Yoshinori Tateyama #22 of the Texas Rangers pitches during a spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.
With the trade deadline approaching, and names like Heath Bell, Mike Adams AND Chad Qualls being tossed around as possible future Texas Rangers, the on-again-off-again Rangers bullpen responded in a big way Thursday night to some recent public scrutiny from manager Ron Washington and team president/Rangers legend Nolan Ryan.
They were most definitely "on again" in the Rangers' 4-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, who had taken two straight from the Rangers after falling 20-6 to Texas in the series opener on Monday.
First off, and most importantly, Neftali Feliz looked good after blowing his fifth save of the season (he blew three all of last year) on Tuesday. Feliz was given some cushion when the Rangers scored twice in the bottom of the eighth but he needed just 15 pitches to close out the Twins in the ninth and had a strikeout with no walks.
As much as Feliz needed to respond to doubters, and as good as that was to see, the biggest inning for the Rangers' pen was the eighth after Matt Harrison had to leave the game after a 20-pitch at-bat against Joe Mauer with one out, leaving a man on base and two outs for the pen to get.
That brought on Yoshi Tateyama, who's becoming a really solid part of the bullpen and is near impossible for righties to hit. Tateyama struck out Michael Cuddyer with a man on to record the second out. That gave way to 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes, who's struggled recently even though his numbers against lefties are good.
He needed just four pitches to induce a flyout to center to end the inning, and the Twins' threat while the Rangers were still clinging to a 2-1 lead.
The Rangers bullpen will, by all accounts, be quite different come Sunday's trade deadline, and that is something that is necessary. But it was good to see things come together nicely in what was a huge game for the Rangers after the Angels had won earlier in the day and a Rangers loss would've put them back within a game in the division.