Rangers pitcher José Leclerc has returned to Texas after experiencing elbow soreness and discomfort and is expected to miss a significant period of time, general manager Chris Young said on Monday.
A diagnosis has not yet been made, but Leclerc will see Dr. Keith Meister in DFW to undergo tests. He first felt discomfort following his appearance against the Dodgers on Friday. Young said there wasn’t a “pop,” but the initial tests run by the trainers, along with the level of soreness and discomfort, indicated Leclerc will be out for an extended period of time.
Leclerc missed most of the 2020 season with a shoulder injury.
“Given the injury he's coming off last year, our buildup of José this spring has been a little bit slower,” Young said. “We've been very cautious with him; everything has gone smoothly. No elbow issues whatsoever until the other night. It was really out of the blue, so we were all really kind of caught off guard.”
Manager Chris Woodward has said he wasn’t ready to name a closer, but Leclerc was atop the competition. He worked as the closer in 2018, when he had a 1.56 ERA through 57 ⅔ innings. Jonathan Hernandez, who was the Rangers' closer in 2020, is out indefinitely with a UCL injury.
Young said the Rangers still may not go with a specific closer following Leclerc’s injury, but both he and Woodward agreed that the situation will need to be evaluated in the final weeks of Spring Training.
That competition was already heating up with non-roster pitchers Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy. Bush has experience as a closer in the past, pitching 61 ⅔ innings with a 2.63 ERA for the Rangers in 2016.
“Matt has pitched this spring, has been phenomenal,” Young said. “The work he has put in to rehab from surgery and put himself in position to make this club, the perseverance, and resilience, it's everything that I think we would want in terms of characteristics of players. We're very proud of what he's done. Matt certainly put himself in a great position to make the club.”
That could change based on how others pitch. Young believes the Rangers have the options and versatility across the pitching staff to be able to adapt to its strengths and weaknesses.
Late-inning bullpen usage in the first month of the regular season could be a “closer by committee” or just matchup-based until there is more clarity.
“I don't necessarily know if [Hernandez or Leclerc] would have been our closer, per se,” Woodward said. “I think now we're in a situation to start the season, regardless of what was going on, that it’s going to be earned. I think ideally, after a month or so, I would love to have an option to rely on as the closer. I think up until then we have to see where guys are at and see how guys are doing from a performance standpoint.”
Other injury updates
Young offered other injury updates on Monday.
Non-roster infielder Brock Holt was experiencing back soreness, but showed significant improvement in the morning. He’ll need to go through another full workout or two before he goes out in a game again.
Designated hitter Willie Calhoun is progressing with his groin injury and has started with light running and workouts.
Pitcher Brett Martin, who was experiencing back soreness, is progressing and will join the club in Surprise this week to begin throwing bullpen sessions.
No. 2 prospect Sam Huff is continuing with baseball activity following a hamstring injury. He’s responding well to the increased activity and will remain in Arizona in Minor League camp to continue to build up his endurance.