Rangers pitchers taking it slow with longer spring

Rangers pitchers taking it slow with longer spring

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Reliever Jeremy Jeffress is one of the reasons why the Rangers are taking it slow this spring with their core group of pitchers.

Jeffress has been limited in camp because of soreness in his right shoulder, and he has yet to be scheduled for a Cactus League game. He will be re-evaluated after a bullpen session on Wednesday.

"It's just a little ache … it wasn't serious," Jeffress said. "It's something I never felt before. Once I felt it, I told them, and we decided to take it slow."

Jeffress is not the only pitcher progressing slowly. Starters Cole Hamels and Andrew Cashner and relievers Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Tony Barnette and Tanner Scheppers also have yet to pitch in a Cactus League game. Hamels, Bush, Kela and Barnette are scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Wednesday, rather than the "A" split-squad game against the Angels in Tempe.

They are all healthy, but the Rangers are dealing with a longer Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic. Starter Martin Perez and reliever Sam Dyson are pitching in Cactus League games to prepare for their participation in the Classic. Yu Darvish prefers pitching in Cactus League games rather than throwing on the side.

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"I'm a little anxious to get into games," Bush said. "But, if say I were to go into a game against somebody like the Cubs at Sloan Park tomorrow, I know I would be amped up and giving extra effort too soon."

Bush and Barnette are in a different situation this year. Last spring, Bush had just been signed to a Minor League deal in the winter, and he wasn't even in big league camp. Barnette had just been signed to a two-year deal after playing six years in Japan, but still couldn't be too comfortable.

"I wanted to make a good first impression out of the game, and not get in anybody's way," Barnette said. "Last year, it was a little different."

The Rangers relied on Barnette and Bush heavily in 2016. Bush, the Rangers' top setup reliever, was 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 58 games. Barnette, who was able to pitch in almost any situation, was 7-3 with a 2.09 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 53 games.

Cashner, Scheppers and Kela all spent significant time on the disabled list last year, so the Rangers want to be careful with them. Pitching coach Doug Brocail is spending extra time with Cashner to work on his delivery. The goal is for Cashner to get more extension and downward movement in his delivery to get some power back in his arm.

"I think everyone in here is on a little different program," Scheppers said. "I am in no real rush. We've still got time. Everything is going well."

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.