At First Glance, Part V: Rangers' Relief Pitchers

Matthew IrbySenior Analyst IMarch 9, 2009

In the fifth piece of this series I will take a quick look into the pitchers that will be making up the Rangers bullpen throughout the year.  This is include pitchers returning from last year, new acquisitions, and some new, young names that might not be familiar.

Frank Francisco - 29 - RHP: Made his debut with the Major League club in 2004 and the seventh-inning setup man, missed all of 2005 and most of 2006 coming back from Tommy John surgery, and returned to be a setup man in both 2007 and 2008.

This season is different, at the end of 2008 Frankie was given the opportunity to be the closer and now entering 2009 he is going to be given another shot at the spot.

Even though Frankie has only five career saves, if he continues to show the control, command, and consistency that he displayed last season he should be able to keep the role of closer all season long.

C.J. Wilson - 28 - LHP: The Rangers closer during the 2008 and end of 2007 season lost his role due to his inconsistency and injuries.

Wilson converted 24 of 28 saves last season and 12 of 14 in 2007, but he has continued to struggle in non-save opportunities and multiple-run leads.

Wilson last year would rarely give up one run in an outing, it was either zero runs or multiple runs, nearly every time.

Going into 2009 Wilson is going to be more of a setup man for Frankie, but if Frankie struggles at all look for Wilson to get a decent number of save chances.

Eddie Guardado - 38 - LHP: “Everyday Eddie” is back.  Acquired in free agency at the beginning of 2008, trade away in mid-season, and now re-acquired from free agency.

In 2008 Eddie was one of the most consistent pitchers in the bullpen, he was able to halt big inning run rallies, get key outs late in games, and serve as a mentor for the young pitchers on the staff.

Not saying all the results are going to be exactly the same, but look for 2009 to be almost the same in his roles and responsibilities with the Major League team.

Brendan Donnelly - 37 - RHP: Brendan enters his seventh season in the Major Leagues and joins his fourth club in as many years (2008 - Indians, 2007 - Red Sox, 2002-06 - Angels).

Signed to a Minor League contract he is looking to re-establish himself in the league and perform similar to his days when he was a dominate setup man a few years ago for the Angels.

Similar to Guardado, the Rangers are looking for Brendan to get the team out of jams and be a mentor to the younger pitchers.

Josh Rupe - 26 - RHP: Once thought of as a potential starter, Rupe is making a name for himself in the organization as a long reliever. 

After arm injuries forced him to miss most of 2006 and all of the 2007 season, Rupe came back strong in 2008 in his new role as a long-reliever.

The team is looking for him to really settle into the role, even more now that long-time long reliever Joaquin Benoit is out due to an injury.

Warner Madrigal - 24 - RHP: “Mad Dog” made his Major League debut last July 2nd and impressed the team right out of the gate.

Again this season look for him to be a pitcher of many trades, he can make spot starts, go in long-relief, hold down a 7th or 8th inning setup role, or be a righty vs. righty specialist.

Similar to Wilson, Warner usually either gives up no runs or multiple runs.

Derrick Turnbow - 30 - RHP: Entering his ninth season in the Major Leagues, this hard-throwing, former closer is looking to re-establish himself as a late inning, shutdown pitcher.

After disastrous 2006-07 seasons and missed nearly the entire 2008 season due to injury, Turnbow is hoping this change of address with help him re-discover the command and speed that got him the job of closer years ago with the Brewers.

Luis Mendoza - 25 - RHP: Mendoza was the number five starter at the beginning of the 2008 season, but lost the job after only a couple of months.

Mendoza struggled with his command and consistency during his time as a starter, it is an area that he and the pitching coaches have identified and are working towards improving.

Likely for the 2009 season Mendoza will be a long relief pitcher that will make a few spot starts during the season.

Doug Mathis - 25 - RHP: Another young Ranger pitcher who had a couple of solid outings and a couple of disastrous outings in his debut season of 2008, before it was cut short with a season-ending injury in June.

Mathis, similar to that of Mendoza is the type of pitcher in which the club is looking to convert into a long reliever with the capabilities of making spot starts.

Both Mathis and Mendoza are going to be competing between the Major League squad and the Triple-A team for long relief and spot start appearances.

Kason Gabbard - 26 - LHP: Initially acquired in the Eric Gagne trade with David Murphy in July 2007 as a starter.

Another pitcher that was in the starting rotation in 2008, but injuries and development of other players has the team re-thinking their usage of Gabbard.

In the 2008 season, aside from setup man Guardado and closer Wilson, the Rangers did not have any other left-handed middle relievers.  In 2009 the team’s new plan is to convert the once starter Gabbard into a middle relief/specialist type pitcher.

Guillermo Moscoso - 25 - RHP: Acquired by the Rangers in the trade of catcher Gerald Laird this past off-season, Guillermo is on the 40-man roster for protection.  However, it is likely that he will make his Major League debut sometime during the 2009 season.

The young pitcher has shown some significant progress throughout Spring Training and the team is excited about the possibilities of being a staple in the bullpen for years to come.

John Bannister - 24 - RHP: Another young pitcher on the 40-man roster for protection from being acquired by another team.

Bannister had a strong finish to his 2008 season in the Minors and if he has similar, strong and consistent outings than he could likely see some time in the Majors this season.

Joaquin Benoit - 31 - RHP: One of the most stable and reliable pitchers in the ‘pen the last couple of seasons is already likely gone for all of 2009.

In late January, Benoit had rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder, it is an injury that plagued him the entire 2008 season and forced him to miss nearly two months late in the season.

The final player that could see some significant time as a reliever is Dustin Nippert.  Currently Nippert is competing for a starting role, and I will address his quick glance in the next piece on starting pitchers.


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