SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers face a tough choice with right-hander Adrian Sampson at the end of Spring Training.
They need to decide if they’ll be better served adding him to their bullpen as a long reliever or have him start every fifth day at Triple-A Nashville.
“I don’t know,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He is valuable both ways. Obviously, we have our five starters. We have considered that for sure. If I was a betting man, I’d say probably not a long man. Sampson has been good, he has been pitching really good. He is putting a lot of pressure on us.”
Sampson turned in another strong performance on Wednesday against the Reds, holding them to one run over five innings in the Rangers' 6-1 loss. He now has a 1.93 ERA for the spring and opponents are hitting .216 off him.
Sampson’s outing came on the same day right-hander Ariel Jurado was optioned to Triple-A Nashville after allowing five runs over six innings in three Cactus League games. He also allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in a Minor League game on Tuesday.
Jurado and Yohander Mendez, who is sidelined with a strained left elbow, were supposed to be the Rangers' first line of defense for their starting rotation. Now Sampson has emerged as the obvious leading candidate if starting pitching is needed in Arlington.
The best way to stay ready would be to pitch every fifth day at Nashville, especially since Jason Hammel has emerged as a strong candidate to be a long reliever.
“Just keep it going,” Sampson said. “They want me to prove I’m healthy and can get guys out and I think I have shown that. The guys in our rotation, they had the surgeries but they put the work in. They deserve an opportunity as well. It’s just how it is, nothing I can do about it.”
Opening Day ceremonies
Governor Greg Abbott is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Rangers' home opener against the Cubs at 3:05 p.m. CT March 28 at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Abbott, the 48th Governor of Texas, will be throwing the pitch to former Arlington mayor Richard Greene as the Rangers open up the final season at Globe Life Park. Abbott was elected in 2014 and received a second four-year term in 2018.
Greene was mayor of Arlington from 1987-97 and a driving force in the building of Globe Life Park. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the first regular-season game there on April 11, 1994, when it opened as the Ballpark in Arlington.
All tickets have been sold for the opener with the exception of limited scattered singles and standing room only. Those can be purchased at texasrangers.com.
The national anthem will be performed by the Air National Guard Band of the Southwest of Fort Worth. The 531st Air Force Band has a four-year history of tradition and heritage. The national anthem will include a flyover from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene.
The national anthem will be preceded by a live performance of Texas, Our Texas by Joel Lagrone. Master Sergeant Erika Stevens of the Air National Guard Band of the Southwest will perform God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch.
Martin sent down
The Rangers optioned left-handed reliever Brett Martin to Double-A Frisco on Wednesday and he departed not having allowed an earned run in nine innings while striking out 11.
The strong spring suggests that Martin is reviving his career as a reliever after switching over from a starting role midway through last season.
“It’s a good role for him,” Woodward said. “He has found a delivery that he can repeat. His arm, you can see lightning bolts coming out of there. The biggest thing that impressed me this spring every time things went wrong…he kept executing pitches. You see the composure, the trust in his delivery and the stuff on top of it.”
Martin was 1-9 with an 8.61 ERA in 15 starts at Frisco last season. Opponents hit .394 off him. He made 14 appearances as a reliever with a 4.28 ERA and opponents hit .257 off him.
“The biggest thing is I have confidence in myself,” Martin said. “I trust I can throw all my pitches at any time. I struggled with that last year. I was second-guessing or questioning the pitches I was throwing. This year, ‘Here’s my pitch…hit it.’ Trusting myself is the biggest thing.”
With Martin being sent down, it leaves Jeffrey Springs and Kyle Bird as the two remaining left-handers in the bullpen. The Rangers are expected to keep at least one of them on the Opening Day roster.
• Jesse Chavez had his longest outing of the spring in a Minor League game on Wednesday. He went four innings and 58 pitches in the game on the back fields, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts. He allowed two home runs.
• The Rangers have gone four straight games without hitting a home run. Their last one was by Logan Forsythe on Saturday.
• Wednesday’s loss snapped the Rangers' three-game winning streak.
The Rangers have a split-squad doubleheader on Thursday with Drew Smyly pitching against the Indians at 3:05 p.m CT. Thursday in Surprise. Relievers Shawn Kelley and Jose Leclerc are also scheduled to pitch. Hammel will start the other half of the doubleheader against the White Sox at 3:05 p.m. in Glendale.