Roman Mendez: the guy nobody is talking about
Here’s how the Rangers bullpen went this spring.
Keone Kela was lights out and made the team.
Jon Edwards was almost lights out and inexplicably sent to the Minors.
There are no left-handers in the bullpen. Every left-hander auditioned was quickly dismissed. In less than a week, Sam Freeman went from being a lock to make the team to being designated for assignment.
Instead of a left-hander, the Rangers have two long relievers in Logan Verrett and Anthony Bass. Phil Klein is back as well.
Shawn Tolleson is healthy but Tanner Scheppers is not, leaving a void for the Rangers in the eighth inning. The bridge to the tepid closer is incomplete.
Then there is the guy that nobody is talking about: Roman Mendez.
He is on the team, which is a good thing.
Spring Training numbers:
Kela: 9.2 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 11 SO
Mendez: 10 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 4 walks, 11 SO
So what do we know about Mendez?
He was one of three players acquired from the Red Sox in 2010 for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He was still in low Class A when the Rangers obtained him. He was also a starting pitcher.
He spent 2011 at low Class A Hickory, making 20 starts and six relief appearances. He was 9-1 with a 3.31 ERA and made the South Atlantic League All-Star game. In 117 innings, he struck out 130 batters.
In 2012 he was 4-6 with a 5.14 ERA in 12 starts and six relief appearances at Class A Myrtle Beach, while missing six weeks with a strained elbow. The six relief appearances came at the end. He had a 1.50 ERA in those six games and struck out 15 in 12 innings. That earned him a late-season promotion to Double A Frisco and he was 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in five appearances.
The Rangers liked him enough that they put him on the 40-man roster. He came to Spring Training at age 22 didn’t make the team. He pitched at Double A Frisco, had a 1.82 ERA in 16 games and then was lost for the season when he had season-ending surgery at the end of May for a stress fracture in the right elbow.
Mendez was at Triple A Round Rock last season. He was given at least two days off every outing because of concerns about the elbow. He had a 4.02 ERA in 25 appearances and opponents hit .302 off him.
In the Rangers search for able-bodied pitching, Mendez was called up to the big leagues on July 7. He made 30 appearances for them the rest of the way. He was one of 102 American League relievers who made at least 30 relief appearances.
Of that group:
Mendez had 10th lowest opponents batting average at .174. His 2.18 ERA was the 21st lowest.
His 4.64 walks per nine innings were the 12th highest. He had 22 strikeouts and 17 walks. His 1.29 strikeouts per walks was the fourth worst of the 102 relievers.
Mendez averaged 94.8 miles per hour on his fastball. Of the 40 pitchers used by the Rangers last season, that was the fourth highest. Only Aaron Poreda (95.4), Matt West (95.0) and Edwards (94.8) averaged higher. Poreda and West are no longer in the organization.
Edwards was inexplicably sent to the Minors at the end of Spring Training.
Mendez also has a split-finger fastball and a slider as his off-speed pitches. Both were effective last year when thrown for strikes.
So what do we know about Mendez?
Good pickup by the Rangers.
Still some concerns about his health.
Should be a guy more people are talking about.
Could be the guy that makes or breaks the Rangers bullpen early in the season until Scheppers is ready.
Unless the closer is still tepid and then nothing else will really matter.