ARLINGTON – Veteran right-hander Edinson Vólquez, who talked about retiring at the end of last season and again during the three-month shutdown, has made the Rangers’ Opening Day roster.
Manager Chris Woodward said Saturday afternoon that he informed the 14-year big leaguer that he is on the ballclub. Vólquez was in camp on a Minor League contract after missing most of last season with a sprained right elbow. He has allowed two runs on four hits through five innings in Summer Camp, walking five and striking out four.
“I was excited for him,” Woodward said. “He has done a really good job with the arm and how the ball is coming out of his hand. There are so many things about Vólquez that we love. First and foremost, the stuff is there. I wasn’t going to keep him unless he showed he can get people out.”
Vólquez has been a starter for most of his career, but he pitched out of the bullpen for the Rangers in September after coming back from that elbow injury. He pitched in nine games and had a 6.48 ERA during the month.
But Vólquez held left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average last season, mainly with a plus changeup. Over the past four years, lefties are batting .211 off Vólquez’s changeup, according to Statcast.
“He has always had pretty good success, especially against tough lefties,” Woodward said. “The fact that he has been pitching a long time. He has pitched in big games. The leadership aspect in the clubhouse is second to none. We’re excited to have him.”
The Rangers expect to carry 9-10 relievers, and Woodward has told six -- all of whom are right-handers -- that they have made the team. Besides Vólquez, they include Nick Goody, Jesse Chavez, Jonathan Hernández, Luke Farrell and closer José Leclerc.
Woodward said he wants one or two left-handers in the mix. Brett Martin was supposed to be one of them, but he is beginning the season on the injured list after testing positive for COVID-19.
The remaining candidates include Joe Palumbo and Kolby Allard. Both are backup starters, but Woodward feels they each could help Texas’ ‘pen. Rookies Taylor Hearn and Wes Benjamin are also in contention. Yohander Méndez was a late addition to camp and is too far behind for Opening Day consideration.
Joely Rodríguez is also expected to be a part of the Rangers’ bullpen, but he is sidelined with a strained lat muscle. He had a good throwing session on Wednesday off the mound but was limited to just fastballs.
“He is actually progressing pretty well,” Woodward said. “His last bullpen was much better than we anticipated. He felt good coming out of it. Ball was coming out good. He was throwing a lot harder than he anticipated. It’s a positive moving forward.”
Rodríguez is ahead of right-hander Rafael Montero, who was late to camp while his wife was giving birth in the Dominican Republic. Montero also developed some forearm soreness after his arrival and has been slow to catch up with the rest of the pitchers.
“When he got back, it didn’t feel right,” Woodward said. “He said he is feeling better now. So hopefully from this point, he can progress to get back to full strength.”
While the Rangers haven’t decided if they will go with either nine or 10 relievers on the 30-man roster, Woodward said much of it depends on how they feel about the rotation going into the season.
Carrying nine relievers would allow them to have a seven-man bench and open a spot for rookie outfielder Leody Taveras, whose speed and defense would be an asset off the bench.
There is also a possibility that fifth starter Jordan Lyles could be used out of the bullpen early. The Rangers, for whom Opening Day is on Friday, have three off-days in the first 11 days of the season. They wouldn’t need a fifth starter until Aug. 8 if they choose to skip Lyles.