ARLINGTON -- The Rangers did not need to send a message to their other relievers after designating Sam Dyson for assignment. They know what is at stake for a bullpen that had a collective 4.68 ERA going into Friday, the third highest in the Majors."It has to get better ...
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers did not need to send a message to their other relievers after designating Sam Dyson for assignment. They know what is at stake for a bullpen that had a collective 4.68 ERA going into Friday, the third highest in the Majors.
"It has to get better ... that's evident," Tony Barnette said.
"We have been saying that for a month," Jeremy Jeffress said. "We didn't have the start we wanted to have. Everybody came out of Spring Training feeling strong and feeling good. The bullpen has had two great seasons and we wanted to keep going. Everybody in the bullpen understands the bullpen can take you a long way. We all know the pressure we have and we know our abilities.
"That doesn't shake us or scare us a little bit."
• Rangers DFA former closer Dyson
Jeffress and Barnette are two veteran relievers the Rangers are counting on this season. Like Dyson, they have had their ups and downs, although not quite as extreme. Jeffress went into Friday with a record of 1-2, a 5.73 ERA and a .337 opponents' batting average. Barnette was 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA and a .317 OBA.
That's a significant difference from last year, when Barnette had a 2.09 ERA while holding opponents to a .242 average. With Jeffress, it was 2.33 and .255.
"We know they are capable of more," general manager Jon Daniels said. "That's a focus point, getting those two going."
The Rangers are locked in with Matt Bush as the closer, and left-hander Alex Claudio and right-hander Keone Kela handling the eighth. The seventh inning has been the trouble spot. The Rangers have been outscored 43-25 in that inning.
"Slumps happen, but in the bullpen, it's cast in the light even more so," Barnette said. "A slump in the bullpen loses games ... really magnifies things."
The Rangers activated right-hander Jose Leclerc off the disabled list Friday, and he could help in the seventh. He had a 2.31 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings before being sidelined with a strained right index finger. He is also a rookie who has pitched in a total of 22 Major League games.
"I think he can add to the mix and stabilize the situation," manager Jeff Banister said. "But there is some growth [needed] there. He is very inexperienced. Is that asking a lot? It's asking a lot of all of them."
• Right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez, who has been sidelined since Spring Training with a partially torn UCL in his right elbow, is being sent to Arizona to begin a throwing program. He'll likely need six weeks of buildup.
• Shortstop Elvis Andrus was the Rangers' Player of the Month for May, hitting .316 with nine doubles, four home runs, 20 RBIs, 10 walks and seven stolen bases.
• Nomar Mazara led the Rangers in May with a .340 batting average, .417 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage.
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.