Scheppers struggles again in transition to Rangers’ rotation

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Tanner Scheppers (52) hands the ball to manager Ron Washington (38) as he leaves the mound in the third inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

Tim Heitman/Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s a learning experience every time Tanner Scheppers starts a game. After another disappointing outing Thursday, the Rangers may not be willing to ride the learning curve much longer.

Scheppers’ ERA is now up to 9.82 after lasting just 2 1/3 innings against Seattle, the shortest outing by a Rangers starter since July of last season. Scheppers gave up all six Seattle runs in an ugly third inning that saw Robinson Cano and Corey hart hit back-to-back homers.

"Command problems," was the diagnosis from manager Ron Washington. "Just couldn’t hit his spots. He missed his spots and paid for it."

The Rangers clawed back to win, 8-6, but burned through five relievers after Scheppers’ early exit.

Although command issues were to blame this time, Schepper’s fourth major league start fit a pattern of giving up one big inning.

But it wasn’t just the third inning that Scheppers struggled. He also had a 30-pitch first inning and wound up throwing 66 pitches after being pulled seven batters into the third inning.

"It’s not [throwing] good pitches and they capitalized on it," said Scheppers, who allowed six hits and three walks. "They’re good hitters. They’re going to hit mistakes. Sometimes you just get beat. You’ve got to tip your cap, focus on the next one and continue working."

Scheppers made just eight starts in three years as a minor leaguer. He established himself as a valuable setup man in his 115 major league appearances prior to this season, but Washington said he has not considering returning Scheppers to the bullpen.

"No, that’s nothing that crossed my mind," Washington said. "We know it’s a work in progress."

If the Rangers do want Scheppers to continue to learn in the bullpen, their starting options are limited. Matt Harrison, coming back from back surgery, could probably use a couple more rehab starts. Joe Saunders is eligible to return from the disabled list (bruised ankle) on Sunday, but he’s also struggled.

Youngster Nick Martinez turned in a quality start in his only appearance, but he was sent down to Double-A Frisco for more grooming. Nick Tepesch, who started 17 games last season, is at Triple-A Round Rock.

The best option is for Scheppers to turn things around, but so far the signs haven’t been encouraging.

"I don’t think I’m pitching to my ability," Scheppers said. "Yeah, it is frustrating. All I can do is move on. I can’t change the past. All I can do is take the next step forward."

The Rangers are waiting for Scheppers to take the next step. It’s a matter of how much more patience they have.


Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire