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Rangers meet with Rodney, eye Kintzler

Banister, Daniels discuss bullpen options at Winter Meetings
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers have met with veteran free-agent closer Fernando Rodney here at the Winter Meetings, and they maintain a long-held interest in right-handed reliever Brandon Kintzler.

They are not in the market for Greg Holland or Wade Davis, the two front-line closers available as free agents. But the Rangers' interest in Rodney may signal they understand that their bullpen is missing an experienced candidate for the back end.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers have met with veteran free-agent closer Fernando Rodney here at the Winter Meetings, and they maintain a long-held interest in right-handed reliever Brandon Kintzler.

They are not in the market for Greg Holland or Wade Davis, the two front-line closers available as free agents. But the Rangers' interest in Rodney may signal they understand that their bullpen is missing an experienced candidate for the back end.

They lack a pitcher who has been a closer, had success at it and thoroughly understands what the job entails.

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"I think what we've learned over the course of the three-year span, to find that guy that has been through those types of situations and they know what it feels like," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Because some of these guys, the challenge was when they blew a save or we lost the lead, the challenge is coming back the next day. So obviously, we're still looking for that, whether it's internally or externally. That is one of our challenges."

Video: Sullivan weighs Rangers' free-agent pitching options

Right-hander Matt Bush and left-hander Alex Claudio both have 11 career saves. That is the most among the pitchers on the Rangers' current roster. Both served as the closer at times last season and the club has also considered Keone Kela as a potential future closer if he can stay healthy. Right-handers Tony Barnette and Chris Martin have been closers in Japan.

But Rodney had 39 saves for the D-backs last season, and Kintzler had 46 over the past two years with the Twins and Nationals.

"Essentially, as we look at our options and try to look to see if there is a fit out there for our ballclub, we'd like to be able to have one of those guys in place that you speak about," Banister said. "Because there is -- I think it puts guys in really good spots where they pitched before when you think about the guys that are in that bullpen right now, Kela, Jake Diekman, Claudio, Barnette, Bush. To have the experience to go and pitch out of that back end is -- I think it's crucial for this ballclub."

The free-agent market for relievers always offers intriguing possibilities and the Rockies struck gold last year when Holland made a triumphant return on a one-year contract to save 41 games.

This market is no different. There is probably more than one club wondering whether Neftali Feliz can return to close to what he was as the Rangers' closer in 2010-11 or whether John Axford can still save 25-30 games. He began last season with Oakland on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder and finished with a 6.43 ERA in 22 games, but he also averaged 95 mph on his fastball.

Huston Street was limited to four games with the Angels last season because of a strained groin muscle and has a history of injuries. But he also had 40 saves for the Angels in 2015.

"There are a number of guys out there," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Some we have been engaged with, some we might later on. It's a pretty varied list. We will add to the front end and the back end of our depth chart. Relievers come from everywhere. You've got to be open-minded."

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, Brandon Kintzler, Fernando Rodney