The last time Jason Jennings' right elbow felt as good as it does this spring was three years ago, just before he embarked on perhaps his best season as a major league starting pitcher.
There's sharpness again on his curveball, and his fastball has good velocity.
"If there's no room for me, then there are 29 other teams out there," Jennings said. "If a big league job is there, it's not something I can turn away from."
After an unprecedented rash of injuries last year, the Rangers want to have as much quality pitching depth as possible. But general manager Jon Daniels said Jennings hasn't been ruled out as a candidate for the opening day roster.
"I've been encouraged by what we've seen," Daniels said. "He looks more comfortable than he did at any point last year, and he seems to be really letting it go."
His fastball has been clocked in the upper 80s this spring, a significant upgrade from the 83 mph fastball he threw before the injury. Manager Ron Washington said it could hit 91 mph before camp breaks.
Combine that with good sinking movement, and the belief is Jennings can be an effective big league pitcher again.
Right-hander Kris Benson pitched five innings in an intrasquad game Saturday morning and left it feeling like he's close to where he wants to be with three weeks remaining in spring training.
"My fastball command's been great," Benson said. "The changeup's been great. The slider's been really coming this year. All my little pieces are coming in there pretty nicely."
Benson doesn't have an opt-out until May, so unless he can convince the Rangers to let him go for an opportunity he's probably destined for AAA while things sort themselves out in April.
But Jennings has an April 1 opt-out, and that quote above from him sounds like if he really is throwing pretty well, he may take the opportunity to leave. And if he's looking pretty good, you can expect that someone somewhere will have a rotation spot.
Assuming that everyone is healthy, the fact that Feldman and Nippert are out of options as well really limits their options. They're not going to send McCarthy or Harrison out to start the season, and it doesn't make much sense to lose several years of Feldman for one of Jennings. So it seems that if Jennings looks good to scouts and has other options, your choice might be either letting Nippert go or sending both Rupe and Madrigal out, along with some of the NRIs and pairing either Feldman or Jennings with Nippert in the long end of the pen.
Big picture, it probably makes the most sense to gamble on Jennings and send him to Oklahoma regardless of how he looks the rest of ST. But if you are really focused on competing this year, finding a way to keep him around could add another potentially viable rotation option. I will say, one curveball in particular that he snapped off today did look sharper than anything he had last year.