Leclerc nears return, bullpen decision looms

Right-hander could be activated from DL on Friday

Leclerc nears return, bullpen decision looms

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers plan on reliever Jose Leclerc returning this week, and his arrival could present a dilemma for manager Jeff Banister.

Leclerc has been on the disabled list since May 8 with a right index finger injury, but he made a pair of relief appearances for Double-A Frisco, throwing two scoreless innings and allowing a hit, while striking out three.

"It felt great," Leclerc said through an interpreter. "I think I'm ready to be back."

Before Leclerc's injury, the rookie was part of an eight-man bullpen for the Rangers. They've carried seven relievers since he went on the DL. But with the way Leclerc pitched before getting hurt, Banister will have to decide what to do with his roster when Leclerc is ready.

"I think, yeah, that's part of it," Banister said. "Whether we go back to a full complement, if we stay with the bench, how we go forward with all of the starters -- there's a number of decisions to be made."

Leclerc K's Trout

Leclerc has a 2.31 ERA in 10 appearances this year. He's allowed six hits and struck out 18 in 11 2/3 innings. If the Rangers choose to add Leclerc and go back to an eight-man bullpen, they would have to drop a position player to make room on the roster.

With an off-day following Wednesday's series finale against the Rays, Banister said the Rangers would wait to see how Leclerc felt Friday before deciding whether or not to activate him.

Beltre easing back into full-time duty

Adrian Beltre made his season debut Monday, batting cleanup and playing third base, after working back from a calf strain. He played third again Tuesday, but for Wednesday's game against the Rays, Beltre was the designated hitter with Joey Gallo playing third.

Banister said they'd use the same plan for the Rangers' three-game series with the Astros this weekend, and Beltre would play both games in the two-game set against the Mets next week.

Beltre's first hit of the season

After that, the Rangers go on the road to Washington, but Banister wasn't sure what the plan would be there yet.

"There's no DH there, so we'll have to make an adjustment," Banister said.

Worth noting

Mike Napoli returned to the lineup Wednesday, playing first base and batting eighth. He sat out the previous two games with back tightness, which he said flared up during the Rangers' road trip last week. Napoli said he started feeling stiffness in Boston, and the turf in Toronto aggravated it.

• With Napoli and Beltre back, Gallo's position could fluctuate day to day. Banister said he "wouldn't be surprised" to see Gallo making a start in left field soon.

Sam Butler is a reporter for based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.