Scheppers grateful Rangers have stuck by him

Oft-injured righty throwing 95 mph, could be key piece in 'pen

Scheppers grateful Rangers have stuck by him

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers had 14 pitchers throw their second bullpen session of the spring Friday, and pitching coach Doug Brocail was thrilled with what he saw.

"We had a phenomenal day," Brocail said. "Everybody looked great."

Phenomenal days in February don't mean much, except Friday's group included Tanner Scheppers. The fact that he is keeping up the likes of Yu Darvish and Sam Dyson is big no matter what month of the year.

"I'm very excited just to have a spring," Scheppers said. "I'm grateful to put on the uniform and feel good."

Scheppers nails down the win

He didn't pitch at all last spring while recovering from left knee surgery that kept him sidelined until September, and two years ago he rolled his right ankle in camp, forcing him to start the season on the disabled list. It was in the spring of 2014 that he made his ill-fated attempt to move into the rotation, resulting in the elbow injury that wrecked his season.

Scheppers is 5-3 with a 6.56 ERA in 60 appearances over the past three years, but the Rangers have stuck with him because they remember 2013. That's when he appeared in 76 games as a setup reliever and was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.

"This is my eighth Spring Training and the Rangers have believed in me from the beginning," said Scheppers, who turned 30 last month. "I had shoulder issues [after being drafted in 2009] coming into baseball and I'm thankful they have faith in my ability. I have a lot prove that they were right."

Scheppers' fastball averaged 95 mph last season, not far from a 96.3 average in 2013. If Scheppers stays healthy, he could another power arm in the Rangers' bullpen.

Rangers sign Jimenez

The Rangers have signed catcher A.J. Jimenez to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. He is the eighth catcher in camp, but Jonathan Lucroy and Robinson Chirinos are playing in the World Baseball Classic, so the Rangers want to make sure they are covered.

 

Lucroy on arriving to camp early

Brett Nicholas is on the 40-man roster, while Jimenez joins Brett Hayes, Steven Lerud, Jose Trevino and Patrick Cantwell as non-roster catchers.

Jimenez spent nine years in the Blue Jays' organization but has no Major League experience. He spent all of last season at Triple-A Buffalo, hitting .241 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 248 plate appearances.

Rangers beat

• Brocail praised the work of Martin Perez on Friday. Perez is a heavy sinkerballer, but Brocail wants him to be able to throw up in the zone on occasion to keep hitters off balance. Perez showed that in his Friday throwing session.

• Darvish worked on his split-finger fastball in his throwing session. That was a big offspeed pitch for him early in his career, but he threw just six of them last season.

• Everybody is in camp except shortstop Elvis Andrus and outfielder Travis Snider. Andrus is normally here early, but he'll be limited anyway while he completes his recovery from offseason surgery to fix a sports hernia. Snider, signed to a Minor League contract, is in town but remained at home because of an illness.

• The Rangers still want Josh Hamilton to work out at first base even though they signed Mike Napoli. Said manager Jeff Banister: "Josh needs to find out if he can play first base."

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.