ARLINGTON -- The Rangers celebrated the New Year by adding three pitchers to their Spring Training roster, including a potential closer and two pitchers who have some experience as a starter in the big leagues.The Rangers announced on Thursday that they have signed pitchers Derrick Turnbow, Casey Daigle and Elizardo Ramirez to Minor League contracts and invited them to Spring Training. Turnbow gives the Rangers a possible option at closer while Daigle and Ramirez have both started and relieved at the Major League level. Turnbow has been a premier closer in the Major Leagues for at least a short period of time. The Brewers acquired him off waivers from the Angels in 2004 and he was Milwaukee's closer in 2005, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 39 saves in 69 games. He started off strong in 2006 and was named to the National League All-Star team but faded in the second half. That's when the Brewers acquired Francisco Cordero from the Rangers. Turnbow started the season with the Brewers in 2008 but struggled with his control, walking 13 in 6 1/3 innings over eight appearances before being sent to the Minor Leagues. He ended up developing tendinitis in his right shoulder and missed most of the second half of the season. Turnbow, who was recommended by new Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, is a power pitcher who has struck out 265 batters in 257 2/3 innings in his Major League career and held opponents to a .218 batting average. But he has also walked 5.9 batters per nine innings. He could compete with Frank Francisco and C.J. Wilson to be the Rangers closer or win a job as a setup reliever. But he has much to show before that happens. "He a little bit of a wild card," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "Without Mike's endorsement, I don't know if he would have been the fit that he ultimately was but he's not far removed from being a very productive back-of-the-bullpen reliever. We're going to give him the opportunity, but he'll still have to earn it by proving he's healthy and can throw strikes and regain the form he had a few years ago." Turnbow basically was dealing with a muscular imbalance in his shoulder that altered and disrupted his mechanics. He has been on a strength and conditioning program since July and has been throwing during the offseason. "He's currently throwing long-toss three times a week from 120 feet," said his agent Damon Lapa. "He's been throwing three days a week since the beginning of December and anticipates getting on the mound in the next 2-21/2 weeks, which should put him at 100 percent for the start of Spring Training."
Turnbow will likely come into Arlington later this month so the Rangers can get a better feel for where he's at as far as his health."The medical reports don't give us any cause for long-term or medium-term concern," Levine said. "It's just a matter of when he's ready to start throwing again. He expects to be at full tilt, it's just a matter of us concurring with that." Daigle and Ramirez provide the Rangers with some depth for their starting rotation and some experience at Triple-A Oklahoma. Levine said the Rangers don't expect to sign a high number of Minor League free agents but wanted a couple to go with the many young arms they expect to have at the upper levels of their farm system. Daigle spent last season with Triple-A Rochester in the Minnesota organization, going 1-5 with a 3.78 ERA and one save in 44 games. He made 10 starts for the Diamondbacks in 2004, going 2-3 with a 7.16 ERA. He also made 10 relief appearances for them in 2006 with a 3.65 ERA. "He has an upside arm who has had some success before," Levine said. Ramirez was 10-7 with a 4.50 ERA in 27 games, including 23 starts, at Triple-A Oklahoma as he led the RedHawks staff in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts. He also made one relief appearance for the Rangers and has a career record of 4-15 with a 6.40 ERA in 39 games, including 26 starts, with the Rangers, Reds and Phillies. "He pitched well for us last year," Levine said. "He was very versatile and he's a consummate pro. He was a priority for us to re-sign." The Rangers now have six non-roster pitchers coming to camp, including right-handers Doug Mathis and Brian Gordon and left-hander Joe Torres.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.