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Tolleson relishing relief role...but prefers no pickles

Tolleson relishing relief role...but prefers no pickles

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

May 10, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Shawn Tolleson (37) throws a pitch in the fourth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

by LANDON HAAF

WFAA Sports

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 8:33 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 20 at 5:12 AM

Rangers reliever Shawn Tolleson likely won’t soon receive an endorsement deal from Mt. Olive or Vlasic.

Injuries have put the Rangers’ pitching staff in a pickle of sorts this season, in which the Texas relievers must eat innings, whether they like it or not. Tolleson, one of those relief pitchers that mans the aforementioned ‘pen, is relishing the chance to take the mound for the Rangers, but the same can’t be said for actual, tangible pickles.

Seriously. It’s one of the first things you’ll find out about Tolleson if you follow him on Twitter.

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He can’t stand pickles, he says, but has always eaten them. Tolleson said it’s a matter of principle; if his wife or anyone prepares a meal that includes a pickle, he’ll eat it.

“If there’s something really odd on my plate and I don’t like it, I won’t eat it,” he said. “But I don’t know what to do with a pickle. I’ve always eaten them, but never liked them.”

A distaste for the vinegar-transformed cucumbers is a strange thing to broadcast in a twitter bio, Tolleson acknowledges. As are the other factoids that occupy the introductory space on his twitter page.

“They are not my defining characteristics, they’re just random facts about me,” he said.

The 26-year-old native of Allen, Tex. admitted he hadn’t read his twitter bio in a long time. When I recited the four-sentence preamble back to him, however, he nodded along with a growing grin on his face. “Correct, that is all true,” he confirmed.

“I have a very dry sense of humor. So that was my attempt at being goofy,” Tolleson said.

Goofiness is seemingly a departure from the Tolleson that toes the rubber in a Ranger uniform. It’s with a calm demeanor that he prepares for a game - always putting on his left cleat first - and that he takes the mound.

But Tolleson said he has always been the same quirky guy with the same dry sense of humor no matter the uniform. He spent the previous two years with the Los Angeles Dodgers before signing a one-year contract with his hometown team.

“I’d say most people [with the Dodgers] understand it, I think people over here [with the Rangers] are kind of starting to get it,” he said. “It takes a while, you know? It’s kind of hard to tell, ‘is he joking or is he being serious?’”

He said one way he employs his dry sense of humor via the fib.

“I tell a lot of - I wouldn’t call them lies, but they’re like lies that last a couple hours and then I inform someone about the truth. I don’t let them believe it forever,” he said.

While he couldn’t come up with an example on the spot before Sunday’s game, he reassured that it happened all the time. Harmless dishonesties, no doubt. While the Rangers are getting used to Tolleson’s jocularity in the clubhouse, the public doesn’t get access to it in the Twittersphere.

Tolleson, despite being verified with a blue checkmark - given “to establish authenticity of identities of key individuals and brands on Twitter,” according to the social medium - is not active on Twitter.

He checks his feed nearly every day to get caught up on what’s happening in the world, but doesn’t tweet often.

“Honestly I get on there and I’ll never know what to say,” Tolleson said. “A couple weeks ago I thought about tweeting, so I opened it up, and I sat there for like five minutes and thought ‘you know, I’ve got nothing to say that anyone needs to hear.’”

Retweets make up a good portion of his activity, including support of his former teammate and Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw. He said he likes Twitter, but doesn’t use it often.

As for pickles? It’s quite the opposite. He “can’t stand them,” but eats them all the time.

The ambiguous treatment of pickles is due in large part to his upbringing. His mother used plates with a flower design on the bottom.

“She would make us eat until we could see the flowers,” he said.

Good work, Mrs. Tolleson.

While he lacks conviction in his aversion to pickles, his dedication to not wasting his food is admirable. And he’s a man usually strong in his convictions.

“I don’t think I’ve ever put my right shoe on first,” he said. “No matter what, I make a conscious effort to put on my left one before the right.”

Making the (fastball) cut

In Tolleson’s last few outings, he has reintroduced a cut fastball into his repertoire of pitches. It adds a compliment in the 90 mph range to his fastball that can reach the mid-90s and his slider, which clocks in the low-80s.

“It’s a pitch I threw in the minor leagues and I just lost feel for it,” he said. “I just kind of messed around with it and it’s been feeling good so I decided to start using it and featuring it with my other pitches too.”

Tolleson said he threw it once in a bullpen session before bringing it out into the game. The added pitch has given him more confidence on the mound, and he feels he is throwing with more authority.

“The cutter has helped give me another power pitch to throw in there for a strike. The home run ball hurt me a lot earlier in the year, so for me it’s just been about being more aggressive with the fastball and cut fastball and throwing it down in the zone,” he said.

Tolleson hasn’t surrendered a run in his last four outings, including an uncommon set of appearances in back-to-back games this season leading into an off day.

“He’s been a one-inning pitcher and we’ve been using him for two [innings], so we need to make sure we give him a break,” manager Ron Washington said. “But he’s been getting the job done.”

The Baylor alumnus has seen more innings with a taxed bullpen and a struggling Alexi Ogando.

You can follow Shawn on Twitter @ShawnTolleson38. And for a less-interesting bio, you can follow Landon @LandonHaaf

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