ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Shawn Tolleson, who was the Rangers' Pitcher of the Year in 2015 but is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, is returning to the team on a Minor League contract.The Rangers also re-signed right-handed pitcher Paolo Espino to a Minor League deal with an invitation to
ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Shawn Tolleson, who was the Rangers' Pitcher of the Year in 2015 but is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, is returning to the team on a Minor League contract.
The Rangers also re-signed right-handed pitcher Paolo Espino to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Acquired from the Brewers on Aug. 26, Espino appeared in six games for the Rangers in September. In 6 1/3 innings, he allowed four runs on six hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Tolleson, a member of the Rangers from 2014-16 before becoming a free agent and signing with the Rays, pitched in five Spring Training games before being sidelined with an elbow injury.
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The 29-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery on May 17 and did not pitch the rest of the season. He refused a Minor League assignment, and the Rays made him a free agent. This is the second time Tolleson has undergone the procedure, the other in high school in his hometown of Allen, north of Dallas.
The Rangers acquired Tolleson from the Dodgers on a waiver claim after the 2013 season, and it proved to be a huge move. Tolleson worked as a setup reliever in 2014, going 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 64 outings.
The following season, Tolleson moved into the closer's role and went 6-4 with a 2.99 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 35 saves on a American League West championship team. He also pitched three scoreless innings over two appearances in the AL Division Series against the Blue Jays.
But Tolleson struggled in the role in 2016 and was eventually replaced by Sam Dyson. He finished 2-2 with a 7.68 ERA in 37 games and missed time with a back injury. The Rangers let him go at the end of the season.
Tolleson's situation is similar to former Rangers reliever Joakim Soria. The Rangers signed him as a free agent before the 2013 season even though he was coming off Tommy John surgery.
Soria underwent the procedure on April 3, 2012, and missed the entire season. It marked his second Tommy John surgery, with the other one coming in '03. Soria made a complete recovery and joined the Rangers' bullpen in the second half of the '13 season. He became the Rangers' closer in '14 and saved 17 games before being traded to the Tigers for pitcher Jake Thompson and future All-Star reliever Corey Knebel. He has been healthy since then.
The Rangers also signed former Dodgers outfielder Brett Eibner, who hit .182 in 17 games for Los Angeles in 2017. Eibner, who is recovering from Aug. 1 Tommy John surgery, signed a Minor League contract.
Right-hander Zeke Spruill also signed a Minor League deal. He went 1-3 with a 4.24 ERA in 12 games (three starts) with the D-backs in 2013-14. He pitched in Korea in '16 and Taiwan in '17.
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.