Scheppers nearing bullpen session

Because of a nerve issue in his back that has led to some leg numbness, right-hander Tanner Scheppers has made only one regular-season appearance in 2011. The prospect is currently working his way back to game action in Arizona, and Lone Star Dugout caught up with him to discuss his rehab process.

Coming into the 2011 season, right-hander Tanner Scheppers figured to be one of the Texas Rangers' first options if the major league club needed bullpen help.

Unfortunately for both Scheppers and the Rangers, the team has needed plenty of help in the early going. And Scheppers has been forced to sit on the sidelines.

Of Round Rock's 11 other pitchers on the opening-day roster, five have already pitched in the majors this season.

Scheppers entered spring training preparing to open the season as a starting pitcher. But a nerve issue in his back limited him to only two major league spring training appearances. After the initial MRI came back negative, Scheppers received a root nerve injection during the second week of spring training.

The prospect returned just in time to make two late-camp minor league appearances, working with the Triple-A club. He logged five total innings and began to build his innings up as a starting pitcher.

But Scheppers' back troubles returned once he reached Round Rock, and he began the season on the seven-day disabled list. He made his first regular-season appearance in a start on April 16, working two innings and allowing three runs on four hits.

After the outing, Scheppers experienced more discomfort in his back. And the Rangers decided that, instead of continually rushing him back, it was time to get the problem taken care of with some extensive rest and rehab.

As it turns out, the issue wasn't solely in Scheppers' back. He says the nerve trouble was causing some problems in his leg.

"I'm just recovering from a back injury that caused some slight numbness or weakness in my leg," Scheppers said from the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona. "I just had to get the strength back."

The leg numbness wasn't only an issue when Scheppers was pitching––he says it affected him constantly.

"It was just numb all the time," he said. "The problem with my back––it just kind of pinched a nerve––and it's common to lose some feeling in your leg. So it just took some time to get the feeling and strength back."

The 24-year-old says he didn't have any prior history with nerve or back issues. It's a problem he hopes to be over after the extended layoff and rehab period.

"I feel like we took the time to take care of it now," he said. "The doctors think that once the strength comes back and I'm feeling good, then it shouldn't be a problem anymore.

"Now it's a lot better. I'm basically almost 100 percent. Now that I'm able to move forward, I can get back to playing again."

With Scheppers back close to 100 percent, he is able to resume baseball activities. He began getting back into throwing this week and expects to be pitching in games relatively soon.

"I'm throwing off the half mound right now," said the Fresno State product. "I'll start throwing bullpens on Monday. And then from there, it's a couple more weeks maybe at most."

Scheppers projects that he'll be pitching in games "probably the week after" he begins resuming his bullpen sessions this coming Monday.

When the 6-foot-4, 200-pound hurler returns to action, he will most likely join the Round Rock bullpen. Featuring 95-98 mph heat and a wipeout curveball––to go along with the occasional slider and changeup––Scheppers could prove to be a valuable addition in Arlington at some point this season.

Scheppers says he's not yet sure whether he'll be starting or relieving this season. But regardless of what ultimately happens, he expects to begin building his innings back up through the bullpen.

"From the sounds of it, it kind of looks like (the Rangers) are going to get me out there and just get me throwing," the hurler said. "And whether I build up through the bullpen––I think that's probably what will happen. But I can't really say. They haven't told me anything."

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