Patton working for more prominent role in 'pen

Rangers weighing using rookie or acquiring proven veteran by Trade Deadline

Patton working for more prominent role in 'pen

DENVER -- An internal candidate has emerged in the Rangers' search for bullpen reinforcement before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Right-hander Spencer Patton is earning a more prominent spot in the back of the bullpen.

Manager Jeff Banister has spoken of a "core four" that consists of closer Shawn Tolleson, right-handers Tanner Scheppers and Keone Kela, and left-hander Sam Freeman. Banister acknowledged that Patton is pushing his way into that fraternity.

"It's all about the performance," Banister said. "He is growing more confident in himself in what he is able to do. You see the fastball, the swings, the outs, as the body of work grows, it allows guys to move into that category. He has been making steady progress."

General manager Jon Daniels said one of the Rangers' goals toward the Deadline was to find help for the bullpen. The decision to be made is to judge Patton's recent body of work against being able to acquire a proven veteran.

One intriguing reliever available is Braves right-hander Jim Johnson, who has eight saves and a 2.15 ERA. He is a 10-year veteran. Patton is a rookie with a limited track record.

This is Patton's third tour with the Rangers. He allowed three runs in three innings in two games in May. He was called up in early June but not used. His latest recall was on June 25, and it began with four scoreless appearances. Then he allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Angels on July 4 and another run in his next appearance.

Patton has pitched in six games since then and hasn't allowed a run over 5 2/3 innings. In that stretch, he has allowed two hits and two walks while striking out six.

"I just felt I had to bounce back from that Anaheim game," Patton said. "Go out and stay confident, try to get the job done when I'm called upon. Lately my fastball command has been good. I'm working on quality offspeed pitches, throwing them down in the zone. Overall, though, fastball command has helped a lot."

Patton also had a 0.78 ERA and 10 saves at Triple-A Round Rock. In the constant shuttle of relievers between Triple-A and the Majors, Patton has emerged as the best internal candidate to earn a spot in the bullpen.

The Rangers just have to decide if that's better than going outside the organization for proven help.

"As we watch all of them, because it is a small body of work, we have to allow them all to go out and perform and get a real evaluation," Banister said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.