Frasor could play prominent role in Rangers' 'pen
Setup man already establishing himself as a veteran leader
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Reliever Jason Frasor already has a pretty good idea what's going on in the Rangers' Spring Training camp.
"It's a great camp to be a reliever," Frasor said. "There is a lot of competition, and from what I understand, there are a lot of open spots. That makes for great competition. If you're a young guy, what a camp to be in, because there is a chance of making the club. I don't know a lot of these guys, but I've heard a few names."
Some of the young guys might want to introduce themselves to Frasor because he is exactly what the Rangers are looking for in a reliever. The Rangers would love to see Tanner Scheppers, Michael Kirkman and others emulate Frasor's philosophy to pitching.
If they do, some of these open spots will get locked up quickly.
"He throws three pitches for strikes," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "He comes out of the bullpen and challenges guys. He's not afraid of contact. He is all about being aggressive, throwing strikes and getting people out when called upon."
The Rangers could be calling upon Frasor often this season, especially in the first two months. The Rangers signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million contract in the offseason and right now he is the most experienced setup reliever in a bullpen that has taken some big hits.
The Rangers lost relievers Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe, Scott Feldman and Roy Oswalt to free agency and have moved Alexi Ogando to the rotation. They are also considering the possibility of moving Robbie Ross to the rotation, which would be another hit to the depth of the bullpen.
The Rangers signed former All-Star closer Joakim Soria to a two-year deal, but he had Tommy John surgery last April and is not expected back until the end of May.
Frasor was the only other free-agent reliever signed by the Rangers to a Major League contract and right now he is the leading candidate to serve in the crucial eighth-inning role. The Rangers outscored opponents 85-58 in the eighth inning last season and they were 79-2 when leading after seven innings.
They are handing that role to a 5-foot-9 right-hander who has spent nine years in the Major Leagues, mostly with the Blue Jays. He throws a fastball around 93-95 mph with a slider and split-finger changeup that are described as above average by scouts.
"He's one of those guys who attacks the zone and is really aggressive," said Rangers special assistant Scott Littlefield. "He's a pretty dependable guy. It's pretty good stuff. The command is there and he throws a lot of strikes. Once you get past the size of the guy, it's pretty quality stuff. He pitches a little taller on the mound than he is."
Frasor had to deal with tightness in his right forearm and wasn't as sharp with his command last season. He missed six weeks because of the injury, walked 4.53 batters per nine innings and finished with a 4.12 ERA. His best season was in 2009, when he walked 2.5 batters per nine innings, saved 11 games for the Blue Jays and had a career-low 2.50 ERA.
"The only way I can sleep at night is if I go after guys," Frasor said. "I throw a lot of fastballs, that's my game. I go right after them. If I don't, lying in bed at night, that's when I get mad. If I don't go right after hitters, bad things happen."
That's the message that the Rangers have been trying to convey to their young pitchers.
"A lot of it comes with experience and a lot of backing up third base," Frasor said. "Even if you're aggressive, walks happen and runs happen. But it's easier to live with it."
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.