Stock Watch: Pitching

With guys like Kameron Loe, Jamey Wright, Bruce Chen and more all in the mix to win one pitcher's spot along with a crush of talent to fit into the bullpen, there's more competition among the pitchers then ever before. Time to take a look at what some of the arms have done so far this spring.

The Rangers have also had the good fortune of beginning things in the desert this spring with four able-bodied individuals already inserted into the rotation and all the makings of a repeat performance of last year's solid bullpen present in camp. If anything, the problem of there being too much talent to sort through in order to find a fifth starter and fill out a staff of relievers presents itself for the Rangers. But it's certainly one of the best problems a team can have.

Kameron Loe: Loe has performed about as good as anybody in camp so far this spring. He's been sharp during most of his outings, although his shakiest performance came on Monday afternoon when he walked two Brewers and hit two more. In that game he also had an attempt to start a double play go awry when he threw low and wide of second base for an error. But he was able to escape without giving up an earned run and still has yet to allow one through three outings this spring. It's widely expected that unless a complete meltdown or an injury occurs, the final decision on the last rotation spot will be between Loe and someone else. If for some reason it's not, Loe will likely begin the year in Oklahoma instead of claiming a spot in the bullpen.
Stock Watch: Rising

Josh Rupe: Around this time last year, Rupe became one of the favorites to win a spot in the rotation before injuring his elbow in his third appearance of the spring. After that, he didn't make it back to the majors until July. So far this spring it's been one up, one down. He was untouched his first outing but roughed up in his second outing against Colorado, allowing seven hits and four runs in 2 2/3. There may be a greater than zero chance that the Rangers would want to insert a veteran into the fifth starter spot (more on that in a minute), but he remains one of the more versatile arms the Rangers have and essentially the only guy in the running who hasn't auditioned for a number five starter role before and failed.
Stock Watch: Holding Steady

Bruce Chen:
The veteran lefty has looked good so far this spring for the Rangers and should he be able to keep it up would certainly fit into the plans of having a veteran in the final spot of the rotation. Although the windy conditions that have prevailed during ballgames in Arizona haven't done much at all to hamper his tendency to give up the flyball, for me it's still a case of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst should a guy as infamous for allowing the homerun ball get to pitch often at Ameriquest. If he gets turned down for the rotation, and the situation allows it, could be an effective long man/mop-up guy in the bullpen? Might also be a decent situational guy to bring in to face left-handed hitters.
Stock Watch: Rising

Jamey Wright:
It looks as though Mr. Wright is giving Kameron Loe a run for his money at that last spot. He's been good this spring, allowing two base runners in five innings of work on a walk and a single. As a matter of fact, if you take into consideration the recent scuffling displayed by Robinson Tejeda, Wright may be looking at doing a little leapfrogging to claim the number four spot in the rotation from the guy penciled in to the role to start the spring. And if you take it even further than that by ruling in the Brandon McCarthy struggles as of late, if it continues along with Wright's good pitching then we may be looking at a new number three guy in the rotation as well. But that's looking too far into the future.
Stock Watch: Rising

John Koronka:
Although he hasn't been completely ruled out, at this point Koronka has to be hanging on by a thread to his opportunity at cracking the rotation. He seems to keep running into the same problem of not going into games with enough fuel in his tank to get him through the allotted number of innings he's scheduled to pitch. At times he hasn't displayed very good command spotting his fastball and can rarely get his breaking ball to work effectively. In his last time out on Sunday, Koronka faced 12 batters and eight of them reached base. That's not good.
Stock Watch: Falling

John Rheinecker:
Back spasms have been haunting Rheinecker all spring long, and as a result he hasn't been able to pitch in a game yet. Although he wasn't among those sent to minor league camp the other day he will certainly begin the year in at least Triple-A.
Stock Watch: Falling

THE BULLPEN

Frank Francisco:
He's definitely showing signs of returning to the flamethrower that first cracked the roster in 2004. In his first outing of the spring he threw a boatload of stuff in the high-90's range, then mixed it up his last time out by working on some breaking pitches. But in order for him to reclaim his spot in the pen he's going to have to work extra hard these final two weeks to elevate his fastball and split finger stuff to the almost lethal levels it was prior to the Tommy John surgery that's kept him out of baseball for so long.
Stock Watch: Rising

Scott Feldman:
Reports from the desert say that Feldman's been the sharpest guy in camp. He's got Frank Francisco hot on his heels and if he fine tune his performances a little more it may give Feldman a serious run for his money, but for now his job in the pen is safe.
Stock Watch: Rising

Wes Littleton:
With a 16.88 earned run average, Littleton is off to an disappointingly slow start in spring training. But his debut performance in 2006 was a strong one, so he's been given the benefit of the doubt that he'll be able to turn things around and win a bullpen spot.
Stock Watch: Falling

Joaquin Benoit:
The thing about Benoit is that if the Rangers decide not to place him on the 25 man roster and, chances are another team surely will. Benoit is out of options and therefore cannot be sent down to Triple-A. He's been unscored on in three innings this spring and has shown in the past that a having a guy in the bullpen who can come in and pitch and keep your team in it when you're down by six runs early in a game is a pretty valuable thing to have. When he's on, he gives the Rangers a chance for their offense to get the wheels back on and hopefully get back in the game. Not that he hasn't had his fair share of catastrophically shaky moments (see in Houston against the Astros last May) either, but as long as he keeps pitching well you can count him in.
Stock Watch: Rising

C.J. Wilson:
He's been having lots of trouble throwing strikes. Since players are usually still trying to get back into the swing of things, it's not unusual to see a guy get hit hard during spring training. But Wilson is just flat out missing the strike zone, which is unsettling. Earlier this month, he was tinkering and toying around with throwing the gyro ball à la Daisuke Matsuzaka, but he's also being counted on to be a serious contributor to the bullpen and while I don't think his rough performances during the spring will lead to him beginning the year in the minor leagues, it'll certainly make life a lot easier if he can pitch like he's capable of instead of struggling mightily like he has.
Stock Watch: Falling

Rick Bauer:
Judging by his performance last year, he's another key long man to have in your bullpen. However, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Bauer could find himself traded for a backup catcher by the end of camp. Why a backstop out of all the needs this team may have, I have no idea. Although Miguel Ojeda and Guillermo Quiroz have had their misses, I would have thought both have shown enough signs of life to make you rest a little easier having to play one of them in a game during the regular season.
Stock Watch: Holding Steady

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