HOUSTON -- When Rangers manager Chris Woodward talks about closer José Leclerc, he does not begin with the usual stuff. Lately, the usual stuff has been really good. In Leclerc's last 16 appearances, he has made good on seven of eight save chances with a 2.25 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 16 innings after logging a scoreless inning in Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the Astros. Overall, he's 13-for-17 in save chances this season.
As the Rangers prepare an offseason wish list, rotation depth and an everyday third baseman top their list. Closer? At the moment, that belongs to the 25-year-old right-hander with the 97-mph fastball.
But when Woodward is asked about Leclerc, he begins with how his admiration for his closer has grown day by day. He recounts that at one point, Leclerc approached Woodward and asked to be removed from the closer’s role.
“He wasn’t pitching that well,” Woodward said, “and this is how selfless this kid is. He came in and said, 'I can’t let you pitch me again in the ninth inning until I figure some things out because I don’t want to hurt the team.’
“Who does that? He didn’t do it because he was scared or because he didn’t want to be out there. He did with the sole intent he didn’t want to cause his a loss. He felt like he was letting us down.
“I knew we had something special in that kid. That was the day. Some guys do it because they don’t want the pressure. He didn’t care about that. He felt like he wasn’t going to help us win. It was shortly after that he started to figure things out. He got better and it was like, 'All right, I’m good, I’m ready to roll.' He’s a special kid.”
Woodward believes that Leclerc going 19-for-19 in save chances in 2018 created unrealistic expectations for '19.
“There’s no way as a closer you’re going to sustain that kind of success,” Woodward said. “You’re going to get your butt kicked at some point. How are you going to get through that? He felt he was letting his team down. He failed a few times. He didn’t let us down. He just was a human being.”
Back to the young man Woodward has gotten to know and the impact he has in the Rangers' clubhouse.
“What he does in this clubhouse, I don’t think any of you guys realize the impact,” Woodward said. “He’s a leader. He’s 25 years old. He’s a tremendous example for everyone in that bullpen. He’s got a heart of gold. He works his butt off.
“Most guys would be, 'I just have to worry about myself.' No, he’s taking those guys out and making sure they’re doing the right things.”
• Outfielder Joey Gallo (hammate bone surgery) went 1-for-4 with a double in an instructional league game against the Padres in Peoria, Ariz., on Monday. He could be activated this weekend during the club's series against the A's in Oakland.
• Six Rangers pitchers struck out 15 A’s on Sunday. It was the third nine-inning game in team history in which at least six pitchers combined for at least 15 strikeouts. Five of those six pitchers were rookies. The Rangers have used 19 rookie pitchers, tied with the Mariners for the most in MLB.
• The Rangers entered Tuesday with 115 stolen bases, their highest total since swiping 149 in 2013. They’re 115-for-150 for a 76.7 percent success rate, tops in the American League.
• The Rangers have surrendered 222 home runs, tying a franchise record set in 2001 and matched in 2008.
• Rangers hitters struck out 12 times on Tuesday, tying the club mark of 1,493 in 2017.