Matt Bush as potential solutions. Both Kennedy and Bush are in camp on minor league contracts for the time being. Bush’s presence in spring camp is definitely intriguing. He is in the midst of a comeback of sorts. If he makes the team, it will be the first time since 2018 that he’ll be on a Major League roster. He pitched for Triple-A Round Rock for part of the 2018 season and Double-A Frisco in 2019. He did not pitch during the 2020 season.
Matchups and Tendencies
With less than two weeks until the Rangers season opener against the Kansas City Royals on April 1st at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Woodward is willing to let this dilemma play out. Sometimes that is the best move for a ball club. Instead of just handing a player a starting job in early February, the right thing to do is look at all of your scenarios. Leclerc may be great against left-handed hitters, and he may struggle against righties. Or it could be the exact opposite. The same goes for the other candidates battling for the closer job. A lot of times, pitchers will be this way against entire teams. Granted, you only get a small sample size of that in spring ball, but it never hurts to look.
Waiting for the Phone to Ring
A lot of stress is placed on the closer’s shoulders. He has to be ready to come in as soon as he hears the call on the bullpen phone. Right now, the Rangers don’t know who will be answering that call, but hopefully, they’ll be the best choice for the job.
Update to this article can be found at this link.
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