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Rangers consider using 'opener' in San Diego

Banister says a reliever could end up starting on Saturday
Special to MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- As the Rangers' West Coast journey comes to a close this weekend at San Diego, it could be time for another "opener."

Rangers manager Jeff Banister had said that as many as two Interleague games against the Padres this weekend could be started by relievers, with the scheduled member of the rotation then stepping in to absorb the middle innings.

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ANAHEIM -- As the Rangers' West Coast journey comes to a close this weekend at San Diego, it could be time for another "opener."

Rangers manager Jeff Banister had said that as many as two Interleague games against the Padres this weekend could be started by relievers, with the scheduled member of the rotation then stepping in to absorb the middle innings.

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The Rangers' initial plan was for Yohander Mendez to start on Friday against the Padres. It would have been his third start since being called up for September. But on Thursday, the Rangers announced that right-hander Connor Sadzeck would start the game with Mendez following him in relief. Sadzeck has made five relief appearances since being called up at the beginning of the month.

On Saturday, right-hander Ariel Jurado is scheduled to start, but the Rangers could do what they did in Oakland last weekend, starting reliever Jeffrey Springs before going to Jurado in the fourth inning. It did not go well.

While Springs went an efficient three scoreless innings, Jurado recorded just two outs and gave up five runs on four hits and two walks.

"We have entertained the thought [of starting Connor] Sadzeck," Banister said. "We've entertained the thought of [Alex] Claudio. We've used Springs. It might be an opportunity where we can hold Springs back and use him later in a game also if he's not an opener for us. There are different looks."

Sunday's game is also not up for rearranging. Left-hander Mike Minor is scheduled to start that one, as he comes off a solid outing against the Angels on Monday, when he gave up two runs on six hits over six innings in a victory.

Minor has given up more than two earned runs only once in his last eight outings, going 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA since July 24.

Banister insisted the final few weeks of the season are not just about experimentation and playing out the schedule. He pointed to the promising outing from Adrian Sampson on Tuesday.

In a game where the Angels took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on a bullpen day, Sampson might have been the best pitcher of the 12 used between both teams. In his second career start and first since 2016, Sampson gave up one run on two hits over five innings.

"With guys like Sampson, who we haven't seen a lot of, it's a familiarity of how he pitches," Banister said. "I think the next outing, the next couple of outings, will tell us a little more about him. Yesterday, as good as it was, I don't think we completely saw who he was."

Defensive uptick
With 2 1/2 weeks remaining in the season, Banister said he has seen enough from his defense to say it is better than it was a year ago. But more progress is needed before calling it a defense that is in the upper-third of baseball.

"We still need to improve," Banister said. "To be a championship team in Major League Baseball you need to be in the top portion of teams on defense."

Banister referenced the need for improvement from the outfield. He said the infield is better, but plenty of room for improvement still exists there, too.

Worth noting
• Reliever Zac Curtis welcomed the birth of his son, Brooks, on Tuesday. Curtis might join the club in San Diego this weekend, or Monday at the latest.

• Spokane, the Rangers' Class A affiliate in the Northwest League, saw its season end late Tuesday on a walk-off balk in the championship series against Eugene.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has never started more than 33 games at catcher in a season at any professional level, is four starts from matching that mark. He sat out in favor of Robinson Chirinos on Wednesday. There are 16 games remaining.

Doug Padilla is a contributor to MLB.com.

Texas Rangers, Ariel Jurado, Yohander Mendez