I need you so much, closer: Rangers consider depth tab for duty in the 9th

Date: Wednesday April 12th
Rangers’ Record: 2-5 (4th, 3.5 games behind LAA)
Tonight’s Opponent: The Golden State Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Tonight’s Starters: A.J. Griffin (0-0, 10.80) vs. Jesse Chavez (1-0, 1.59)

There was a time (right around the end of last season, actually) when you could project forward for the Rangers and while there was quite a bit of uncertainty about left field and first base, and the back end of the rotation, there were at least two things for certain. One: Adrian Beltre was a Texas Ranger. Two: Sam Dyson and Matt Bush and Jake Diekman and Keone Kela and Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress and Alex Claudio and perhaps Tanner Scheppers’ triumphant return to dominance.

That much we knew for sure.

BASEBALL STUFF

1. We can never know anything for sure in baseball, not even a 5-0 lead in the 7th and certainly not a 5-2 lead in the ninth. Read all about it. After the game, Banister didn’t come right out and say they were making a change at closer, but he dropped a lot of hints that this Sam Dyson thing isn’t exactly working itself out, and perhaps there are other ways to end a ballgame.

Dyson’s ERA, somehow, dropped last night while he was giving up three runs in the ninth inning, from 36.00 to 33.00. You don’t need some baseball genius to tell you that’s not a comforting improvement (if he’d had a 1-2-3 inning, it would have finished at 24.00, which still isn’t great, but it would have held off the fire alarms for one more day, at least).


2. Banister was on MLB Network radio this morning, and again didn’t say what everyone was thinking, but did use the word “if” (which in the parlance of the trade means “yeah, I’m just not ready to confirm it yet.”) when he said that “if” they made a change at closer, while Matt Bush “has the bigger arm back there”, they would look at “experience” first. More on the Bush situation in a minute, but first: let’s take a look at who all has “experience”...

3. Jeremy Jeffress is the obvious first thought. Jeffress was the Brewers’ closer before he came to the Rangers last year in the Jonathan Lucroy deal. Jeffress had 27 saves in 28 opportunities with Milwaukee in 2016, then came over to Texas and missed a month of the season after his DWI arrest in last August. If the question is “who has the most MLB closing experience?” the answer, by a long shot, is Jeffress. But there are some other options…

4. Keone Kela has closed games in the minor leagues, but he’s currently in baseball purgatory with Round Rock after his end-of-Spring-Training fiasco. Kela has the stuff, and is the sort of competitor who I feel would fit perfectly in a ninth-inning role, but you can’t really expect the organization to take such a big step as demoting someone for a behavioral issue and then panic and promote them to closer after a bad first week. That leaves us with…

5. Tony Barnette, who logged 97 saves over his five last years in Japan, including 41 in his final season with the Yakult Swallows. Barnette broke into the big leagues with Texas last year as a 32-year-old rookie, and his role went from a middle-of-the-game innings-eater to a trusted late-inning arm, finishing the season by throwing four scoreless innings in the ALDS against Toronto


Also unscathed by earned runs in last year’s ALDS against Toronto? Jeffress, Kela, Dyson, and…

6. Matt Bush. How have we not mentioned Matt Bush yet? There were some calling for Bush to be the closer as early as last season. He throws a 99 mph fastball, a slider in the low-90s, and a curveball in the high 70s. He has seemed unflappable in every situation, including that Game 3 ALDS appearance that spanned 2⅔ innings in a thunderous Rogers Centre.

(notable: perhaps we shouldn’t make too much of that series: while the bullpen was stellar, if you have the wherewithal to check Game 3’s  box score, you see Kela with a blown save, Jeffress’ (unearned) run as the walkoff, and Bush taking the loss. As I said, we never know anything for sure in baseball.)

So if the team is going to make a change, why isn’t the obvious choice (Bush) getting sidelined by all this “experience” talk?

We would find out just a short while later, when it was announced that Bush wasn’t even in Anaheim last night, and won’t be there tonight, either. He’s in Texas, getting an injection and an examination from Dr. Keith Meister on a sore AP joint in his shoulder. The team says it’s something that Bush also did last year, and we just never heard about it because he didn’t go on the DL. They also say there are currently no plans for Bush to hit the DL this time, and he is expected to join the team on Friday in Seattle.

Of course, we’re all focusing on “injection” when the key word is “examination”. Those results will be the linchpin for what comes next, and while there are far too many “currently”s and “expected”s up there for me to have any comfort, (all together now) we can never know anything for sure in baseball.

 

MUSIC RECOMMENDATION

I’m not sure if I recommended this album last year. I probably did; it’s one of my favorites of all time. But if you think I’m above making a specific music recommendation just so I can repurpose the lyrics “I need you so much closer”, well… I suppose you have been disabused of that notion now. Death Cab for Cutie’s “Transatlanticism” is the music rec today.
(Spotify, Apple Music, Website)

 

During the regular season, these recommendations occasionally come from Rangers players, broadcasters, or other people around the team (here’s a complete list). If there’s a player or person you’d like Levi to ask for a music recommendation, shoot him an e-mail threetwoeephus@gmail.com or a tweet here.

You can follow Levi Weaver on Twitter at @ThreeTwoEephus, or for fewer puns and more straight-forward Baseball News updates, you can follow us at @BaseballTX, or download the app and get in-game updates and notifications by clicking on the logo below!

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