Uehara, Adams solid bridge to Feliz in ninth
Acquisitions give Washington more options as game wears on
TORONTO -- On Sunday morning, manager Ron Washington was excited about the possibility of using right-handed reliever Koji Uehara as his eighth-inning setup reliever.
"He's got experience at the end of a ballgame, and that's where I'm going to use him," Washington said before the Rangers' game against the Blue Jays. "He makes us stronger at the end of the ballgame. He gets outs."
Several hours later, after a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays, Washington was amending his statement after hearing that the Rangers acquired right-handed reliever Mike Adams from the Padres.
"Now I've got two eighth-inning guys," Washington said. "I've got great flexibility. All it does is make our ballclub better. These two guys are capable of pitching anywhere in the ballgame."
The ideal scenario would be for the starter to pitch the sixth inning, Uehara the seventh, Adams the eighth and Neftali Feliz in the ninth inning for a close ballgame that the Rangers would win. Or Adams in the seventh inning and Uehara in the eighth.
"I'm not going to get locked in to one guy in the seventh and one guy in the eighth," Washington said.
Or Adams could pitch the ninth inning on nights that Feliz is not available. Adams could also be an alternative if Feliz falters as a closer or moves into the rotation next season. General manager Jon Daniels admitted that's a possibility, but not an immediate need.
"He's trained, so to speak, under two of the best in the business with Trevor Hoffman and Heath Bell," Daniels said. "More importantly, he has that type of ninth inning stuff. I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. He is our setup guy. Feliz is our closer, he was an All-Star closer, Rookie of the Year, lights out at the end of the year last year, closed out the ALCS.
"There is no controversy or anything like that, but it is nice to have someone else capable of it. San Diego, had they traded Heath Bell, they probably would have closed with Mike, and they know him as well or better than anybody else, and they had that comfort and confidence to do that with him. I'm confident we could as well if we needed to."
What the Rangers know now is they have a much deeper bullpen than they did two days ago, and that was their main goal throughout the process. They still have right-hander Mark Lowe and left-hander Darren Oliver, who could now be used as early as the fifth or sixth innings.
"Now we have some versatile pieces," Washington said.
Washington said Uehara and Adams allows him to use Oliver earlier in the game, especially against dangerous left-handed power hitters. Washington can use Oliver in the sixth inning against such hitters knowing that he has Uehara or Adams for the eighth and Feliz for the ninth.
They are both right-handers, but left-handed hitters are batting .191 off of Adams and .136 off of Uehara.
"Koji gets outs," Washington said. "It doesn't matter if they are left-handed or right-handed. He's the kind of guy that goes out and pitches his game. Whether it's a pressure game or no-pressure game, he looks like a guy who comes in, gets outs and walks off the mound.
"Adams is a guy who can sink the ball, slide it and get outs. We've got a bullpen full of guys who can get outs. Jon and them did a great job of getting what we needed. Now it's up to us to get them ready to hold on to a lead."
The Rangers still have one decision to make. They still have to make room for Adams on the 25-man roster. Yoshinori Tateyama is the only pitcher in the bullpen who has options and can be easily sent to the Minor Leagues. Scott Feldman is the long reliever on a team that hasn't had much use for a long reliever lately. Arthur Rhodes is the Rangers' second left-hander out of the bullpen, but that may not be as important with the acquisitions of Uehara and Adams.
But Tateyama is the easiest move to make.
"We're going to talk about it some more," Washington said. "It's a tough decision."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.