Texas has been very willing to shift pitchers back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in recent years, with both good and bad results, and Tanner Scheppers is the latest with his future role in flux.
Scheppers has spent this offseason building up arm strength to potentially join the rotation, although the Rangers have said he’ll most likely remain in the bullpen. If he does continue to relieve Scheppers has his eye on the closer role following Joe Nathan’s departure as a free agent, telling Todd Willis of ESPN Dallas: “I would love to be a closer. That would be a dream come true.”
If you’re going to be a reliever you might as well be a closer, if only for the huge uptick in salary that comes with piling up saves instead of piling up holds (does anyone pay attention to holds?). As a setup man for Nathan this year Scheppers threw 77 innings with a 1.88 ERA and .214 opponents’ batting average. And no one outside of Texas really noticed, but if he did that same thing as a closer …
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.