Joe Saunders only wants to start, but he’s not a good starter

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Joe Saunders is on the disabled list with an ankle injury and when he’s ready to return the Rangers may not have a rotation spot for him. That means the veteran left-hander could shift to the bullpen except he’s very much against that idea, telling Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas:

For me it’s all about starting and helping this team win games as a starter. It’s what I signed to do and what they signed me to do.

Technically true, although in reality what the Rangers signed Saunders to do was provide some emergency rotation depth while a bunch of their starters were banged up and now that’s not really needed.

As for the whole “helping this team win games as a starter” thing, Saunders has a 5.35 ERA in 33 starts since the beginning of last season and a 4.42 ERA in 158 starts dating all the way back to 2009. Considering those numbers and his extreme lefty/righty splits a move to the bullpen might actually help prolong the 32-year-old southpaw’s career.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.