Rangers manager Johnny Oates prefers two left-handers in his bullpen. He does not consider it a necessity.
“You’ve got to go with the 11 best pitchers,” Oates said. “I’d like to have two left-handers, but that’s not a requirement. It doesn’t do any good to have a second left-hander if he can’t get anyone out.”
Left-hander Scott Bailes produced outs for Oates repeatedly during his two-month stint with the Rangers in 1997, and early indications suggest that the 35-year-old pitcher will do so again.
Nowhere with the Rangers does competition exist as it does for the two remaining berths in the bullpen behind closer John Wetteland, right-handers Danny Patterson and Xavier Hernandez and left-hander Eric Gunderson.
Bailes would be only one of several candidates. Left-handers Matt Perisho and Larry Thomas and right-handers Matt Whiteside, Mark Brandenburg and Julio Santana also could be considered among the favorites.
Besides being a left-hander, Bailes, though, possesses two other attributes in his favor: The manager witnessed Bailes’ success of 1997 and continues to witness it this spring.
“I think I need to continue pitching the way I have been,” Bailes said. “I haven’t walked anybody, and the hits I’ve given up have been ground balls. That’s the way I’ve got to pitch, and I would hope to have the inside track to being the second left-hander in the bullpen with Gundy if I continue to pitch as I have.”
Bailes, the oldest player on the Rangers’ roster, entered the weekend against the Minnesota Twins with four scoreless innings to his credit. Those three appearances include only three hits, no walks and three strikeouts.
Now, make no mistake about this: Oates would prefer a second left-hander in his bullpen for late-inning matchups against left-handed hitters.
Bailes limited left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average (8 for 36) in 24 appearances for the Rangers in 1997, but he also experienced success against right-handed batters. The latter hit only .232 (10 for 42) against him in 1997 and .167 (2 for 12) so far this spring.
“He threw extremely well for us last year,” Oates said. “Bailes showed good stuff last year, and I think he can be even better this year.”
Bailes has re-established himself as a major-league pitcher after a 3-1/2-year retirement. The Rangers invited him to major-league camp as a nonroster player a year ago and eventually purchased his contract from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Aug. 6. Bailes emerged as one of the organization’s more pleasant surprises.