ARLINGTON -- Right-handed reliever José Leclerc has been activated off the 45-day injured list and reinstated to the Rangers' 40-man roster. Left-handers Brock Burke and Joe Palumbo have also been reinstated, giving Texas 35 players on its 40-man.
Leclerc pitched in two games for the Rangers before going down with a torn muscle in the back of his right shoulder and missing the rest of the season. He is signed for two more years and $8.75 million with two club options for 2023-24. Leclerc is also expected to be at full strength for Spring Training.
While Leclerc was out, right-hander Rafael Montero took over as closer and was 8-for-8 in save opportunities, although three rough outings late drove his final ERA up to 4.08. Otherwise, a 1.02 WHIP and 9.68 strikeouts per nine innings were indication of high overall effectiveness.
Leclerc and Montero give the Rangers two potential dominating right-handed pitchers for late-inning closer work. They join Jonathan Hernández and Jimmy Herget as the potential right-handed foundation for the bullpen next season.
Hernández was the Rangers' best reliever in 2020, featuring an average velocity of 97.7 mph on his sinking fastball. He finished 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over 27 games. Herget had a quietly effective run for Texas with a 3.20 ERA in 20 games, although a rate of 6.41 walks per nine innings was way too high.
The Rangers also expect to have left-hander Joely Rodríguez back in a late-inning setup role. He pitched in just 12 games while dealing with a strained left lat muscle at the beginning of the season and a strained left hamstring in September. Rodríguez still had a 2.13 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and 12.08 strikeouts per nine innings.
Left-hander Brett Martin also had an up-and-down campaign, beginning the season on the IL because of a positive COVID-19 test and missing the last two weeks of August with left rotator cuff inflammation. In between, he had a 1.84 ERA and a .157 opponents' batting average, although he walked nine in 14 2/3 innings.
The Rangers have lost two bullpen candidates. Right-hander Ian Gibaut, taken off the 40-man roster, was claimed off waivers by the Twins, and and right-hander Luke Farrell took his free agency after clearing outright waivers.
Farrell was another star-crossed Rangers reliever. He was on the Opening Day roster, allowed runs in his first three outings and was sent to the alternate training site on Aug. 5. Farrell's return was delayed by COVID-19 protocol, and he made just one appearance the rest of the year. He keeps showing breakout signs, but fate has dealt him multiple setbacks.
Gibaut surprised the Rangers by winning a spot on the Opening Day roster out of Summer Camp, and he was in the running for a late-inning spot in the bullpen. But seven walks over 5 2/3 innings in his final six outings prompted Texas to send him back to the alternate training site on Aug 26, and he did not return.
Gibaut's fastball averaged 95.2 mph, but the Rangers still have rookie right-hander Demarcus Evans, who throws his fastball almost as hard at 93.8 mph. Evans was used for four innings, allowing a run on three hits, no walks and four strikeouts.
Palumbo, another Ranger who has had to deal with a number of misfortunes, entered the season as potential starting-pitching depth. But his chances of filling one of the open rotation spots were dashed by a severe case if ulcerative colitis that remains an ongoing concern.
Burke was never a factor after undergoing surgery in Spring Training to repair a torn left labrum. He is currently on a throwing program in instructional league.