After a the Ranger pitching staff allowed an Opening Day franchise record number of runs Monday, the Texas bullpen enjoyed three-and-a-third shutout innings in relief of Martin Perez, who recorded a solid start Tuesday.
Rangers manager Ron Washington went with the combination of Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Joakim Soria in relief of Perez after his 5.2 innings in his season debut.
“We were fortunate to be in a position where it was their time in the game, and they came in and did exactly what they needed to do, especially Frasor,” Washington said Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Frasor came on to get the last out of the sixth. Philly catcher Carlos Ruiz grounded out to shortstop with runners on second and third in a tie ballgame. Frasor said he felt sharper coming out of Spring Training this season.
“I’m comfortable now, I know what I’ve gotten myself into -- what the team is like and what the expectations are,” he said.
Not that Frasor looked uncomfortable in his first season in Texas… He recorded a 2.57 ERA in 61 appearances as part of a bullpen he called “incredible.” But for the 2014 Rangers, it’s a bullpen that has changed dramatically, he said.
With injuries all over the pitching staff, there are a lot of moving pieces early. In fact, it took just two days for the first addition to the bullpen, as Daniel McCutchen was called up Tuesday to be the long relief man. But the relievers on the roster can’t stress about the changes that are looming as pitchers return from the DL.
“I don’t think about it too much,” Frasor said. “You’re just so focused on doing your own job. If you do well, you expect to stay and maintain your role. That’s the key, you do well and you don’t have to worry about too much”
Frasor claims one of the few defined roles in the current bullpen arrangement, but remembers a day when he was fighting for a spot on a major league roster.
“You have to earn your role. You’re going to be throwing in all different situations. The hard part is being ready at all times, staying up at all times,” he said.
And while Frasor more than earned his role in 2013 and with an effective Spring this year, being a member of the Rangers’ bullpen is a learning experience in 2014. Especially with two members of last year’s “incredible” bullpen now in the starting rotation in Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross, who starts Wednesday night.
“We’re figuring it out. We’re learning the starters, too, when we expect to go in. Right now we’re just trying to feel it out,” he said, with a slight grin on his face. “We’re just trying to get the ball to Joakim Soria. That’s our job, get it to Soria.”
Soria, of course, earned the closer role this Spring - a vote of confidence from his manager.
“Joakim is a strike thrower. He knows what he’s doing. He may not overpower you, but he can hit the strike zone wherever he wants it,” Washington said.
On Tuesday, the Rangers’ bullpen got the ball to Soria, and earned a win after he shut it down in the ninth inning of a game deadlocked at two. So if that was the approach Tuesday, the bullpen - patched together as it may be in some places - may have found a formula for success.
Just get it to Soria.