Rangers weigh moving Bush into rotation

Rangers weigh moving Bush into rotation

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers need to rebuild both their starting rotation and their bullpen.

One significant issue being weighed is whether to move right-hander Matt Bush to the rotation or keep him in the bullpen.

"Let's just say we have had the conversation and we are still having that conversation," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

Daniels was asked about it in his postseason media availability on Wednesday. He hesitated before speaking carefully about a serious hot-button issue, because the Rangers have had mixed success moving prominent relievers into the rotation.

"Matt has expressed some interest in it," Daniels said. "We are still talking through it. He is such a unique case."

Bush is unique because he was out of professional baseball for four years while serving time in a Florida prison for his role in a 2012 motor vehicle collision. He made a comeback with the Rangers in '16 and has spent the past two seasons as a reliever, pitching a total of 114 innings.

"There are no comparables," Daniels said. "You can't look back and say, these three guys did this, these three guys did that. In our experience, the guys who have had the most success doing that are the guys who have been really driven to work at it, not the guys we asked to consider it."

The Rangers have had six noted cases of relievers moving to the rotation.

Scott Feldman was a reliever for the Rangers in 2005-07, but had no significant role and wasn't even considered one of the key pitchers for the future. Pitching coach Mark Connor perceived Feldman would be better as a starter. It was a two-year transition, but Feldman developed into a 17-game winner in 2009. A series of injuries mostly unrelated to pitching kept him from building on that.

C.J. Wilson had a good three-year run as a reliever in 2007-09 but was eager for a more prominent role. Driven to the extreme, Wilson pleaded for a chance to start and was given it in the spring of 2010. He won a spot by first-round knockout and was the Pitcher of the Year on two World Series teams before leaving as a free agent.

Alexi Ogando is quite comparable to Bush. He had been out of baseball for several years for legal issues before cracking the Rangers bullpen in 2010. He made a successful All-Star transition to the rotation in 2011, but the Rangers made the mistake of putting him back into the bullpen in '12 and it all went haywire.

Neftali Feliz is the one that has everybody nervous. He was an outstanding closer in 2010-11 before reluctantly moving into the rotation in '12. Feliz ended up needing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, and his career has never been the same. He is the poster boy for those screaming no on Bush.

Tanner Scheppers is another red flag. He was a premier setup reliever in 2013 before moving into the rotation in '14. Scheppers, who had a history of physical issues, made four starts before going down with an elbow problem. Like Wilson though, Scheppers badly wanted to be a starter.

• Robbie Ross also went from reliever to starter for a short period in 2014 and it didn't work out. Ross also wanted to be a starter; the simple fact is he was better suited for relief.

These are among the things the Rangers will consider with Bush.

"If it's the player who initiated and wants to put the work in, I think you've seen success," Daniels said. "When it's players who are in between, probably best to leave him in the role he is in."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.