Rangers release Johnson, option 4 others

Rangers release Johnson, option 4 others

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers released pitcher Steve Johnson and optioned four players -- Patrick Kivlehan, Connor Sadzeck, Yohander Mendez and Jose LeClerc -- to the Minor Leagues on Monday.

Johnson pitched in 27 games for the Orioles over the past four seasons but has spent most of that time at Triple-A Norfolk. He pitched in four games this spring and allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings.

Rangers Spring Training info

Kivlehan was acquired in an offseason trade from the Mariners and came to camp as a candidate to play in left field. But that competition was shut down when the Rangers signed Ian Desmond. Kivlehan also can play first and third base and both corner-outfield spots.

The Rangers want him to maintain his versatility and continue to play multiple positions at Triple-A Round Rock. Kivlehan, a right-handed hitter, was at Triple-A Tacoma last season and hit .256 with 22 home runs, 73 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

"When he came into Spring Training, the one thing we wanted to do was give him the opportunity to be comfortable and play," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We decided to leave him in the outfield, let him play and show us what he could do. When we talked to him [Monday] morning, we talked about maintaining his versatility. He likes that.

"He's got the mindset to continue that path and we'll play it that way until further notice."

Sadzeck was the Rangers' hardest thrower in camp with a fastball that can hit 100 mph. He missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and was a combined 3-2 with a 5.82 ERA in 18 games last season between Class A High Desert and Double-A Frisco.

"What Sadzeck showed us is he can throw strikes, whether it's at 94-95 [mph] or 99," Banister said. "With his composure on the mound, he showed us his maturity. For him now, it's all about getting his pitches in and get ready for the season. If he can continue to work on throwing strikes, I don't think it will be too long."

Top Prospects: Sadzeck, TEX

Mendez, a left-hander, is just 21 and was 3-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 21 games at Class A Hickory last season. This could be a big season for him if he can make a successful jump to Frisco.

LeClerc, 22, was a reliever in the Rangers' system for four years before moving into the rotation at Frisco last season. He is a power right-hander who has averaged 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his Minor League career but also 5.0 walks.

Worth noting:

• Closer Shawn Tolleson, who has been sidelined with lower-back tightness, was scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday.

• Second baseman Rougned Odor, who has been sidelined with a strained right oblique muscle, took batting practice on Sunday without an issue. He was off on Monday, will take batting practice again on Tuesday, be off on Wednesday and then be re-evaluated.

• Pitcher Yu Darvish threw 20 pitches in the bullpen on Monday, mixing in a few breaking balls and reported everything went well. Thursday will mark the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Martin Perez and Nick Martinez pitch against the Indians on Tuesday in Surprise. The Rangers are off on Wednesday and host the Brewers on Thursday night with Colby Lewis pitching.

Cole Hamels is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday in Surprise. Hamels will be joined by Jeremy Guthrie and relievers Tom Wilhelmsen and Keone Kela.

• First baseman Ike Davis remains sidelined with a sprained right knee and has not played since March 8.

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.