SURPRISE, Arizona. — The Texas Rangers have another potential long-term problem with the elbow they were counting on in a rebuilding season.
Jose Leclerc returned to Texas once because of a sore right elbow. This came about two weeks after teammate Jonathan Hernandez was diagnosed with a sprained elbow ligament.
The Rangers have already announced plans to start the season with Hernandez on the 60-day injury list.
General manager Chris Young said Monday that the club will not know how long Leclerc will be out of contention until he is examined by team physician Dr. Keith Meister. The 22-year-old reported pain after a recent spring training session.
It certainly wasn’t good news that morning, Young said.
Leclerc began the 2019 season as Texas’ closer before being demoted after a difficult first month. Last year, the Rangers couldn’t even determine if he was ready to take over that role, as he made just two appearances before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 60-game season.
Hernandez thought he was the hedge fund this year after making 27 appearances in 2020 and going 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA. The 23-year-old said he felt something after the bullpen session.
There are two ways to look at it: Panic and doom in the event of failure or opportunity, manager Chris Woodward said. It’s very, very frustrating, just for sympathy reasons. But the rest of the guys, right now, we have to take it one step at a time. Good organizations have depth.
The Rangers have two non-selected veterans with experience as a closing post at right tackle, Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy.
Bush was the first pick as a shortstop in 2004, whose career was derailed by alcohol abuse before he made his major league debut as a reliever at Texas in 2016. In 2018, the bearded right-hander saved 11 games in three years before undergoing surgery for a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow joint. Bush hasn’t played in the top division since.
Kennedy was an 11-year starter before moving on, recording all 30 saves of his 2019 career with Kansas City. Last year, the 36-year-old had a 9.00 ERA in 15 relief appearances and no saves for the Royals.
Young said left-handers Brett Martin and Joely Rodriguez should return from injury by mid-April. Martin was struggling with a back problem. Rodriguez, who had a 2.13 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings last season, sprained his ankle before spring training.
We have good hands, none of them have the full experience, but it happens, Young said. This is a great opportunity for many of our guys to prove themselves. We are looking for players who want to take advantage of this opportunity.
Young said the Rangers still plan to start the season without outfielder and designated hitter Willie Calhoun, who is bothering his team. Catcher Sam Huff, who made his major league debut last season, is expected to be in Arizona for minor league spring training while he recovers from a sprained left hamstring.