02/06/08 10:00 AM ET
Around the Horn: Bullpen
Crowded field of veteran pitchers will vie for seven spots
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
It would be treacherous to attempt to handicap the competition, but perhaps they can be broken up into the following groups:Familiar right-handers: This bunch consists of Frank Francisco, Wes Littleton and Scott Feldman. Francisco was with the Rangers for the entire 2007 season and had a 4.55 ERA in 59 games. But he had a 3.78 ERA before the break and a 5.54 ERA after it, meaning nothing is guaranteed there. Feldman (1-2, 5.77 ERA) and Littleton (3-2, 4.31) were abused by the rules last year, because they both had options. Between the two of them, they were sent down and later recalled from the Minor Leagues nine different times. That could end up being the case again, as it's difficult to see more than two of these three guys making the bullpen. It could also be just one. Left-handers: This group consists of John Rheinecker, A.J. Murray and Bill White. Murray is probably the least likely to make the team. The Rangers feel his future is as a starter and are likely to have him do just that at Triple-A Oklahoma to build up arm strength and endurance. Rheinecker has been a starter in the past, but the Rangers seem to have figured out he's better in the bullpen. Left-handed hitters hit .229 off him last year while right-handers hit .328. White is more of a power lefty, but needs experience and better command. Ex-starters: Here we have right-handers Jamey Wright, Kameron Loe and Robinson Tejeda. All were once integral parts of the Rangers rotation who are now being looked at as middle relievers. Conceivably, one of them could pitch his way back into the rotation if there is an injury, but it's more likely that they'll be used in the bullpen. This will be an interesting spring for Loe, who has had some extreme swings over the past two years. There have been times when he has been the Rangers' most reliable starter, other times when he looks more suited to relief work and still other times when he has been injured. He has yet to establish himself in one role for any length of time, but still has a legitimate chance to be an effective Major League pitcher in some capacity. Wright is in camp on a non-roster invitation but impressed enough last year as a reliever to also have a legitimate chance to make the team. Tejeda? He has fallen far because of command and delivery issues but Daniels made it clear the Rangers have not given up on him. Non-roster guys: This is the trio of Franklyn German, Jason Davis and Elizardo Ramirez, three right-handers who have combined to pitch in 306 games in the Major Leagues. German is strictly a reliever, Ramirez has mainly (but not exclusively) been a starter and Davis has done both. They are all on board for depth and would likely need some injuries to occur to get a real shot at making the team. The long-shots: That brings us to Luis Mendoza, Josh Rupe, Madrigal and Kometani. Mendoza did make three relief appearances for the Rangers last year, but is more likely going to be a starter. Rupe, who has a 3.26 ERA at the big league level, has always been held in high esteem by the Rangers, but has had trouble staying healthy. The Rangers have at least decided to use him as a reliever and not as a starter. Madrigal is a converted outfielder with just two years of pitching experience. The Rangers signed him as a Minor League free agent and he has never pitched above Class A. But he does have 88 strikeouts in 73 innings. Kometani was a starter before turning into a reliever at Double-A Frisco last year. He had eight saves for the Roughriders and then a 1.80 ERA with three saves in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. A strong year at Oklahoma in 2008 could push him into the Major League picture at some point in the future. Right now he's just one of many in the most cutthroat competition in the camp.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.