Joe Saunders is coming off one of his worst seasons in what has been a pretty solid big-league career. He's looking to put that all behind him on Friday night when he makes his Texas Rangers debut against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Last season with the Seattle Mariners, Saunders had a forgettable year in his 32 starts. He went 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA, but did what he's always done — eat innings. That's all the Rangers really want from Saunders is to keep the Rangers in the game and give them a chance to get to the winning pieces of the bullpen.
Saunders dealt with some "dead arm" issues in spring training and made his last appearance last weekend in San Antonio in the Rangers' exhibition series against the Houston Astros at the Alamodome.
"His last outing in San Antonio, there were a lot of positives if you don’t look at the results,” Rangers manager Ron Washington told reporters. “His fastball was more firm than his previous outings and he had better changeup and a sharper breaking ball. He just needs to be himself and get outs. That’s what he has been doing his whole career. I don’t want him trying to do anything to impress anybody but himself and the Tampa Bay Rays."
The Rangers' plan seems to be to have Saunders help hold the rope in the rotation and when reinforcements arrive put Saunders in the bullpen as a long man.