The Rangers announced a pile of roster moves today, in addition to a couple of moves that were announced after yesterday’s game. Last night, left-hander Taylor Hearn and infielder Ezequiel Duran were optioned to Triple-A Round Rock. Today, a third opening was created when right-hander Matt Bush was placed on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to June 25, with right forearm soreness. Those openings will be filled by Steven Duggar, Glenn Otto and Josh Sborz, Duggar was recently acquired from the Giants in a trade. Otto has been reinstated from the COVID IL while Sborz was recalled from Round Rock. In order to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Otto, right-hander Demarcus Evans was designated for assignment.
Evans, 25, was a 25th round pick of the Rangers back in 2015. He was added to the team’s 40-man roster prior to the 2019 Rule 5 draft. His last start was back in A-ball back in 2017, as he’s been purely a reliever since then. He logged 30 1/3 MLB innings over 2020 and 2021 with a 4.75 ERA. He racked up strikeouts at a healthy 27.6% clip in that sample, though with an 11.9% walk rate and 20.5% ground ball rate.
He’s generally fared well in the minors but is having poor results so far this year. Through 12 innings for Round Rock, he has a 7.50 ERA. He’s still getting strikeouts 29.8% of the time, but with a 24.6% walk rate and 11.5% ground ball rate. He’s in his final option year, meaning a team that acquires him could stash him in Triple-A for the rest of the year, provided they’re willing to give him a spot on the 40-man roster.
As for Bush, 36, the news of forearm soreness is potentially ominous, especially given his lengthy injury history. In 2018, he underwent surgery to deal with a partially torn ligament and attempted to return in the latter half of 2019. At that point, he suffered a torn UCL and required Tommy John surgery, the second time he would have to undergo that procedure. The Rangers signed him to a two-year minors deal to cover his rehab over 2020 and eventual return in 2021. A flexor strain limited him to just four in last year, after which he was outrighted and then re-signed to yet another minor league deal by the Rangers. He made the Opening Day roster this year and has thrown 26 2/3 innings with a 4.05 ERA, 31.3% strikeout rate, 6.1% walk rate and 36.8% ground ball rate. He’s emerged as a high-leverage option for the club, racking up a save and eight holds on the season.
The club hasn’t provided any estimates on his absence and he will surely undergo more testing. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News relays that this move is being characterized as “precautionary” but also adds that the club was insisting that Bush was not injured as recently as yesterday. More news will surely be released in the days to come, though Bush has now thrown just over 30 total innings over the past four years due to persistent arm troubles, making it fair to wonder just how much the Rangers can rely on him going forward. For what it’s worth, Bush himself doesn’t seem overly concerned, telling Levi Weaver of The Athletic that he just needs a few days’ rest. Manager Chris Woodward says that the overworked bullpen couldn’t afford to give a roster spot to an unavailable reliever, which necessitated the IL placement.