Discussing the Rangers' Bullpen Options

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Not much to criticize or question about the Rangers‘ first four games, but one interesting aspect has been manager Ron Washington‘s assortment of bullpen options he’s used thus far. Let’s take a look at who Washington has turned to so far and discuss a few options regarding depth, now, and down the road:

Friday: C.J. Wilson was replaced with two outs in the sixth by lefty Mark Lowe. After Lowe, Arthur Rhodes, Darren Oliver, and Neftali Feliz each threw an inning apiece.

Saturday: Colby Lewis for six, then, each for one inning, Mason Tobin, Pedro Strop, and Darren O’Day.

Sunday: Matt Harrison for seven, then, each for one inning, Oliver and Feliz.

Monday: Derek Holland for six, then, each for one inning, O’Day, Rhodes, and Feliz

Clearly, Washington is sorting through is options with in the largely unproven Texas bullpen. Obviously, Feliz is the go-to option in ninth inning save situations and O’Day, Oliver, and Rhodes have all shown to be effective in late relief situations. But guys like Tobin (has thrown less than 100 minor league innings), Strop (also inexperienced at MLB level) and Lowe (has dealt with injuries in the past) are all pitchers that fit the mold of a mid- to late-relief fill-in and are all options Washington has on the table when that situation arises.

Then again, picking the perfect reliever is all situation-dependent. And the relief situations thrown Texas’ way through four games have been perfect for testing out those arms.

Each Ranger starter, thus far, has proven he can pitch into the sixth inning or beyond. In an ideal world, the pitching situation for Texas on a given night would look similar to what happened Monday night: Starter throws six innings, O’Day pitches the seventh, Oliver/Rhodes pitches the eighth, and Feliz closes the ninth.

Of course, that situation won’t happen every night and it probably won’t happen the majority of nights either. But if Texas can continue to find solid outings from its bullpen the next week or so it would be a plus because they won’t get back to optimum flexibility until Tommy Hunter returns to the rotation.

Once Hunter returns, its likely Alexi Ogando, Tuesday’s starter, will return to his role as setup man. This would give Texas even more options, essentially taking Oliver and Rhodes out of the setup role and giving Washington three solid options for the seventh inning.

Thus, a hypothetical situation:

Starter throws five innings, is replaced by either Lowe, a lefty, or Tobin or Strop, both righties. This would give Washington three options, two righties and a lefty, to face whoever in the sixth. After that, if he decides to take one of those three guys out, he could turn to O’Day, a side-armed righty, or Rhodes or Oliver, both experienced, control-type lefties, depending on the hitter. Then, of course, he would still might have the option of either Rhodes or Oliver in the eighth but would probably turn to Ogando to set it up for Feliz in the ninth.

Granted, all of this is pure hypothetical, but suddenly the Ranger bullpen doesn’t look so thin and actually seems pretty deep with experienced, hard-throwing options from either side of the rubber.

Tags: 2011 MLB Opening Day 2011 Texas Rangers AL AL West Alexi Ogando American League American League West Arthur Rhodes Baseball Darren O'day Darren Oliver Mark Lowe Mason Tobin MLB Neftali Feliz Pedro Strop Ron Washington Texas Rangers TExas Rangers Bullpen

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