SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A year ago, right-hander Tanner Scheppers was ranked No. 43 on MLB.com's Top 50 Minor League prospects. This year, he did not crack the Top 100. He is only 10th on the Rangers' list of top prospects.
"I just want to go out and pitch," Scheppers said. "Everything else will take care of itself. I'm 25. Those prospect lists are full of young guys. I'm just hoping to be healthy and everything else will work out."
Much is different for Scheppers this spring. Last year, the Rangers gave him a legitimate shot to win a spot in the rotation, but he came down with a back injury. That not only knocked him out of the competition but sidelined him for the first half of the season.
Now he is coming into camp as a reliever. The Rangers have gone back and forth on Scheppers ever since he was the 44th overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. But now they have decided to use him strictly as a reliever in the hopes that he can stay healthy and fulfill some former high expectations.
"It's definitely nice to know my role going into it," Scheppers said. "Long term, I would still like the opportunity to start, but right now I have to go out and perform and be competitive."
Scheppers was 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA in 28 games for Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock last season. In 43 2/3 innings, he allowed 41 hits, 21 walks and 44 strikeouts. He also pitched 14 games in the Venezuelan Winter League, allowing one earned run in 13 innings with five hits, 13 walks and 16 strikeouts.