Here’s something you don’t see very often: Because of injuries knocking Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland out of the mix the Rangers have turned to Tanner Scheppers as their Opening Day starter and it will also be the 27-year-old right-hander’s first career start in the majors.
Scheppers was an occasional starter in the minors, but has worked exclusively as a reliever for the Rangers and was fantastic out of the bullpen last season with a 1.88 ERA and 59/24 K/BB ratio in 77 innings. Texas decided to shift Schepper’s role around following all the injuries to the rotation and Darvish’s recent neck problems caused them to scramble even further for Opening Day.
Last time Scheppers started a regular season game was 2011 at Triple-A and he has a grand total of 12 professional starts since being drafted 44th overall in 2009. Meanwhile, the Rangers have also decided that Alexi Ogando–who started 29 games in 2011 and 18 games last season–will begin this year in the bullpen.
Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.
The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.
That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.