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Mendez could be better served at Triple-A

Lefty prospect had good spring debut, but has a few things to work on
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers left-handed pitcher Yohander Mendez made it clear what his goal is this spring.

"I want to make the team," Mendez said. "It all depends on what they think of me, but I am ready to compete in the big leagues."

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers left-handed pitcher Yohander Mendez made it clear what his goal is this spring.

"I want to make the team," Mendez said. "It all depends on what they think of me, but I am ready to compete in the big leagues."

Mendez making the team might be a good thing if he pitches like he did on Monday against the Dodgers. He threw two scoreless innings in relief, allowing one hit, did not walk a batter and struck out three.

"Really good," pitching coach Doug Brocail said. "He attacked with his fastball. He got out of his delivery a couple of times and quickened up, but the nice thing is he came back. He made quick adjustments. Very quick."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

It could also be a good thing if Mendez doesn't make the team and instead spends a full season at Triple-A Round Rock. That would give him another year of experience and time polishing his craft, and put him in position to lead the wave of good young pitching the Rangers are expecting to arrive in Arlington over the next few years.

The list is starting to grow. Mendez, 23, is one of 13 pitchers ranked in the Rangers list of Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline. The top two are Hans Crouse at No. 3 and Cole Ragans at No. 4. But both of them are expected to pitch at Class A.

Mendez is ranked sixth, but he's the closest to being ready for the big leagues after going 7-8 with a 3.79 ERA at Double-A Frisco last season. He had a 1.14 WHIP and struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings.

But he is not a finished product. The Rangers have been working with him to better command his fastball on both sides of the plate. He has an excellent changeup that fades from right-handed hitters, so he must complement it by throwing the fastball inside to them. His fastball is 92-95 mph, but it sometimes gets left over the middle of the plate. His curve and sliders also aren't quite there yet. His tendency to leave pitches over the plate is why he allowed 23 home runs at Frisco, the most in the Texas League. The long ball was his bane last year.

"He has good stuff … a lefty who throws strikes on both sides of the plate," catcher Robinson Chirinos said. "He has a plus changeup like Martin Perez, and his slider is getting better. He is a good kid. He knows what he needs to do, he works hard and gives everything he has."

Mendez was a September callup last season and made seven relief appearances with a 5.11 ERA. But the Rangers' long-term need is starting pitching. This offseason, they had to fill three spots in the rotation, and that could be a higher number next winter.

Video: OAK@TEX: Mendez gets Lowrie swinging to end the 7th

Matt Moore and Doug Fister are free agents after this season. Cole Hamels and Martin Perez could be as well if the Rangers don't pick up their options. Even if Mike Minor and Matt Bush transition into the rotation, there will still be a need for starting pitching.

Mendez represents the Rangers' latest chance of achieving their elusive goal of developing their own starting pitching. A strong Spring Training could set off another premature "feeding frenzy" about a young pitcher who gets everybody excited and gets an ill-fated shove onto the fast track to the big leagues.

But it still appears to be in the Rangers' best interest for Mendez to not make the team out of Spring Training.

"I'm not going to say no," manager Jeff Banister said. "But right now, where we are, there is still a development process for him if you want to look at the big picture."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.

Texas Rangers, Yohander Mendez