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May 01, 2010

The latest on the ever-evolving Rangers' bullpen

Neftali Feliz was available to close out the Rangers' 6-3 win Saturday. Frank Francisco was the choice because, according to manager Ron Washington, the coaching staff liked Francisco's experience while pitching on back-to-back days against the top of the Seattle lineup.

While the situation doesn't seem clear, it's apparent that the Rangers believe Francisco will play a key role in their success this season. That might be as a hard-throwing right-hander in the eighth inning or as the closer with Feliz returning to his role as the hard-throwing, eight-inning right-hander.

Francisco has said his confidence hasn't been shaken after getting bounced from the closer's role the first week of the season. But Washington said part of the reason he went to Francisco was to send a clear message that the Rangers remain confident in him.

To Francisco's credit, he didn't get rattled after walking Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins to start the ninth. He came back to strike out Franklin Gutierrez on three pitches, got Jose Lopez to chase a 2-0 pitch and pop out, and got Milton Bradley on a flyball to left field.

Francisco hasn't allowed a run in his past six outings, though the last two have been somewhat adventurous. Opponents are only 5 for 30 (.167) in his past nine games. He's rounding into form, and the Rangers want him and need him in a prominent role.

-- Jeff Wilson

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