Wilson, Francisco in any order suits Texas
Washington is comfortable with either pitcher in closer role
PHOENIX -- C.J. Wilson has been the Rangers' closer for roughly three weeks. He also served in that role for a couple of weeks in May.
The Rangers now must decide when it will be best to put Frank Francisco back in that role now that he's recovered from inflammation and stiffness in his right shoulder. Manager Ron Washington said it will be soon.But something is also clear. Either scenario has worked well for the Rangers to this point. The Rangers don't have a closer controversy as much as they do an enviable situation that most managers would love. Now that Wilson is healthy, the Rangers have two who can do the job. "We're both pretty darn good," Wilson said. "Frank and I have both done the job when put in that role, and we both have the stuff to do it. When I go in, he has a lot of confidence in me, and when he goes in, I have a lot of confidence in him. Good teams have to have more than one guy who can do that job." The Rangers went into Thursday's game with the D-backs with just four blown saves, the fewest in the American League. They were also 31-0 when leading after eight innings and 30-1 when leading after six innings. They've had one blown save in the eighth, one in the seventh and two in the sixth inning. Last year, the Rangers had 28 blown saves, tied for the second-most in the American League. They also lost 14 games despite holding a lead after six innings. This season, the Rangers are the only team in the AL with two relievers who have at least seven saves. Francisco has 12, and Wilson has seven. The bottom line is when the Rangers can get the ball to Wilson and Francisco late in the game -- no matter in which order -- they have been able to shut the game down. "That fact that C.J. is healthy means everything," Washington said. "When we lost Frank for a period of time, I had no hesitation putting him in the closer's role. He has been one of our MVP's down there. I love his attitude. He doesn't care when he comes in, and when he's rested, he doesn't mind coming in for a couple of innings." Getting Francisco back only completes the bullpen. He has pitched two scoreless innings in the eighth inning, including one on Wednesday night in a 2-1 victory over the D-backs, and said he is ready to resume his duties as closer when ready. "What's the difference, pitching is pitching," Francisco said. "If you can pitch in the eighth you can pitch in any situation. It's no different in the eighth than the ninth. I feel good. I've been locating pitches where I want to. Everything is good so far." Washington said he wants to make sure that Francisco can go back-to-back games before using him as the closer again. He hasn't done that since pitching three in a row from May 4-6. That was right before he went on the disabled list the first time because of shoulder problems. "Obviously, his stuff is back," Washington said. "We just want to make sure we can use him consistently on consecutive days. But when Frankie is back healthy, he's our closer." When he's not, Wilson is ready. The Rangers have two who have served well to this point.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.