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Springs impresses in potential rotation audition

Lefty 'opener' throws three scoreless frames in Rangers' loss to A's
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

OAKLAND -- The Rangers used a reliever to "open" Sunday's game against the Athletics. Or did they?

Left-hander Jeffrey Springs is officially listed as a reliever by the Rangers, but that could change easily, as circumstances alter cases. Springs certainly looked like a guy capable of starting when he delivered three scoreless innings on Sunday before the Rangers went on to a 7-3 loss to Oakland at the Coliseum.

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OAKLAND -- The Rangers used a reliever to "open" Sunday's game against the Athletics. Or did they?

Left-hander Jeffrey Springs is officially listed as a reliever by the Rangers, but that could change easily, as circumstances alter cases. Springs certainly looked like a guy capable of starting when he delivered three scoreless innings on Sunday before the Rangers went on to a 7-3 loss to Oakland at the Coliseum.

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Springs was opening for Ariel Jurado, after the two combined for six scoreless innings against the Angels last Monday. This one didn't go quite as well. Jurado took over in the fourth and couldn't get out of the inning, allowing five runs on four hits and two walks while getting two outs. Jurado is now 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA over seven starts and two relief appearances.

"This a young guy and we're learning a lot about him in this situation," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We felt like he was ready; he just didn't have the feel for his sinker or breaking ball. He fell behind five of eight batters he faced. The bottom line is he has to continue to compete in those situations."

Jurado is one of the young pitchers the Rangers are evaluating for their rotation next year, but Springs could be another. He faced 12 batters and allowed just three baserunners on a hit, a walk and a hit batter. He struck out two and now has a 1.99 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP in 12 games since being called up from Triple-A.

"I was very happy with the results today and putting up zeros," Springs said. "I was taking it inning by inning. Giving us a chance to win is the goal."

PItchers who have been used as "openers" normally go 1-2 innings, but the Rangers let Springs go longer and he ended up throwing 44 pitches. That spot in the rotation will come up three more times before the end of the season, which would give Texas a chance to see him for an extended outing that would involve multiple trips through the opposing lineup.

"The decision today was whether or not to send him out for a fourth inning," Banister said. "He has done a lot of good things since he has been here and we have talked about that during this process. We'll have more of those discussions toward the end of the season. Obviously, the young man hasn't done anything to keep him from doing that, but we also have to think about his number of pitches and innings. He is in the big leagues for the first time."

The Rangers have a fascination in converting relievers to starters, but it would not be totally new concept for Springs. He made 26 starts in the Minor Leagues over the past two seasons and was also used as a starter in college at Appalachian State.

Springs was moved to the bullpen last season because it offered a potentially better path to the big leagues, But he may be better suited to starting. Springs is not overpowering like left-handers Jake Diekman and C.D. Pelham, but instead relies on a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball averaging 91.2 mph. He also has a slider and a change.

"Obviously as competitor, you want the ball as long as they are willing to give it to you," Springs said. "Obviously they have a game plan in place. My job is to execute to the best of my ability and not worry about that too much."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Adrian Beltre had a one-out RBI single in the third that gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead. But Rougned Odor was cut down trying to go from first to third on the play, and the Rangers' rally was cut short. Beltre was 1-for-4 on the afternoon and now has 3,153 hits in his career. That moves him past Paul Waner and into sole possession of 16th place on the all-time list. He is one behind George Brett.

Video: TEX@OAK: Beltre passes Waner on all-time hit list

SOUND SMART
Delino DeShields had two stolen bases and now has 20 on the season. That's the third time in four seasons he has reached that mark.

Video: TEX@OAK: DeShields steals his 19th base of season

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
A bizarre throwing error by Odor stood out in the Athletics five-run fourth inning. The Rangers were leading, 3-2, with two outs and runners at second and third when Nick Martini smashed a line drive that short-hopped Odor. The ball had an exit velocity of 107.2 miles per hour -- Joey Gallo home run-type exit velocity -- and Odor did a good job of getting in front of it. He knocked it down and scrambled to get it, but threw off-balance to first. The throw hit first-base umpire Jerry Meals and two runs ended up scoring.

Video: TEX@OAK: A's score 2 on Martini's single, error

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Athletics got a big reversal in the first inning after the Rangers, leading 1-0, had Shin-Soo Choo at second and Odor at first with one out. Beltre was at the plate when Choo tried to steal third. Odor, anticipating a throw to third, wandered too far off first. Catcher Josh Phegley surprised him by throwing to first and Odor was caught in a rundown. The Athletics almost misplayed the rundown as Odor dove back into first base apparently ahead of second baseman Franklin Barreto's tag. But the Athletics challenged the call and it was overturned after review. Choo was at third but Beltre flied out to end the inning.

Video: TEX@OAK: A's pick off Odor after overturned call

UP NEXT
Left-hander Mike Minor (11-7, 4.31 ERA) opens a three-game series against the Angels at 9:07 p.m. CT on Monday in Anaheim. Minor is 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA in his past six starts and 7-3 with a 3.24 ERA in his past 14 starts. He held the Angels to two runs over five innings in a 4-2 victory on Sept. 4. Right-hander Jaime Barria (10-8, 3.30) will start for the Angels.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Jeffrey Springs