DETROIT -- Right-handed relievers Willie Eyre and Dustin Nippert are officially options for the Rangers' bullpen. As of Saturday, both pitchers are eligible to be reinstated from the disabled list if the Rangers need bullpen help. Physically, they both could use a few more innings before that becomes a realistic possibility.
But it is on the minds of Texas' coaches as they watch their bullpen evolve at the start of the season. Both Josh Rupe and Warner Madrigal had a rough day on Friday against the Tigers, combining to allow seven runs on four hits and six walks over three innings of work. "It was one of those things," manager Ron Washington said. "Frustrating? It's only the fourth game. I'm not frustrated. Certainly, I'd like to see those guys do better. They would like to do better." Madrigal, making his first appearance of the season, started off great, retiring the first five hitters he faced. Then he hit Gerald Laird with a pitch and unraveled, walking the next three hitters he faced. "All of a sudden, he lost his release point," Washington said. "You never see Madrigal throw the ball all over the place. He might get hit around, but you never see him throw the ball all over the place like that. It was a bad day." Rupe replaced him and allowed three runs on four hits and three walks. Washington said his pitchers were having trouble gripping the baseball in the cold weather. "[The Tigers] had the same thing, though, so you can't use that as an excuse," Washington said. Eyre and Nippert are options because they've passed the minimum time needed to spend on the disabled list at the start of the season. Players on the disabled list can be backdated nine days into Spring Training for a season that started last Sunday. That means, as of Saturday, their 15 days are up. Both are just beginning their medical rehabilitation assignments. Eyre (strained groin) pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning for the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks on Thursday, and Nippert (strained back muscle) is scheduled to pitch for the first time at Double-A Frisco on Saturday night. Eyre and Nippert had some of the best numbers posted by Rangers relievers in Spring Training before they got hurt. Eyre had a 1.50 ERA and allowed six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in his six innings, while Nippert had a 2.08 ERA with seven hits, two walks and six strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. Nippert last pitched in a Cactus League game on March 19, while Eyre's last appearance was March 21. The Rangers would still like to see them get two or three more outings on their rehab assignments before considering activating them off the DL. "We do not have a specific timetable for their return," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "It's probably best to check back after each guy has a few more innings under their belts." The Rangers don't want to rush them back. But they do know both give them options for the bullpen.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.