Rangers see no need to change relief plan

Bench is shorthanded, but team will carry 8 relievers

Rangers see no need to change relief plan

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers have pushed their bullpen more than expected in the first week and that is why they are staying with eight relievers for the foreseeable future.

That leaves the Rangers with just three players on the bench after outfielder Justin Ruggiano was designated for assignment on Friday. But manager Jeff Banister said they can live with that because of the versatility of catcher Bryan Holaday, infielder Hanser Alberto and outfielder Ryan Rua.

The Rangers felt it was more important to keep Phil Klein as their long reliever, especially since Friday night starter A.J. Griffin is pitching in a Major League game for the first time since Sept. 24, 2013.

If Griffin has a short outing, it could tax the bullpen without Klein being available. The Rangers open the season with 14 straight games before their first day off.

"Where we are right now, the way our games have gone and the multiple days for some of the guys in the bullpen, we felt an eight-man bullpen is necessary," manager Jeff Banister said. "The number of innings we have had to cover has made it challenging."

The innings have also been high stress. Relievers are averaging 18.9 pitches per inning as opposed to 17.3 a year ago.

"That's part of the factoring," Banister said. "We are a little (short) coming into this game so we need the length."

Rua can play corner spots in both the outfield and the infield. Alberto can play all four infield spots and the outfield if needed. Holaday can be used in the infield in an emergency. He made token appearances at first and second for the Tigers last season.

"Having that flexibility allows us to stay in an eight-man," Banister said.

DeShields gets early BP

Center fielder Delino DeShields was out for early batting practice on Friday. Normally he goes out early to work on his defense but this was to get some extra swings at the plate.

"I'm trying to get a feel for some things," said DeShields, who was 0-for-9 with three walks in the first four games.

"I'm just trying to have quality at-bats," DeShields said. "Seeing pitches, drawing walks, scoring runs. Hits are important but it's about getting on base and scoring runs. I'm trying to swing at good pitches. If I stay where I'm at, the hits will come. I'm still confident in my abilities."

Rangers beat:

• Third baseman Adrian Beltre made two terrific diving stops in Thursday's game and Banister said, "That's about as good as a third baseman can be. Pretty impressive."

• Pitcher Luke Jackson, who started the season on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his lower back, is scheduled to start a medical rehab assignment at Triple-A Round Rock this weekend.

Yu Darvish, recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, is scheduled to throw another bullpen [session] on Saturday. No word yet on when he will face hitters.

• Rangers bullpen catcher Josh Frasier celebrated his birthday on Friday.

• Second baseman Rougned Odor has one hit in 14 at-bats through four games but Banister said, "He has actually hit some balls on the nose and made some outs. His swing path is in good shape."

• The last pitcher to make his Rangers debut after missing two full seasons was Kris Benson in 2009. He missed all of 2007-08 because of a rotator cuff injury before signing a Minor League contract with the Rangers in 2009. He was 1-1 with an 8.46 ERA in two starts and six relief appearances for the Rangers.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.