So, who closes for the Rangers? Interesting question. There seem to be three choices.
José Leclerc. Jonathan Hernandez. Will Smith.
Leclerc might be the first man up for the role. The twenty-nine-year-old righty was, after all, the Rangers closer in 2018 and 2019, taking over at the trade deadline of ’19 when Texas traded Keone Kela to Pittsburgh. He put up a 1.25 ERA and saved twelve games. He was nearly unhittable, giving up three hits in seventeen innings once he took over as the closer. That domination earned him a four-year contract extension.
He promptly hit a wall in 2019, putting up an ugly 8.44 ERA in April, blowing two save opportunities and alway pitching on the verge of disaster. He lost his closer job in May but got it back again at the deadline, this time with much better results.
Then came the forgettable 2020 season. Leclerc pitched in only two games because he opted out due to the pandemic. Then, he had Tommy John surgery in 2021. He came back at the end of last season to pick up seven saves for a team that had precious few save opportunities.
He was the closer at the end of 2022. Wobbly. But the closer.
Jonathan Hernandez is a twenty-six-year-old right-hander with the stuff to close. In fact, he closed for a time last year, after missing all of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery. He had success, saving nine games, striking out twenty-seven batters in thirty innings.
The Rangers signed Will Smith late in the offseason. Smith was a closer for the Giants and then the Braves, saving thirty-seven games in the Braves World Series season. But they signed Kenley Jansen to close and he became an effective set up man. He was traded at the deadline to Houston, as they wanted to bolster their bullpen for the playoff run. Now he’s a Ranger.
Bruce Bochy hasn’t indicated who will be the Rangers closer. Good news is, the have options.
Better news is, they actually should have late leads to close out.
Kansas City vs Texas, 1:05