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Versatile Chavez pushing for roster spot

Rangers swingman candidate pitches three perfect innings vs. Royals
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jesse Chavez can start, relieve, do both or not make the team. Exactly what Chavez's role is going to be is unclear with just two weeks to go before Spring Training ends.

But he made a case for something Monday night when he retired nine straight hitters in the Rangers' 5-1 split-squad victory over the Royals. Chavez struck out two in his second start and fourth appearance of the spring.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jesse Chavez can start, relieve, do both or not make the team. Exactly what Chavez's role is going to be is unclear with just two weeks to go before Spring Training ends.

But he made a case for something Monday night when he retired nine straight hitters in the Rangers' 5-1 split-squad victory over the Royals. Chavez struck out two in his second start and fourth appearance of the spring.

View Full Game Coverage

Spring Training information

"Stay focused," Chavez said. "I have been through it before. Nothing new for me -- come in and do our business and root for the guys. I love the competition, it's great, we have a good group in here, that's how I look at it. I don't look at it any differently than in the past."

Chavez was signed on Feb 23 -- nine days after pitchers and catchers reported -- with the idea of being a possible "swing" pitcher who can both start and relieve. Nick Martinez and Austin Bibens-Dirkx are among those who have fielded such a role in the past.

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"He's a guy who is going to go multiples and he can be stretched out enough to be a starting pitcher and also still be a reliever," manager Jeff Banister said. "There is significance. This is a guy, in Chavez's case, this is kind of the norm for him. This is what he's been, so this is how he's getting ready."

Chavez was signed before Tim Lincecum, who now appears to be a more likely addition to a bullpen that should include left-handers Alex Claudio and Jake Diekman and right-handers Keone Kela, Chris Martin, Tony Barnette and Matt Bush. The Rangers could go with eight relievers but there are others who are making a strong bid to be a part of it.

Rangers beat

• Kela threw in the bullpen for the second straight day, and pitching coach Doug Brocail said he looked "phenomenal." Brocail said Kela could pitch in a game this weekend for the first time since March 5.

Jose Leclerc gave up a home run to Bradley Zimmer but otherwise looked sharp again over 2 1/3 innings in the Rangers' 4-2 split-squad loss to the Indians. In seven innings this spring, Leclerc has held opponents to a .160 batting average, walked just one batter and struck out seven. Said Banister, "Nothing but positives coming out of Leclerc."

• The Rangers took outfielder Carlos Tocci in the Rule 5 Draft because of his defense, and Banister said, "Tocci's been a great surprise for us defensively, just how smooth he is, reactions. Baserunning's been good, progressively showing us that he can do some things to move the runner, he's showing the bunts, he's got some hits and when he's on the ball, ball comes off the bat very well. But more than anything else, very impressive in the outfield."

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, Jesse Chavez