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Who's On Eighth: Breaking Down the Contenders

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The eighth inning job is up for grabs and there's no obvious choice.

    The Rangers have put the finishing touches on their opening roster and need only navigate their way through Round Rock before the defense of the 2010 American League title officially begins.

    Starting that defense doesn't put an end to the questions about the team, however. It's going to take some time to know how the rotation shakes out, how Julio Borbon can handle center field and just who is going to serve as the line of bullpen defense right in front of Neftali Feliz.

    There are those that disagree with the notion that you need a set eighth inning guy, but few argue that bullpens operate better when everyone knows their role. Alexi Ogando is in the rotation for the time being, which means the job is up for grabs and there's no obvious choice to replace him. That's a bit scary given Ron Washington's somewhat shaky past as a chooser of relievers so let's try to make it easier for him.  

    Dave Bush: No chance. He's here to be a long reliever and perhaps a spot starter if an emergency should arise.

    Mason Tobin: They clearly like the Rule 5 pick because he needs to be on the active roster or disabled list all season to avoid being returned to the Angels. But he's not likely to be in such a prominent role at this point in the season. He's never pitched in a game above Single-A and missed the last two years with injury, but who knows what could happen if things break the right way. 

    Arthur Rhodes: The lefty is mostly a specialist at this point in time and you get the feeling that the Rangers would prefer someone who throws a little harder pitching in front of Feliz anyway.  

    Darren O'Day/Darren Oliver: Two more specialists, although there has to be some thought given to using the two of them as a way to make up for the lack of one singular sensation. The problems with that scenario become the matchup problems created by two pitchers who struggle with guys batting from the other side and the inability to get one big out against a hitter like Adrian Gonzalez because you need to save Oliver for later in the game.

    Mark Lowe: Lowe has the fastball that you'd like to see from someone at the end of the game. Unfortunately he doesn't have another reliable pitch to keep hitters from sitting dead red and pasting his offerings into the nether reaches of the ballpark. That's kept him from being an effective reliever in the past. He's working with a curve, but do you really want someone learning on the job with a one-run lead?

    Pedro Strop: He was the most impressive reliever all spring and has posted dazzling strikeout rates in both the minors and majors over the years. His previous trips to the big leagues have also featured staggering numbers of walks, however, which makes him into the same kind of crapshoot as Lowe in a big spot.

    No obvious choices. The mix-and-match system seems like the safest route, but you probably don't want to reserve too many relievers for the eighth with a questionable rotation. 

    That leaves Lowe or Strop in a battle to see who should be the first man on the line. There is no point to having both of them on the team if you feel there are too many drawbacks to using either one of them in a high leverage role.

    Hopefully we won't have to wait to long to see who Washington chooses because the only thing worse than not protecting leads is never having them in the first place.