Rangers hoping Choo, Barnette, Jeffress return soon

Rangers hoping Choo, Barnette, Jeffress return soon

OAKLAND -- The Rangers have clinched the division title, but they still have plenty to do in the final eight games. At the top of the list is finishing with the best record in the American League and having home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

"Home-field advantage is priority one," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "That is significant."

There are other tasks on the list, including resting the regulars, setting the postseason roster, seeing if Derek Holland can pitch out of the bullpen, and monitoring the progress of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and pitchers Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress.

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Banister sat most of his regulars on Saturday, the day after clinching the title. Shortstop Elvis Andrus and outfielder Nomar Mazara were the only regulars in the lineup.

"Today, being the day after, I planned getting the largest core group the day off," Banister said. "They'll get back quickly. We'll give them the appropriate days without going crazy. We still need to keep guys as sharp as we can and keep them energized. It's also about getting our bench guys in there. Guys that haven't played regularly need to sharpen up."

Barnette K's Grossman

Holland has been a starter for most of the year, but he appears to be the odd man out of the rotation for the postseason, so the Rangers will audition him out of the bullpen in the final week.

"We are going to look at it and see what it looks like and how Derek responds to it," Banister said.

The Rangers also need to see if Barnette and Jeffress will be ready for the postseason. Barnette, who has been sidelined for three weeks with a strained oblique muscle in his left side, looked ready to go after throwing a simulated game on Saturday morning with Choo, Hanser Alberto and Joey Gallo hitting off him.

"It went well," Barnette said. "We moved the schedule up. We are ahead of the pace. Take a day or two and give me live action. I'm ready to roll. I am ready to compete. I felt nothing. I was able to throw all my pitches and get extended. I am back to normal."

Jeffress induces a groundout

Jeffress, who rejoined the team on Friday after being away for a month while dealing with personal issues, also threw one simulated inning. He hasn't pitched in a game since Aug. 23, so the Rangers will watch him this week and see if he is ready for the postseason.

Choo, who is recovering from a broken left forearm, will spend another day with the Rangers and then report to Surprise, Ariz., to work out in instructional league. He could be activated as early as Friday.

The Rangers will also continue to discuss their postseason roster options, although that could depend on who they play in the first round. If the Rangers end up with the best record, their first-round opponent will be the Wild Card team, and there are still six teams within four games of each other.

The biggest decision will likely be if they go with seven or eight relievers behind a four-man rotation. If they go with seven relievers, it gives Banister an extra player. He would likely use that to have speed off the bench.

The first thing, though, is to finish with the best record. The Rangers went into Saturday with a half-game lead on the Indians and one on the Red Sox. Home field is the top priority, but the Rangers won't likely go all out at the expense of giving players sufficient time off.

"We've got winning options," Banister said. "We feel good about all of these guys. That's a testament to our development guys and front office to give us the players we need."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. 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.