Rangers right-hander Jose Leclerc lost his spot as the team’s closer May 1, but he’s already “real close” to getting the job back, manager Chris Woodward said Sunday (via Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram). Woodward made that comment in the wake of a win over the Cardinals, albeit one in which fill-in closer Chris Martin blew a save.
Save situations have been a rare occurrence for Texas since it removed Leclerc as its game-ending option. Martin has converted one of the two chances he has received, while Shawn Kelley – who’s recovering from throat surgery and hasn’t pitched since May 4 – made good on the team’s other opportunity. Meantime, Leclerc has been brilliant since the Rangers demoted him. Over eight innings and six appearances this month, the flamethrowing 28-year-old has allowed one earned run on one hit with 15 strikeouts against four walks. Leclerc was utterly dominant in Sunday’s game, during which he fanned five and generated six swinging strikes in a pair of perfect frames.
Leclerc’s output this month even outdoes the incredible production he posted in 2018, a breakout season in which he logged 57 2/3 innings of 1.56 ERA/1.90 FIP ball with 13.27 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9. Those numbers helped convince the Rangers to award Leclerc a four-year, $14.75MM contract extension shortly before the current season began. Thanks to his slow start, Leclerc has only managed a 5.30 ERA/3.96 FIP with 13.98 K/9 and 6.27 BB/9 through 18 2/3 innings in 2019, but it appears he’s returning to form and living up to the payday Texas handed him.