Notes: Bullpen shuffle pays off
Showalter's 'pen management catalyzes resurgence
CHICAGO -- The biggest news this season coming out of the Rangers bullpen took place on April 30, when manager Buck Showalter made Akinori Otsuka the closer and moved Francisco Cordero into the setup role.Almost overlooked is how effective the Rangers bullpen has been since that day. But in 71 games since then, going into Saturday night's game, Rangers relievers had a combined 3.16 ERA. That left them with a season ERA of 3.67, fourth best in the American League. There are multiple reasons for the resurgence. One is Otsuka anchoring the bullpen as a reliable closer. His 1.98 ERA is fourth-best in the American League among relievers and he is 20-for-22 in save opportunities. "Anytime the closer is doing the job, it takes so much [pressure] off the rest of the guys," pitching coach Mark Connor said. The Rangers have two reliable right-handed setup relievers. Cordero has a 2.02 ERA since moving into setup relief on May 1, but Rick Bauer has also emerged as a productive piece of the bullpen. Going into Saturday's game, he had a 1.40 ERA in his last 16 games and a 2.91 ERA. "Bauer has improved by leaps and bounds over what people have expected," Connor said. "He's the story of the year in the bullpen as far as I'm concerned. Bryan Corey [2.16 ERA] has also given us a shot in the arm and I like what I've seen from [Wes] Littleton. We really need C.J. Wilson to come in and get left-handed people out, which he did Friday." The Rangers bullpen has allowed just 27.1 percent of inherited runners to score this season. That's the second-lowest mark in the American League. "One thing is we have a lot guys in the bullpen who can get ground balls," Connor said. "That gets you a double play and gets you out of innings." Connor also gave credit to bullpen coach Dom Chiti, who has been around baseball for over 30 years. "Dom does a great job with the young kids," Connor said. "We don't let these guys up for air. If they mess up, we sit down and talk about it. We can't afford to make the same mistake over and over." Players not waiting for trade: This is the time of the year when players sit around and wait to see if their general manager will make a big trade before the July 31 deadline. The Rangers, though, don't seem to be worried about what the front office might do. "Not really," shortstop Michael Young said. "That's their call. If they feel the need to make a move, they'll do it. I think the guys in here can get it done." General manager Jon Daniels' main goal is trying to upgrade the starting pitching, but he's also looking at potential upgrades to both the offense and the bullpen. "You always think about making us better but I don't know if there is one clear-cut thing that will make us better," pitcher Kevin Millwood said. "We're getting Adam [Eaton] back, that's a real big trade for us. Anything else will be gravy." Eaton to start Tuesday: Showalter made it official and said Eaton will start Tuesday. Showalter made the decision after Eaton threw without problem in the bullpen on Saturday. The Rangers haven't decided who will come out of the rotation but right now it could be John Rheinecker or John Koronka -- both have options left. John Wasdin is another candidate, but he can't go to the Minors without clearing waivers, and he also has experience pitching out of the bullpen. "We'll sit down tomorrow on the plane ride home and decide what direction we'll go," Showalter said. Hairston throwing them out: When Jerry Hairston threw out A.J. Pierzynski on Saturday, it was his sixth assist as an outfielder for the Rangers. That ties him for seventh in the league, going into Saturday's games. Carl Crawford is first with nine assists while Brad Wilkerson leads the Rangers with seven. What's remarkable about Hairston is that he has played just 21 games and 131 2/3 innings in the outfield with the Rangers. Ichiro Suzuki, who has eight assists, has logged 846 2/3 innings in the outfield, most in the league. Crawford has 755 2/3 innings out there and Wilkerson has 625 2/3 innings, all going into Saturday's games. The Rangers' club record for outfield assists in one season is 19, set by Mickey Rivers in 1980. Juan Beniquez is second with 18 in 1976. Team assists rising: Hairston's throw also gave the Rangers outfield an assist in four straight games. That's the first time that's happened since Aug. 2-5, 1992. The streak has left the Rangers with 26 outfield assists, tying them with the New York Mets for the most in the Major Leagues. The Rangers had just 27 outfield assists as a team last year and 25 in 2004. The club record is 51, set in 1976, followed by 46 in 1980. Briefly: Millwood had some back cramps in his last start, but has thrown twice out in the bullpen since then without problem. He has been getting extra treatment and ice just to make sure. ... Mark DeRosa finally has enough at-bats to qualify for the league leaders in batting. He was hitting .322 entering Saturday's action, seventh-best in the league. Coming up: Right-hander Vicente Padilla pitches against the Chicago White Sox at 1:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. Jon Garland pitches for the White Sox. This is the last game of an 11-game road trip for the Rangers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.