No one should press the panic button after the first nine games of a 162 game schedule, just ask the 2019 Washington Nationals. However, if there is a zero phase for the Texas Rangers in 2022, this is the bullpen. The bullpen threw 47.2 innings in nine games, and yes, Friday’s eight innings due to a first game count towards the number. The Rangers pen has allowed the second-most hits, most runs, most home runs and one of three teams that haven’t recorded a save. The numbers aren’t pretty. “There’s a component to being a Major League pitcher and a good pitching staff,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “There’s going to be traffic, and you’ll face [tough lineups]. Execution ability is what stands out right now. Blaming all the struggles in the bullpen on lack of execution is a bit premature. Again, this is one of the most worked bullpen in MLB right now, as Rangers starters have pitched the fewest innings of any starting staff.
In 2021, the bullpen ranked seventeenth, in the middle of the pack, in MLB in the ERA and worked the ninth most innings. It was a solid group that they did not consider a weakness for a team of 102 defeats. As 2022 approaches, about half of last year’s group has returned. Could early struggles be a factor in shortened spring training? “I don’t think so,” Brett Martin told me. “I think Spring Training was the perfect length. Maybe four weeks will be enough, but three weeks might have been a bit too short. Additionally, Rangers had to make some throwing moves with Dennis Santana on the COVID-19 injured list, Josh Sborz on the ten-day injured list with right elbow pain and two separate blistering issues (Jon Gray and Spencer Howard).
“It’s hard to answer,” John King told me when asked if the difficulties were due to the shortening of the spring. “It’s rare also because we only build two innings. It’s more for beginners and position players who have a longer build-up. The whole bullpen feels good. Martin and King have both said they felt good overall Brett said he was working out a few issues, but on his last outing on Sunday he worked on a base-loaded no-exit jam limiting two-point damage on two RBI eliminations.For John King, he has had four scoreless outings since dropping a few runs on the opening day.Although Chris Woodward has not established inning roles in the bullpen, leverage roles are. Although I asked BJ (Brett and John) together who impressed them the most, “Brock Burke,” Martin said. “Barring machine!” King added.
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Brock Burke is one of the bullpen’s brilliant arms featured on this staff in 2022. Since the start of 2019, Burke has dealt with injuries, including shoulder surgery that put him in the lurch. gap for the entire 2020 season. One goal for Burke, he told me, was to simplify the mentality on the mound. “Don’t think about mechanics [and] think of nothing but getting the batter out,” Burke told me. It’s about that aggressive mentality of throwing as hard as you can while using all your gear to get a batter out. “It helped me get straight at guys with all my stuff and all my best stuff just to attack the batters.”
Burke struck out ten of 15 batters faced in his first two outings, though he struggled on Sunday, allowing two hits and one walk. Burke said veteran guys like Garrett Richards and Greg Holland were influential to him and what he was able to do on the mound. “I asked a lot of questions,” Burke said. “I’m sure they’ve had enough of my questions at this point.”
The questions Brock mentioned to me were what to do in the bullpen, how to tackle multiple innings in the bullpen, and how to stay prepared, to name a few. “[Richards and Holland] were a great help [and] helped me with that stuff. All the questions I’ve had trying to get through as a starter in the bullpen, and both have in the past, more Richards than Holland, but both have been a big help.
Every Brock Burke 4-seam fastball this season pic.twitter.com/3ZanGJCYOv
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Do Rangers see Brock Burke as a future starter? “Not yet,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “We watched him before he was healthy; What do we think of his best role. It might be longer, like two or three rounds, but right now we’re not going to go there until the middle of the year when [Jose] Leclerc and [Jonathan] Hernandez comes back, and we make an adjustment there based on the rotation. [So] we have no idea how to do it. For Burke, whatever his role, he’s good. “I’m just happy to be here and try to get guys out there,” Brock told me. “Anything they need, whatever role they need, that’s what I’m good at.”
The bullpen opened its own pool for the season. According to a few guys in the bullpen, the group has a system that includes strikeouts, big situations, and the like. Each guy contributes to the pool, and at the end of the month, whoever has the most points wins half the pot. The other half goes into the end of season jackpot. “That’s pretty cool,” Brett Martin said. “[It] canned [the] good competition between everyone. “That’s a pretty cool idea in the bullpen to give us some extra motivation.” The bullpen will need a rest Monday with reinforcements heading to Seattle. Rangers expect Jon Gray to make Tuesday’s start by coming off the injured list with a blister. Additionally, the team will hope Dennis Santana will be available later in the week after Rangers placed him on the COVID-19 injured list.
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