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Leclerc's turnaround bolsters bullpen

MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- Reliever Jose Leclerc has been one of the key bright spots in the bullpen for the Rangers in the midst of a rebuilding season, and manager Jeff Banister still recognizes what a turnaround season it has been for the 24-year-old.

There were stretches where Leclerc struggled last season, especially last September, when he had a 6.75 ERA and walked six batters in five appearances. Banister admits that there was uncertainty about whether Leclerc could handle a late-inning role.

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ARLINGTON -- Reliever Jose Leclerc has been one of the key bright spots in the bullpen for the Rangers in the midst of a rebuilding season, and manager Jeff Banister still recognizes what a turnaround season it has been for the 24-year-old.

There were stretches where Leclerc struggled last season, especially last September, when he had a 6.75 ERA and walked six batters in five appearances. Banister admits that there was uncertainty about whether Leclerc could handle a late-inning role.

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"There were some questions going into the offseason last year, and even going into Spring Training," Banister said. "We knew physically where the stuff was -- never in question about that. Usability and confidence-wise, could we build him back up? Would he get himself to a point to what you see now?"

Leclerc has been dominant for the Rangers this season and has received the bulk of closing opportunities since Keone Kela was traded to the Pirates on July 31. He's pitched a scoreless inning in each of his last nine games and has a 0.87 ERA over his last 21 games. Leclerc has also recorded three consecutive saves.

Banister said Leclerc's openness to work with the pitching staff and grow from last season has made his transition to a late-inning role smooth.

"Players have to put in the effort and the time," Banister said. "They grow mentally to be able to go out to do what they do. However, our number of people -- our video crew, the pitching coaches, [Dan] Warthen and [Doug] Brocail -- what they've done with Jose has been outstanding, just to keep him focused, engaged.

"I'd say [Leclerc's been] one of the top successes, if you want to look at where he was at coming into the year to where he is now."

Rangers beat
• The Rangers remain uncertain as to when right-hander Bartolo Colon will make his next start. Colon was scratched from Sunday's start against the Angels with back stiffness.

• Banister said left-hander Mike Minor is progressing, but the Rangers are still uncertain when he will make his next start. Minor was scratched from Friday's start against the Angels with back stiffness, but the Rangers are hoping he'll pitch in the three-game series against the Athletics that starts Monday in Oakland.

Adrian Beltre was not in the lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Angels. Beltre, who is dealing with a strained left hamstring, was back in the lineup Saturday as a designated hitter, his first game action since Monday.

Wesley Dotson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington.

Texas Rangers, Jose Leclerc