Banister: Bullpen depth to help pace relievers

Banister: Bullpen depth to help pace relievers

ARLINGTON -- It has been a few years since the Rangers opened a season with a bullpen as deep as their current relief corps, and manager Jeff Banister suggested Tuesday he will be able to take advantage of that depth to limit relievers' appearances and keep their arms fresh.

"It gives us an opportunity to avoid stacking up the back-to-backs, definitely," Banister said. "This is 161 [games] we have left to get to the point where we need to go, and it's necessary that we win the games we have an opportunity to win, but also [there's] the collateral damage that happens a week from now when you start just running guys out there.

"We start stacking up appearances and innings and pitches and then of all a sudden, you've got a monthlong of arms that aren't performing very well."

Banister's bullpen has more proven performers now than when he began his first year as manager. Last season, Texas relievers compiled the fifth-worst ERA in the American League (4.12) despite a league-best 1.99 ERA in September and October.

In addition to closer Shawn Tolleson, who earned his first save of this season with a scoreless ninth on Opening Day, the Rangers have four relievers who have been closers at some point in their careers. That includes Tony Barnette, the top closer in Japan last season; Sam Dyson, whom the Rangers used as the closer in last year's AL Division Series; Keone Kela, who closed when Tolleson wasn't available at times last season; and Tom Wilhelmsen, who has 67 career saves, all with Seattle.

Lefty Jake Diekman, who tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning Monday, expects the bullpen's strength to help keep the relief appearances to a reasonable level.

"If you get your job done, you get your three outs, you don't have to wear out a guy to come in to finish your inning," Diekman said.

Rangers beat

• Banister said he was pleased with the way the battery of Cole Hamels and Robinson Chirinos worked together on Monday. Chirinos had never caught Hamels, whose personal catcher was Chris Gimenez after Hamels came to Texas at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season.

"I thought they worked very well together. … There didn't seem to be a lot of head-shaking going on," Banister said. "The rhythm and the pace was good. The mix of the pitches … they were pretty well right on."

Hamels fans eight in win

• NASCAR driver Brandon Jones, whose car the Rangers are sponsoring in the upcoming O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, will throw out a ceremonial first pitch and participate in a pregame ceremony Wednesday. Jones' No. 33 Chevy will bear the Rangers' logo on the hood with baseballs on the doors. The 19-year-old's driver suit will be styled to look like the Rangers' blue jersey, with gray pants and blue and red piping.

• Elizabeth Sullivan, a 105-year-old Rangers fan from Fort Worth, will also take part in a first-pitch ceremony Wednesday.

• Prince Fielder received the 2015 Players Choice Award for the AL Comeback Player of the Year from the Major League Baseball Players Association before Tuesday's game. Derek Holland presented the trophy to his teammate.

• The Rangers' victory Monday marked the second consecutive year in which they had only one hit in their season opener, something no team in the modern era, since 1900, had ever done. They had one hit in an 8-0 loss at Oakland on April 6, 2015.

• The Rangers announced late Tuesday they had traded left-handed reliever Sam Freeman to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations. Freeman had been designated for assignment on March 29. He appeared in 54 games, posting a 3.05 ERA in 38 1/3 innings with 40 strikeouts and 25 walks last season.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.