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Rangers' bullpen concerns extend through opener

The SportsXchange

The Texas Rangers ended spring training with no real answers about the shape of the bullpen.

Opening Day didn't provide any more insight.

When manager Ron Washington made his first pitching change of the season, he went to the most veteran member of the pitching staff. The move backfired.

Right-hander Derek Lowe, asked to bail lefty Matt Harrison out of a two-out jam in the fifth, gave up a three-run pinch home run to Houston's Rick Ankiel, turning a close game into an eventual 8-2 Astros win.

The outcome highlighted the issues the Rangers currently have with a largely unproven bullpen.

Lowe, who signed with the Rangers two weeks into spring training, is the club's long man and is one of only three right-handers ahead of closer Joe Nathan. When Washington decided to pull Harrison with two outs and two men on due to walks in the sixth, he chose Lowe to face right-handed-hitting Brandon Barnes. Houston, however, countered with Ankiel, a left-handed hitter, and the Rangers were forced to pitch to him.

Lowe, who allowed lefties a .345 batting average and .937 on-base-plus-slugging percentage last year, fell behind and never was able to go to his sinker. As he approaches his 40th birthday, Lowe's only real asset is the sinker. When he threw a full-count slider -- the fourth one of the at-bat -- Ankiel drove it into the right field seats.

The Rangers are off Monday. It gives them another day to think through their relief options in key situations.

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