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Rangers re-sign Heineman, add righty Gatto

@Sullivan_Ranger
December 3, 2020

ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Joe Gatto, who has spent the past seven years in the Angels' farm system, has not compiled the usual impressive statistics expected from a highly coveted pitcher. Gatto last pitched for Double-A Mobile in 2019, making 32 relief appearances and going 5-4 with a 4.80 ERA and

ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Joe Gatto, who has spent the past seven years in the Angels' farm system, has not compiled the usual impressive statistics expected from a highly coveted pitcher.

Gatto last pitched for Double-A Mobile in 2019, making 32 relief appearances and going 5-4 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP. He averaged 9.4 strikeouts and 4.6 walks per nine innings.

But Rangers scouts see something beyond the numbers. They see a right-hander who can throw 95-98 mph and has improved his mechanics to create more vertical movement with his fastball. That should go well with his hard curve and swing-and-miss changeup.

Gatto continued those adjustments and improvements this past year while working out in the Phoenix area, and he had a number of Major League teams interested when he became a Minor League free agent after the season.

The Rangers were among those teams, and they signed Gatto to a Major League deal on Thursday even though he has never pitched above Double-A. Gatto will go to Spring Training and compete for a spot in the bullpen.

“We’ve followed Joe since he was an amateur,” said Ross Fenstermaker, the Rangers director of pro scouting. “We are really intrigued by the adjustments he made in 2019, going from a starter to a reliever, and are excited to add him to the mix. We feel confident in the things he started to address.”

Fenstermaker said Gatto was one of the Rangers' main focuses among Minor League free agents. Other clubs felt the same way, and that’s why Gatto was able to secure a Major League contract.

“He started the process of Minor League free agency as one of our top-end targets,” Fenstermaker said. “[It] ultimately led to pretty steep competition, and we felt we could separate ourselves from the pack by offering the roster spots.”

Over six Minor League seasons, Gatto is 28-31 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP while averaging 7.3 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per nine innings.

Heineman re-signs with Rangers
The Rangers also announced the re-signing of outfielder Scott Heineman to a one-year contract, Heineman’s signing comes one day after Texas made him a free agent by not tendering him a contract. The unusual move involved contract technicalities that needed to be worked out.

Heineman played in 49 games for the Rangers over the past two seasons, hitting .189/.259/.331. He will compete for a spot in the outfield in Spring Training. Heineman started to come on for the Rangers in 2018-19 when he played a combined 149 games at Triple-A and hit .307/.371/.463 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs.

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.