Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan admitted before Monday's game that he had become worried about a bullpen that suffered three losses in the opponent's final at-bat in the previous week.
He may be able to rest a little easier for the time being.
Though the Rangers won big Monday, 7-1 over the Angels, perhaps the biggest development was a sharp, 10-pitch inning by right-hander Darren O'Day. Assigned the eighth inning with a five-run lead, O'Day made quick work of the middle of the Angels lineup.
O'Day had been one of the Rangers' primary setup relievers in 2010, but he struggled with his location all spring. That carried over into the regular season. In his outing prior to Monday, O'Day allowed a pair of walks and a pair of hits, including a walk-off single to Miguel Cabrera in an April 12 loss at Detroit.
His early-season struggles, combined with those of right-hander Mark Lowe, who was demoted to the minors Monday, and 40-year-old lefties Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes, had made Ryan a little skittish. The weak middle part of the bullpen threatened to drag down the rest of the team.
Manager Ron Washington had even mentioned the possibility of using unproven right-hander Pedro Strop more often in high-pressure situations because Strop had some early-season success. But the manager elected to give the ball to veteran side-armer O'Day again Monday with a little breathing room to work with. It may end up paying huge dividends down the road.
"The starters have pitched so well, we just haven't been getting many consistent innings," O'Day said of the relief corps. "Guys aren't going to be as sharp when they don't pitch very many innings at all, and I think we are all still figuring out our roles. That will take some time. But I think we will straighten things out."
Said Washington: "He's got a track record. You know he is going to get it together. But the only way he can do it is to give him the ball. It was good for O'Day's confidence."
It didn't hurt the manager's confidence either.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.