Rangers have 'pen-sive thoughts as Deadline nears

Rangers have 'pen-sive thoughts as Deadline nears

ARLINGTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has made it clear where the team intends to upgrade as the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

"Pitching would be our priority if we were able to put something together," he said Wednesday, despite the news that designated hitter Prince Fielder might miss the rest of the season with a herniated disk in his neck and Shin-Soo Choo will miss 10-14 days with lower back inflammation.

• Moreland aims to step up in Prince's absence

A part of the pitching focus will be centered around improving the team's heavily used bullpen, which has a 6.19 ERA over the past 15 games and has worked 56 2/3 innings during that span.

Even with solid back-end work from closer Sam Dyson and left-hander Jake Diekman (on the 15-day disabled list) and the breakthroughs of rookie right-handers Matt Bush and Tony Barnette, it's likely the Rangers will add another arm to that mix in the coming weeks to fortify a group that has had its ups and downs.

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Right-hander Shawn Tolleson, who began the year as the team's closer, has struggled most of the season, and he has allowed nine runs over his last four outings. Right-hander Luke Jackson and left-hander Andrew Faulkner -- the team's No. 16- and 17-ranked prospects, respectively, according to MLBPipeline.com -- have not fared much better, allowing 21 runs (19 earned) in 17 1/3 combined innings.

"I feel like we have some really good candidates to have a solid bullpen," manager Jeff Banister said. "Could we get better? Absolutely. You always have that in mind."

Internally, righty Keone Kela has returned from the 60-day disabled list after missing 76 games with a right elbow impingement. Tanner Scheppers, who's been out since February while recovering from left knee surgery, threw live batting practice on Tuesday, but he's not expected to return until after Aug. 1.

The Rangers scored big at the Trade Deadline last year, acquiring Diekman from the Phillies in the trade with Cole Hamels and picking up Dyson from the Marlins for a pair of Minor Leaguers.

Diekman, who is dealing with a lacerated left index finger, has been relied on heavily as the team's primary lefty in late-inning situations. Texas is seeking to add another left-hander into that fold.

Morosi on Rangers, trades

The Rangers liked A's lefty Sean Doolittle before he went on the 15-day DL with a strained shoulder on June 30. He has a 2.93 ERA and four saves in 35 games this season, and he's signed through 2018, with team options for '19 and '20.

Yankees relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman headline a group of left-handers expected to be available, but they come with a high asking price. Miller has a 1.31 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings as the setup man. The hard-throwing Chapman has racked up 19 saves with a 2.22 ERA, but he'll be a free agent after the season.

Other left-handed options include the Brewers' Will Smith and Boone Logan of the Rockies. The 27-year-old Smith could be a particularly enticing option. He owns a 2.00 ERA through 21 games this season, and he's under club control until after the 2019 season.

Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress, A's closer Ryan Madson and the Rays' Erasmo Ramirez could be options if the Rangers go after a right-hander. Adding another righty would support Barnette and Bush, who have been the right-handers used exclusively of late to help set up Dyson.

Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.