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Halos' Scioscia praises Rangers reliever Jepsen

Angels skipper impressed with his former pitcher's demeanor, ability to adjust
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Kevin Jepsen had some outstanding years for the Angels as a setup reliever. Now he's in Rangers camp as a non-roster invitee, and Halos manager Mike Scioscia said Jepsen could end up being a good signing for Texas.

"First, his makeup is really suited to a guy you would want at the back end of your bullpen," Scioscia said. "He had some really good years for us, and when he struggled, he made some adjustments and bounced back. He's got a really good arm and some seasoning. He has been up and down, but he keeps the same demeanor on the mound."

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Kevin Jepsen had some outstanding years for the Angels as a setup reliever. Now he's in Rangers camp as a non-roster invitee, and Halos manager Mike Scioscia said Jepsen could end up being a good signing for Texas.

"First, his makeup is really suited to a guy you would want at the back end of your bullpen," Scioscia said. "He had some really good years for us, and when he struggled, he made some adjustments and bounced back. He's got a really good arm and some seasoning. He has been up and down, but he keeps the same demeanor on the mound."

Jepsen is trying to make a comeback after not pitching in the big leagues last season. His only action was at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals' organization, appearing in 19 games and posting a 5.32 ERA. What attracted Jepsen to the Rangers is he had a 1.65 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 16 innings in his last 13 games.

Jepsen's career path appears to follow a trend that besets many middle and setup relievers. Their performance can rise or fall from year to year, without warning. Jepsen had a combined 1.09 WHIP and a 2.47 ERA over 149 regular-season games in 2014 and '15. Then he posted a 1.67 WHIP and 5.98 ERA while pitching for the Twins and Rays in 2016.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Jepsen admitted his body took a battering during the heavy workload in 2014-15, and he seemed to hit a wall in 2016. But it came back to life late last year, and a mechanical adjustment helped him regain his 95-97 mph velocity. "Now I feel really good," Jepsen said.

"He's a hard worker," Scioscia said. "He really wants to be good."

Clubs look for pitchers who could be on the upswing, and the Rangers may have detected that with Jepsen in Syracuse. That's Todd Walther's area as the Rangers' director of pitching research and development.

"Todd has done a great job of identifying pitchers like this," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "They dig into guys like this."

Blackburn, Bush get first starts

Clayton Blackburn will be the first Rangers pitcher to grace the mound in the Cactus League. He will pitch the opener on Saturday against the Cubs in Mesa. Also expected to pitch in that game will be Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Adrian Sampson, Jose Leclerc, Connor Sadzeck and Deolis Guerra.

Matt Bush, who is being given a chance to start this spring, will be on the mound Sunday against the Rockies in Surprise. Also expected to pitch in that game: Ronald Herrera, Paolo Espino, David Hurlbut, Ricky Rodriguez and Erik Goeddel.

Mike Minor will start Monday against the Dodgers in Surprise.

Video: MIA@TEX: Bush strikes out Gordon swinging

Perez keeping up

Left-handed pitcher Martin Perez, who is recovering from a broken bone at the tip of his right elbow, was able to throw 30 pitches of live batting practice without an issue.

"It was good," Perez said. "No problem. I am going to be ready to go."

The Rangers won't know if Perez will be ready for Opening Day until he is comfortably fielding his position. But Perez said ground balls back to the mound won't be a problem.

"I will just block them with my chest," Perez said.

Video: Rangers looking to rebound after missing playoffs

Rangers beat

• The Rangers have entered into a working agreement with the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization. The two teams will be sharing information and scouting reports in an arrangement similar to what the Rangers worked out with the Nippon Ham Fighters in January.

• Pitcher Edinson Volquez, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, reported to Rangers camp on Thursday.

• Shortstop Elvis Andrus remains sidelined due to back spasms. He avoided working out on another cold Arizona morning. Workout temperatures were in the high 40s, with a brisk wind not helping matters.

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, Kevin Jepsen, Martin Perez