The Dallas Morning News
■ Seung Hwan Oh is out of the picture as the team’s closer.
Exam raises concerns about closer candidate; Lincecum a possibility
SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Rangers are back to looking for a closer.
The club broke off negotiations with Korean pitcher Seung Hwan Oh on Saturday, a source said. The club had agreed to a one-year contract with the reliever, pending a physical, more than a week ago. But, according to a source, there were disconcerting issues that came up on the MRI of his arm. The deal had reportedly initially called for a $2.75 million contract and included a team option for 2019. There were also performance bonuses.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels declined to comment on the status of Oh.
The Rangers had sought Oh, 35, as a possible closing option. He converted 39 of 47 saves over the the last two years with St. Louis. Though he bounced in and out of the closer’s role last year because of ineffectiveness, he never went on the DL. He did miss two weeks in September, when rosters had already been expanded, because of a hamstring issue.
The decision to break off talks with Oh leaves the Rangers choosing from Alex Claudio, Keone Kela and Jake Diekman among the in-house closing options. Greg Holland is still available on the freeagent market, but the Rangers are not expected to make a push for him.
One other name to keep in mind: Tim Lincecum.
The Rangers watched the former San Francisco ace in a showcase workout Thursday and were impressed by his 90-92 mph fastball and were intrigued in how it might play in a bullpen role. Two sources indicated the club would have further conversations about Lincecum. If the Rangers signed the 33-year-old, he wouldn’t necessarily have to be the closer. The Rangers could move one of the other closer options into that role and have Lincecum as a middle or setup reliever.
The Rangers need more depth in the bullpen. They ranked last in the AL in save percentage last year at 51 percent. Sam Dyson, who began the season as closer, was dumped by mid-May. Matt Bush was removed from the role in early July. The Rangers ended up using Claudio and his assortment of offspeed pitches for the majority of the second half of the season. Claudio converted 11 of 15 saves in 2017.
Learning experience: It’s still unclear whether Bartolo Colon will make the Rangers’ roster, but the club is trying to make sure he has an impact on the future, regardless.
For the first week of camp, as pitchers throw bullpen sessions to build up their arms and work on fielding practice, Colon is part of a group that includes the youngest and brightest prospects in camp: Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Ronald Herrera and Jonathan Hernandez. Also in the group is Claudio, the Rangers’ 2017 Pitcher of the Year who gets by on strike-throwing and movement, rather than power.
“There is a method to it,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “If you can pair up younger players and veterans, guys whom you’d like to foster relationships and communicate, then you try to utilize that. If you don’t, then we aren’t doing our jobs. There is so much
value in the experience of guys like [Colon] and what he’s been through. There is huge value in peer-to-peer communication.”
Colon has evolved from a power pitcher into an extreme strike-thrower who has led the majors in strike percentage over the last five years. The Rangers last year put renewed emphasis on strike zone command with the fastball at the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Wakanda forever: Though an avid moviegoer, Delino DeShields isn’t much for attending opening nights, but he was willing to fight the crowds to see Black Panther on Friday.
“I always wanted a black superhero in some sense when I was a kid,” DeShields said. “But they were always in some kind of supporting role. This was something different. This was powerful. It was very encouraging. It felt more like a movement.”
Briefly: LHP Matt Moore felt some soreness behind his right knee during workouts Saturday and ended up sitting out fielding drills. The injury is not considered serious. He did some light jogging on it afterwards. … The only three players not to participate in camp yet are 3B Adrian Beltre and INFs Darwin Barney and Trevor Plouffe.