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Buckel among four to get Spring Training invite

Buckel among four to get Spring Training invite

ARLINGTON -- Pitcher Cody Buckel, who this week was named the No. 87 overall prospect in baseball by MLB.com, is among four players from within the Rangers' farm system not on the 40-man roster who have been invited to Major League camp.

The right-handed Buckel, a second-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Simi Valley Royal (Calif.) High, will be joined by outfielder Joey Butler, right-hander Nick Tepesch and catcher Junior Felix. The Rangers now have 63 players coming to Major League camp with Thursday's announcement, including 23 who are not on the big league roster.

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Buckel was a combined 10-8 with a 2.49 ERA in 23 starts and three relief appearances for Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco in 2012. In 144 innings, he allowed 105 hits and 48 walks while striking out 159 batters. He was the Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the Rangers organization.

Butler was a 15th-round pick out of the University of New Orleans in the 2008 Draft. A right-handed hitter, Butler spent last season at Triple-A Round Rock and batted .290 with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs. He had a .392 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage.

Tepesch, who along with Buckel could be a long-shot candidate to be the Rangers' fifth starter, was a 14th-round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2010. He also split the 2012 season between Myrtle Beach and Frisco, combining to go 11-6 with a 3.67 ERA in 28 games. In 162 innings, he allowed 165 hits and 44 walks while striking out 127.

Butler adds to the Rangers' outfield depth at a time when right-fielder Nelson Cruz is being investigated by Major League Baseball for possible links to a south Florida clinic that was allegedly selling performance-enhancing drugs. The investigation leaves the Rangers uncertain about Cruz's immediate future. A law firm representing Cruz has issued a statement denying any wrongdoing, and Cruz is also planning on playing for the Dominican Republic team in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

The Rangers currently have six outfielders listed on their 40-man roster: Cruz, David Murphy, Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin, Julio Borbon and Engel Beltre. All but Beltre have played in the Major Leagues.

Lance Berkman has more Major League time in the outfield than anybody on the Rangers' roster but is still recovering from knee surgery and is likely to be limited to first base and designated hitter duty in Spring Training. Infielders Mitch Moreland and Mike Olt have also played the outfield in the Major Leagues, as have non-roster invites Jeff Baker and Brandon Snyder.

Baker has a chance to make the team as a right-handed hitter who can play first, second and third base as well as both corner outfield spots. During his eight-year Major League career, Baker has played 154 games at second, 89 at first, 89 at third and 79 in the outfield. He has a career .268 batting average with a .428 slugging percentage including .296 with a .498 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching.

The Rangers have already signed two outfielders to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training: Aaron Cunningham and James Adduci. Cunningham has played in 222 games in the Major Leagues over parts of the last five seasons with the Athletics, Padres and Indians. In 501 career plate appearances, he is hitting .219 with seven home runs, 51 RBIs, a .280 on-base percentage and a .280 slugging percentage.

Adduci has spent nine years in the Minor Leagues without reaching the Major Leagues. He has a career .282 batting average with a .355 on-base percentage and .366 slugging percentage. He has hit 24 home runs and stolen 153 bases.

Felix is one of five catchers who will be in Spring Training with the Rangers, along with A,J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto, Konrad Schmidt and Juan Apodaca. Felix and Apodaca have never played in the Major Leagues. Felix has spent the past 21/2 seasons with Frisco.

Last season, Felix played in 82 games and hit .260 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs for the RoughRiders. He also went to big league camp with the Rangers in 2011.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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