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Bullpen steps up, finishes strong for Rangers

Seven relievers combine to fan 10 while allowing no runs on 2 hits after Moore struggles
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister had no trouble finding the bright spots after his team took a 5-1 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday.

"If you are looking for the positives of the day, it's the way the guys came out of the 'pen," Banister said. "Two hits, 10 strikeouts, two walks and no runs."

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister had no trouble finding the bright spots after his team took a 5-1 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday.

"If you are looking for the positives of the day, it's the way the guys came out of the 'pen," Banister said. "Two hits, 10 strikeouts, two walks and no runs."

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The Rangers needed seven relievers after starter Matt Moore was knocked out in the third inning. Four of them were power right-handed relievers who are going to be a huge part of the Rangers' bullpen. They have all had their stumbles this spring, but Keone Kela, Chris Martin, Matt Bush and Jose Leclerc looked strong on Wednesday.

Minor League right-hander Grant Zawadzki started the bullpen parade by retiring three hitters -- two on strikeouts -- to get the Rangers out of the third inning.

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Kela was next, pitching for the second straight game. The back-to-back outings were a test of his strength and durability, and he went against the best of the Cubs' hitters. Kris Bryant walked and Anthony Rizzo singled, but Kela struck out Willson Contreras and got Kyle Schwarber to hit into an inning-ending double play.

"I feel healthy," Kela said. "I'm happy with the freshness in my arm and building for the season. I am on track. My arm feels good. I'm excited that the season is in a week and I'm where I need to be."

Video: CHC@TEX: Odor, Andrus turn a 4-6-3 double play

Kela has allowed just one run over four appearances since getting nine days off because of "dead arm."

"It was simply dead arm," Kela said. "Getting stem cell back in November, everybody knew that Keone had to build up and get the repetition of throwing every single day. I went through a little stint where I ramped it up too fast. We have one of the best organizations in the world, and they gave me the opportunity to have a couple of days. I benefited from it, and now I'm looking forward to the season."

Martin followed and retired the side in order, giving him three scoreless appearances since allowing four runs to the Brewers on Thursday. Overall he has not allowed a run in eight of nine appearances.

Video: CHC@TEX: Martin K's Zobrist with outside pitch

Bush had allowed runs in five straight appearances but set down the side in order in the sixth, striking out two.

"Bush looked as good as we've seen him all spring and at any point last year," Banister said. "Little delivery change ... he was really getting through the fastball, and the breaking ball was sharp. We knew it would take him a little while to find his rhythm and get back into his delivery ... that reliever delivery."

Spring Training information

Leclerc, using a 95-mph fastball and an excellent changeup, also struck out two of three. Converted outfielder James Jones, who is now a left-handed pitcher, worked the eighth and Cody Palmquist, a Texas League All-Star last year, pitched a scoreless ninth.

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, Keone Kela, Jose Leclerc, Chris Martin