Rangers may use Francisco in eighth
Tigers' eighth-inning rally urges Washington to alter strategy
ARLINGTON -- There was a subtle change made to manager Ron Washington's bullpen philosophy on the flight home from Detroit on Sunday, hours after the Rangers' eighth-inning collapse against the Tigers.
If he needs to get four or five outs from closer Frank Francisco, Washington will opt for that.
Washington said he was set on not using his closer for more than the ninth inning, and still had that belief as he watched the Rangers blow a 4-0 lead in the eighth as C.J. Wilson and Warner Madrigal couldn't hold the lead, setting up a 6-4 loss.
The Rangers don't really have a right-handed setup reliever -- Wilson is a left-hander -- so Washington said on Monday that he will reluctantly use Francisco to get an out or two in the eighth inning if needed.
"I've seen too many closers get hurt trying to pitch multiple innings, so I wanted to stay away from it," Washington said. "But if I've got to get one or two outs extra, I don't think I'd hesitate the next time."
Francisco did miss most of the 2005 and '06 seasons after undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, so it makes sense to be careful with him.
Washington noted that the Yankees have backed off using Mariano Rivera, considered baseball's best closer, for more than an inning since Joe Torre departed as manager after the 2007 season. But there are times when circumstances dictate using a closer for more than one inning.
Washington also explained his decision to bring in Madrigal for a critical situation, then have him intentionally walk Marcus Thames to load the bases.
Washington didn't think that Tigers manager Jim Leyland would have Thames face a righty -- he rarely does -- and with Thames not pulled, Madrigal was told to load the bases, setting up a double play.
In an ideal situation -- with the double play in order -- Washington would have turned to Scott Feldman, but the right-hander wasn't ready to come in. Madrigal came through with a strikeout of ex-Rangers catcher Gerald Laird, but wanting to get to a slider against Brandon Inge, Madrigal left a fastball in the middle of the zone and Inge drove it back up the middle.
"It was a fastball of the plate," Washington said. "[Inge] got it."
Washington said there could be other alternatives for a right-handed setup man. Willie Eyre is currently rehabbing with Triple-A Oklahoma, and he could eventually assume that role when ready. Jason Jennings, currently more of a two-inning pitcher who hasn't been used in back-to-back outings, is another possibility.
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.