Claudio's 2016 success earns spot in '17 bullpen

Claudio's 2016 success earns spot in '17 bullpen

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' bullpen could be loaded with power right-handed arms this season, but it should also include one soft-tossing lefty.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister confirmed that Alex Claudio did enough last year to earn a spot in the 2017 bullpen.

"He has built up a lot of street cred," Banister said.

Claudio may be the softest-tossing pitcher in camp, a side-armed southpaw whose fastball averages 85 mph. But that didn't stop him from going 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA over 39 outings.

"The real test for a reliever is, can they eliminate the hitter and take him out of play?" Banister said. "Whether it's power or a pitch or a combination."

Claudio is capable of pitching multiple innings or coming in to retire tough left-handed hitters. They batted just .177 off him in 2016, including 0-for-3 each for the Mariners' Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. But right-handers hit .310 off him, and the Rangers want him working on being able to throw inside against them.

Rainy days
Rain washed out the Rangers' morning practice on Sunday, forcing batting practice into the indoor hitting cages.

The rain didn't impact the Rangers' pitching plans. Every pitcher in camp had already completed two bullpen sessions, with Sunday a scheduled day off. That made it a good day for rain in the desert.

"Mother Nature is on our side," Banister said. "She's a Ranger."

Rangers pitchers will start throwing live batting practice on Monday. The first Cactus League game is at 2:05 p.m. CT on Saturday at Surprise Stadium against the Royals.

Worth noting 
• Veteran outfielder Travis Snider is new to the Rangers but is seeing some familiar faces. Minor League outfield coordinator Dwayne Murphy had Snider in the Blue Jays' organization, as did hitting coach Anthony Iapoce. Snider also played for the Pirates when Banister was the bench coach. That's why Snider was willing to take a Minor League contract with the Rangers and join the heavily contested left-field competition.

• A corner locker in the clubhouse is coveted. There are six such lockers in the Rangers' clubhouse, and they belong to Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Lucroy, Josh Hamilton and Tanner Scheppers.

• The Rangers have all 61 players in camp after newly acquired catcher A.J. Jimenez joined them on Sunday. He signed a Minor League contract on Friday.

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.