Pressed into service, Tinoco makes an impression

June 15th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Sometimes circumstances are out of your control and you have to play with the cards you were dealt. 

Lots was out of the Rangers' control in their 9-2 loss to the Astros on Wednesday, with four players -- including the originally scheduled starting pitcher, Glenn Otto -- and pitching coach Brendan Sagara on the COVID IL.

Instead Texas turned to a bullpen game, using two COVID replacement players in  and , and  as long middle relief.   

The three pitchers who combined to handle the bulk of the innings in the loss -- utilityman  took the mound in the ninth -- had a combined 278 innings of big league work prior to the game. Of those 278, 222 2/3 belonged to Allard, who allowed three runs on five hits in five innings.

Miller, making just his second career start, could not get out of the first, allowing six runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman before turning over his duties to Tinoco after just two-thirds of an inning. 

“Obviously, Tyson, you could tell he was really off,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He wasn’t really commanding the baseball at all, fell behind and wasn’t getting a lot of swing and miss. When you start off 6-0, it takes the wind out of your sails a little bit.”

But Tinoco dominated in relief, facing just one batter over the minimum in 2 1/3 innings. It was his longest outing of the season between both Triple-A Round Rock and the big leagues.

“I can say so much about [Tinoco] and Allard coming in and picking us up,” Woodward said. “We didn’t expect [Tinoco] to go one-plus innings. He hasn’t done that all year, and it’s a lot to ask. We need to obviously get out of that first setting and hopefully get through that second inning. He did it on limited pitches and was really, really effective, like he has been the whole time here.”

Tinoco has yet to allow a hit or a run in four relief appearances since coming up as a COVID replacement. He said he’s ready to tackle any situation to help the team, but it has admittedly been a crazy week for him.

With Triple-A Round Rock, Tinoco posted a 2.42 ERA over 17 relief appearances and 22 1/3 innings. He’s notched as many saves (6) as he's allowed earned runs. He hasn’t spent any extended time at the big league level since tossing 36 innings in 24 games for the Rockies in 2019.

Woodward noted that there’s been a consistency to Tinoco's stuff this season that he just hadn’t shown in past years, especially to his slider, as pitching coaches have encouraged him to increase usage of the pitch.

“He’s just executing,” Woodward said. “I don’t know if it was because he was in Colorado last year, but that slider doesn’t play the same there. It's just a tough place to pitch consistently. We recognized the slider when we signed this guy, and we signed him for that reason. He's honestly got a plus fastball and good sinker, too. If the ball is in play, it's usually a weak ground ball or he punches them out. That's what we keep seeing over and over again.”

So would the front office and coaching staff consider keeping Tinoco and creating a roster spot for him once the other players are ready to return?

There’s a lot to consider. Otto will hopefully return to the rotation soon, and the Rangers will already have to create roster spots for relievers Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez when they come off the 60-day injured list in the coming weeks.

But Tinoco makes the decision hard, Woodward said.

“There's a lot of arms coming,” Woodward said. “So I don't know, really. But what it does do is provide -- even if we do send him back to Triple-A -- peace of mind for all of us to know that we have him waiting in case something happens and we need it. Reinforcements are pretty damn good. I love the kid -- a great makeup and culture guy. He fits perfectly for what we have here, especially in that bullpen. He's done a good job of making all of us aware just how good he is.”