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Texas Rangers' Pitching: "Roles" Being Defined

Brandon DavisContributor IMay 6, 2009

Considered by many as the Rangers' biggest question mark heading into the '09 season, the bullpen picture is finally starting to take shape. 

Closer Frank Francisco is proving to be one of the better closers in the game, going eight for eight in save situations and leading the AL in saves.  His 13 scoreless appearances to start the season sets the Rangers all-time mark.

It has been said that if the Rangers' starting pitching could hold up, and if the team found a way to shorten games via shutting down teams in the last couple frames, the sky's the limit for the slugging Rangers. 

The combination of O'Day, a side-winding righty claimed off waivers from the Mets, and CJ Wilson gives the Rangers a nice righty/lefty combination to pitch strategically in the seventh and eighth.  The eccentric Wilson has been known to dominate left handed hitting when on, and has shown that dominance in recent outings.

The addition of O'Day has also stabilized the Rangers' middle relief.  Now with another righty in the bullpen, Jason Jennings has been able to settle into his middle relief role and concentrate on pitching multiple innings, a luxury not afforded manager Ron Washington in the first few weeks of the season.  Jennings slider is showing more life this year, and he is looking more and more like the former National League Rookie of the Year that he is.

The biggest reason for Ranger fans to smile is Derek Holland.  The lefty Holland is part of the first of many waves of talent Arlington will see from the Rangers much-touted Minor League system over the next few years. 

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The 22-year-old lefty is projected to eventually take a spot in the starting rotation, but for now, the Rangers are trying to monitor his innings and appearances while filling a need at the Major League level for a lefty middle reliever.  The experiment has gone extremely well to this point.

The biggest factor determining the Rangers' bullpen success will be the starting pitching.  If the starters can go deeper into games (Rangers starters were last in innings pitched for '08) the bullpen can stay fresh and be a positive determining factor down the stretch.

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