Tepesch named No. 5 starter; Profar sent to Triple-A
Kirkman to pitch out of bullpen; Garcia secures utility role over top prospect
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Nick Tepesch is the Rangers' fifth starter, Michael Kirkman is going to the bullpen and Leury Garcia has beaten out Jurickson Profar for the utility infield spot.
Profar, baseball's top prospect according to MLB.com, is headed to Triple-A Round Rock, where he will primarily play shortstop. The Rangers also sent outfielder James Adduci, catcher Eli Whiteside and pitcher Nate Robertson to Round Rock, while Derek Lowe has been told he has made the team.
Those were the major moves made by the Rangers on Tuesday as they get closer to setting their 25-man roster for Opening Day. At this point, there are only two bullpen spots to be decided and the candidates are right-handers Josh Lindblom, Tanner Scheppers and Cory Burns and left-hander Joe Ortiz.
"We still have a little more time to make that call," general manager Jon Daniels said before Tuesday's game with the White Sox.
The Rangers are also ready to go with Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry as their center fielders. Daniels confirmed the Rangers are also having trade discussions with other teams about outfielder Julio Borbon, who is out of options and must clear waivers before he can be sent to the Minors.
"He has had a great camp," Daniels said. "We've talked to a couple of clubs and there is some interest. I don't know if we'll be able to do something or not. Based on the interest we've received, I'd be shocked if he cleared waivers."
Daniels said pitcher Coty Woods, the Rule 5 Draft pick from Colorado that the Rangers want to keep, has cleared waivers. He is not going to make the team but the Rangers have 72 hours to work out a trade with the Rockies.
But the big move was the Rangers choosing Tepesch as their fifth starter. They had considered Kirkman, and he is going to start against the Angels on Wednesday. But the Rangers told Tepesch on Tuesday that he will be the fifth starter and Kirkman was told he is staying in the bullpen.
"It feels good but I've still got a lot of hard work ahead of me," Tepesch said. "I still have a couple more starts to do my thing. It's just the beginning of the hard work. I've got to keep after it."
Tepesch, who is not yet on the 40-man roster, is scheduled to start in a Minor League game on Wednesday and for Round Rock on April 4. If all goes well, he will make his Major League debut on April 9 against the Rays at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers could carry an extra reliever for the first 10 days until Tepesch is officially called up.
"It was a mix of everything," Daniels said. "Nick has impressed. We knew he was a strike thrower and had a four-pitch mix, but we were really impressed with the way he handled situations and the way he handled adversity. He didn't change. He earned it."
Kirkman may have had the best camp of any pitcher. He has not allowed a run or a walk in nine innings, but the Rangers felt Kirkman and Robbie Ross give them two power left-handed relievers. That's a luxury that few teams have. The Yankees and the Rays were the only two American League teams that had two left-handed relievers appear in more than 50 games in 2012.
Daniels said the Rangers would not rule out the possibility of Kirkman starting in the future.
"He's so valuable in the bullpen," Daniels said. "We like what he's doing and we want him to continue to have success. But he may start down the road. Lefties who do what he does are rare."
Tepesch was considered a long shot coming into camp. But the Rangers lost Martin Perez and Kyle McClellan to injuries and decided Ross was better in the bullpen. Tepesch outpitched the rest of the field, including Justin Grimm and Randy Wells.
The Rangers were never seriously interested in free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse and they've have no ongoing trade discussions with other teams about starting pitching. They have scouted Dodgers pitchers Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang but did not get good reports back and there is nothing going between the two teams.
So Tepesch gets the fifth spot in the rotation behind Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland. The Rangers still expect Colby Lewis back by the end of May but they aren't too concerned about what will happen at that point.
"It will be a good decision to have to make," Daniels said.
Profar was a tough decision. He has impressed everybody in camp but the Rangers decided he needed to play every day. Garcia fits into that category as well, but he is a switch-hitter who can run, play shortstop, second base and the outfield. That convinced the Rangers he could handle the utility role.
"We like both guys a lot," Daniels said. "Both guys are very versatile; two switch-hitting guys who both play up the middle. We just thought for where they are, Leury brings a speed element off the bench and he brings an outfield element. He just has a unique skill set."
The decision with Garcia sets the Rangers as far as position players. Adduci had a terrific spring and the Rangers were tempted to keep him. But in the end, they are committed to Martin and Gentry in center field after both enjoyed excellent camps. Now it's up to manager Ron Washington to decide how to use them.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.