HOUSTON -- The Rangers, one of the teams that have inquired about Padres closer Heath Bell, continue their search for bullpen help. General manager Jon Daniels called it the Rangers' "first focus."
But club officials admitted it's still far more likely that any immediate reinforcements will come from within the organization.
"We're still at the point of the season where it's much more realistic to rely on internal options," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "Right now, teams just aren't willing to wave the white flag. While we are having dialogue with other teams, it's more of a fact-finding situation rather than any real material discussions."
The Rangers continue to monitor the progress of injured pitchers Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter in the hopes that they are getting close to returning from the disabled list.
O'Day, pushed back one day because of some stiffness, was scheduled to pitch on Tuesday night for Triple-A Round Rock on rehab assignment. He has pitched three scoreless innings in his three previous outings and may pitch multiple innings for Round Rock on Tuesday.
O'Day has been sidelined for over two months since undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and has pitched four total innings in the Minor Leagues. The Rangers prefer their relievers to get 10-12 innings of work in Spring Training, but they may not wait that long with O'Day. The original plan was to hold off until the All-Star break.
"This will be a faster track, but how [much] faster remains to be determined," Levine said. "He has performed well, but we haven't put a timetable it yet."
Hunter was a starter for the Rangers last year and a 13-game winner but has been sidelined for three months with a strained groin muscle. He is being used in the bullpen at Round Rock and pitched a scoreless inning on Monday night. His rehab assignment expires on Sunday and he will be continue to be used out of the bullpen until then. Levine said he will be used the way the game dictates rather than having a prescribed schedule.
"We're trying to expose him to different types of outings that he could be used in if he is brought up as a reliever," Levine said.
The Rangers don't necessarily have to activate Hunter on Sunday if he's not ready. He could be optioned to Triple-A if the Rangers feel he still needs more work in being acclimated to a bullpen role.