It was a wild week for Texas closer Jose Leclerc.
He was called upon three times by first-year manager Chris Woodward in key spots in what was a 2-3 week for the Rangers. Each appearance yielded a very different result.
It’s worth diving into- Leclerc and his recent four-year, $14.75 million extension will certainly be under the microscope in his first full season as Texas’ closer and anchor of the Ranger bullpen.
First appearance, Tuesday at Arizona: Loss, Blown save, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 K.
-At bats: Christian Walker 2-2 single.
-Eduardo Escobar 0-1 double.
-Nick Ahmed 1-2 strikeout.
-Pinch-hitter Jarrod Dyson: 2-2 walk-off 3-run home run.
Not Leclerc’s finest moment. In this appearance, he worked three two-strike counts, but couldn’t locate pitches when it counted. Moreover, Texas entered the bottom of the ninth with a two-run lead- a cushion that most closers could feel comfortable with.
Wednesday at Arizona: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 HB, 1 BB, 1 ER.
-Ildemaro Vargas 1-1 single.
-Carson Kelly 3-0 hit by pitch.
-Adam Jones 1-0 hit by pitch.
-Wilmer Flores 2-0 pop out.
-Jarrod Dyson 3-2 walk. Vargas scored.
-Pulled from game with based loaded and one out. Kyle Bird comes records save.
Leclerc was never in control in this outing. He threw a whopping seven balls in his first eight pitches of this appearance. Woodward made a timely pitching change for Texas. Fortunately for the Rangers, rookie Kyle Bird did just enough to get the job done and seal the win.
Sunday vs. Oakland: Save, 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K.
-Josh Phegley 1-2 strikeout looking.
-Robbie Grossman 2-2 single.
-Marcus Semien 0-2 strikeout.
-Matt Chapman 3-2 strikeout.
Texas rallied to take an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the 8th, and after a strong strikeout of his first batter faced, Robbie Grossman singled late in the count, and it looked like more of the same. But Leclerc settled in, and finally made the adjustments he couldn’t against Arizona. Deep in counts, he found a way to work his changeups and off-speed pitches, specifically his slider.
Leclerc isn’t afraid to throw hard- perhaps to a fault. Velocity hasn’t been the issue- control has. That’s what went wrong against Arizona, and what he corrected against Oakland. It will be interesting to monitor whether or not he can hone that control over the course of a long season.
Chris Woodward voiced his support for his young closer after Leclerc’s save against the A’s on Sunday.
“He’s had a ton of success in the big leagues in that spot, but the first time he fails, you like to see the bounceback. I’ve said it before, this is a special kid,” Woodward said with a smile.
Whether it was just a blip on the radar or a start of an alarming trend, it certainly was an interesting week for Jose Leclerc.
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