Texas Rangers rumors: Drew Stubbs appears likely to make the Texas Rangers' Opening Day roster, based on the comments by manager Jeff Banister and the tweets from the beat guys today. James Jones, the other backup center field/pinch running option, was sent to the minor league camp, and Banister's comments (via the beat guys) seemed to indicate the Rangers are prioritizing speed and defense on the bench.
Jeff Wilson says that Stubbs making the Rangers roster would seem to indicate that the Rangers are looking at going with a four man bench, rather than the three man bench that has been discussed as a possibility to start the year. If the Rangers keep Stubbs and go with a three man bench, it would reduce the chances of Ryan Rua or Justin Ruggiano making the team as a platoon partner for Mitch Moreland at first base, since that final spot would perhaps need to be allocated to a utility infielder. With a four man bench, the Rangers are likely looking at a bench of Stubbs, Rua, either Pedro Ciriaco or Hanser Alberto, and a backup catcher, likely Chris Gimenez.
I've struggled to understand the desire for an eight man bullpen early in the season, given the lack of flexibility it would mean in regards to the bench, and the fact that the Rangers appear to have at least a couple of likely candidates to be in the bullpen who can go a couple of innings. If A.J. Griffin ends up winning the fifth starter spot, the Rangers could keep an eighth bullpen pitcher for the first four games of the season, stashing someone like Sam Freeman or Nick Martinez out there, and then either DFA'ing (if it is Freeman) or optioning (if it is Martinez) that guy so the Rangers can purchase the contract of Griffin.
The complicating factor with Griffin, however, is that the team has expressed a desire to possibly skip the fifth starter spot from time to time, and use the fifth starter out of the pen when his spot is being skipped. As Wilson notes, the nature of bullpen work isn't considered conducive for a pitcher coming back from surgery, and Griffin has missed the past two years after coming back from Tommy John surgery. If the team is committed to using the fifth starter role as a swingman role, then Nick Martinez or Jeremy Guthrie could end up getting the nod. If they are going to use the fifth starter as, well, a starting pitcher, then Griffin might have the edge.