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Bush set for middle relief in Rangers' bullpen

Right-hander was a starting candidate coming into camp
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have decided to keep right-hander Matt Bush in the bullpen and not use him as a starter.

Instead, Bush will be used as a reliever who will serve as a "bridge" in the middle innings and can pitch one-plus innings. Bush has been used strictly as a reliever in his first two seasons with the Rangers.

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have decided to keep right-hander Matt Bush in the bullpen and not use him as a starter.

Instead, Bush will be used as a reliever who will serve as a "bridge" in the middle innings and can pitch one-plus innings. Bush has been used strictly as a reliever in his first two seasons with the Rangers.

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"We just feel that Matt is way too important to us in the bullpen," manager Jeff Banister said. "Just his set of pitches, how he pitches, so we feel like that's the best move for him as well as us as a team trying to structure the bullpen the best way we possibly can going forward."

The Rangers' top right-handed setup reliever is Keone Kela, who has been brought along slowly this spring because of his history of arm injuries. Kela threw a bullpen session on Sunday, but the club has to be concerned about its bullpen depth if something happens to him.

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"Look, we feel like Matt has an opportunity to be one of those exceptional -- in today's game -- bridge pitchers," Banister said. "A firemen-type deal that can give us the one-plus type [innings] which he's done for us in the past."

Bush came to camp determined to be a starter and the Rangers were willing to giving him a serious chance. He allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings over his three outings and he didn't appear to be overly comfortable in his last start against the Reds.

The Rangers still have not identified their closer, but Banister said they are not looking at Bush for that role.

"Not at this time," Banister said. "I think he's more valuable to us, again, we look at scenarios in today's game and situations where games hang in the balance in the sixth inning these days. Sixth, seventh inning where you've got to stop offenses from putting runs on the board in those situations. So, he has that type of stuff and that type of capabilities, and we feel comfortable about having him in that type of role for us."

The Rangers are looking at a rotation of Cole Hamels, Matt Moore, Doug Fister and Martin Perez. The two leading candidates for the fifth spot are Mike Minor and Bartolo Colon, although Jesse Chavez and Clayton Blackburn are still in contention.

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, Matt Bush