SURPRISE, Arizona (KFDX) — The game of baseball has certainly changed in the last two decades, especially when it comes to how a bullpen is used.
While a team closer is important, the role of the setup man, or setup men, continues to become of greater value as starting pitchers are not being asked to go deep into games often.
The Rangers were expected to rely heavily on the arm of Jonathan Hernandez in 2021. That was until an elbo injury sidelined the Rangers 2020 Rookie of the Year.
So who will manager Chris Woodward turn to in the seventh and eighth innings? Remember Matt Bush? He’s a former No. 1 overall pick.
In 2019, he underwent Tommy John surgery after just nine appearances in Frisco. Now he is laser-focused on making a comeback.
“I’ve always possessed a very powerful fastball and I feel like I’ve always thrown tons of fastballs,” Bush said.
He says now he’s also throwing cutters and curveballs. “It’s great to be able to do that and know I don’t have to rely on blowing it by a guy at 99 (mph).”
In the offseason, the Rangers signed free agent Hunter Wood, a guy who has pitched in over 100 professional games. And like Bush, Wood uses several pitches to get guys out.
His first seven appearances in Surprise resulted in just six base runners and 14 strikeouts. He’s impressed the coaching staff and he’ll likely get a shot in the regular season.
“I don’t know how many 3-2 strikeouts he had on cutters,” Woodward said. “He just feels really confident right now. You can see it in the shape of his pitches and the velocity and getting bad swings.”
And these are the treats of a good setup man.