Rangers closer Frank Francisco is on thin ice

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Last night Frank Francisco blew his second save of the season and afterward manager Ron Washington would say only “stay tuned” when asked if he’d be sticking with the Rangers’ closer.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News only five pitchers in the previous five seasons blew at least two saves in the opening week, and of those five only Mariano Rivera kept the job all season.
Of course, setting aside the opening week factor plenty of closer blow two saves in a week. In fact, last year Francisco himself blew a save on June 25 and then another on July 1. And he bounced back to convert 13-of-15 save chances with 31 strikeouts and a .230 opponents’ batting average in 25.2 innings from that point forward.
However, as Grant notes Francisco’s velocity has slipped since he returned from arm problems last June and his control has been shakier than usual as well. Since returning from the disabled list last season he has a 7.39 ERA and has blown six saves in 19 chances.
Neftali Feliz certainly has a future as a closer if the Rangers decide he doesn’t have a future as a top-of-the-rotation starter, but he’s also a 21-year-old rookie with four professional saves and has yet to pitch on back-to-back days. A closer-by-committee situation headed by Feliz and Darren O’Day is also an option, but for now we’ll simply have to follow Washington’s advice and “stay tuned.”

Adrian Beltre cleared for extended spring training

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Adrian Beltre has been on the disabled list all year because of nagging right calf strain, but he’s about to take a big step toward getting back to action.

Beltre has been cleared to begin playing in extended spring training games. He’ll commence them tomorrow at the Rangers facility in Surprise, Arizona. After three games the team’s doctors will reevaluate him. If things go well, he’ll likely be sent off for a full minor league rehab assignment.

Joey Gallo has filled in for Beltre all season, bringing a lot of power but not much else to the table. While Beltre is 38, his all-around game would be welcomed back on the field and his leadership would be welcomed back in the Rangers clubhouse. On a personal note, Beltre is only 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

Barring a setback, he’ll be back with the big club in early June and will hit the milestone eventually.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.