Rangers Turn To Young Relievers To Fill Important Bullpen Roles

Drafted in the 32nd round out of South Alabama in 2014, lefthander Locke St. John was a starting pitcher who was told to change his arm slot and become a reliever, and even then he didn’t reach Double-A until last season.

Peter Fairbanks will be 26 years old in December. He has had Tommy John surgery twice and believed his career would be over this season if he didn’t figure things out four years after he was drafted out of Missouri.

Both St. John and Fairbanks entered the season as long shots to crack the Rangers’ bullpen, but both were promoted in June to make their major league debuts. Now, they are safely entrenched among a deep group of minor leaguers who will be revolving in and out of the majors for the rest of the season as the Rangers try to put together an effective bullpen in their pursuit of an American League wild card berth.

“You’re always going to have some level of turnover in the bullpen,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “We feel like there’s a group that can help. It’s a good group.”

A 6-foot-6, 219-pound righthander, Fairbanks reinvented himself following a second Tommy John surgery that cost him all of the 2018 season. Fairbanks returned in time for the fall instructional league, throwing with a new, short-arm delivery that came as a result from watching catchers and infielders throw and, as a result, helped his velocity jump.

And speaking of jumping, Fairbanks opened his 2019 season at high Class A Down East and made his major league debut on June 9 after brief stints with both Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Nashville.

“The rehab team was all on board with it,” Fairbanks said. “It’s happened really fast. It’s still baseball. It’s just in front of a lot more people who really care how you do. I knew if I sucked this year, I’d be released, probably.”

Meanwhile, St. John is the seventh Rangers reliever and ninth pitcher, overall, to reach the majors for the first time this season. Daniels said of all the available arms, including righthander Reed Garrett after the Tigers returned the Rule 5 pick, St. John was the best available. The lefthander is full of deception throwing from a sidearm slot and reaches 93 mph with his fastball. After being told by Tigers’ coaches in 2017 to alter his arm slot, St. John said that he tired to mimic the delivery of former Rangers lefthander Alex Claudio.

“When I was with the Tigers they asked me if would, and I did just to see what would happen and to keep a job,” St. John said. “I guess I had a good feel for it. It just kind of took off.”


— Center fielder Leody Taveras was promoted to Double-A on June 20 after playing in the high Class A Carolina League all-star game earlier this month. The Rangers’ No. 3 prospect, Taveras was hitting .294 with a .368 on-base percentage at the time of his promotion, but his slugging percentage was sitting at just .376.

— The Rangers expect lefthander Taylor Hearn, the organization’s No. 7 prospect, to pitch again this season. However, they have taken a cautious approach with the left elbow inflammation that sidelined him in late April after making his MLB debut. Hearn could return at the end of July or in early August.

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