Confident Bush at camp to win rotation spot

Needing starting help, Rangers looking to stretch reliever into starter

February 14th, 2018

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers right-hander Matt Bush said he has come to camp to be a starting pitcher.

"Without a doubt," Bush said. "In my mind, that's what I am doing. That's what I am prepared for. I am not looking back."

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A final decision hasn't been made by anybody -- pitchers and catchers just reported on Wednesday -- and there is still some debate as to whether Bush can handle the increased workload after two years as a short reliever. Bush has no doubts.

"I have always been very confident in my abilities," Bush said. "Coming into my first year [in 2016] I was confident I would get to the Major Leagues. I've always loved challenges and competition. I have always been able to rise to the occasion. I'm just staying confident."

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The Rangers have had mixed success in moving relievers into the rotation. (2010) and (2011) were able to make the successful transition. (2012) and (2014) were not. Both broke down within the first two months of the season.

Wilson and Feliz had contrasting viewpoints to the move. Wilson wanted it badly and was fanatical in his preparation. Feliz made the move reluctantly and couldn't match Wilson's intensity. Scheppers was also determined to be a starter, but couldn't hold up physically. Ogando made a successful transition in 2011, but was moved back to the bullpen the following year to make room for Feliz.

Bush mirrors Wilson. He is eager to be a starter and feels he is physically ready after having an offseason procedure to have the AC joint in his right shoulder cleaned up. He has reworked his offseason throwing program and is up to 55 pitches in his bullpen sessions.

"My arm feels free and easy," Bush said. "It feels better than it has in the last two years. I'm looking forward to seeing what that's like. I have nothing holding me back."

Bush still has to win a spot. The Rangers appear to have a set rotation with Cole Hamels, , Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor, and they also have in camp. The possibility still exists Bush could end up in the bullpen again.

"Right now we are stretching him out to be a starter," manager Jeff Banister said. "We'll make decisions as we go through Spring Training when we get there."

Minor can be flexible. He was a starter for the Braves in 2010-14, then missed two years because of injuries and was outstanding in relief for the Royals last season. He is here as a starter, but isn't worried about winning a job or proving anything.

"I don't really look at it that way," Minor said. "They can put me anywhere they want. I am comfortable with either one."

Bush and Minor could both end up in the bullpen if Colon, 44, proves he still has something left. That might not be their desire, but it would definitely upgrade the bullpen. The Rangers need improvement all throughout the staff.