Rangers Closer José Leclerc Suffers Similar Injury as Kluber; Greg Bird to be Recalled, Ronald Guzmán Optioned

Chris Halicke

Two Texas Rangers pitcher have suffered a Grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in their throwing shoulder: first Corey Kluber and now closer José Leclerc.

Leclerc felt tightness in his shoulder as he was warming up after the Rangers regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday against Arizona. The Rangers sat him down immediately out of precaution to prevent a more serious injury as Kluber did on Sunday afternoon. 

While the strain is not quite as bad as Kluber's, an MRI on Thursday revealed similar damage. Same as Kluber, Leclerc will be shut down for four weeks. He will not need surgery and will have platelet-rich plasma therapy later this week.

“You just can’t replace guys like with that kind of ability,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels said. “Corey was obviously going to be a big part of our rotation; and we still feel good about the rotation. Jose hadn’t thrown early like we believed he’s capable of, but we were counting on him to pitch high leverage innings.”

Leclerc will be put on the 45-day IL (usually 60-day), making room to add RHP Jimmy Herget to both the 40-man and active rosters.

With two pitchers suffering the nearly the same exact injury in under a week, one might wonder if it's the result of pitchers being forced to rush throughout the past few weeks in preparation for the season. Other big-name pitchers, including 2019 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, have suffered arm injuries early in the shortened 2020 season.

“We’re definitely looking at it," Daniels said. "We had a pretty decent conversation about it this morning about what we can do. It is what it is. All 30 teams are in the same spot. We thought we were pretty diligent about staying on top of our guys leading up to this. It’s not like they just started throwing and went zero-to-sixty on July 1 when we got here. They had been throwing for a while. You’re talking about guys like Corey Kluber and Leclerc that take good care of themselves. All that being said, we’re definitely looking it. It is a concern. Looking around the league, there’s a ton of arm injuries early on. Regardless, we’ve got two key guys that are down. We need to take a closer look at that.”

The three weeks that teams had to prepare for the season was unlike a typical Spring Training. With the exception of two exhibition games, the Rangers exclusively played intrasquad games. Yes, pitchers can hit their pitch counts and batters can see live pitching, but nothing can replicate the nuances of even a Cactus League game.

"Typically, you get a rush of injuries early in Spring Training as games get started," Daniels said. "I think you’re seeing something similar here just because guys played intrasqaud games, but didn’t really have that adrenaline in facing opponents. Anecdotally talking to our guys, they feel like that has been a difference. We haven’t studied it enough for me to sit here and tell you definitively that’s the reason."

Help may be on the way for the bullpen. Though not yet active, Joely Rodríguez will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip. That will give the Rangers another option for the back end of the bullpen.

Rangers to Call Up Greg Bird, Option Ronald Guzmán

The Texas Rangers will make another roster move on Friday. They plan to select the contract of Greg Bird and option Ronald Guzmán to the alternate training site.

"I just felt like in the moment in time that Greg's a little bit better at-bat and like Ronald could use a little bit of a reset," Daniels said. "His role on the team right now is more as a defensive replacement, and I thought Greg's been swinging the bat well in intrasquad [games] and live batting practice and wanted to give him the opportunity here."

The Rangers will have to make room for Bird on the 40-man roster. A subsequent move will be announced on Friday.

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