ARLNGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers are hoping right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx still has some of his June magic in his him.
Bibens-Dirkx (3-0, 4.53 ERA) hasn’t made a start for the Rangers since June 30, but he will get the call Saturday when the Rangers host a Baltimore team that’s lost three straight after Friday’s 8-2 loss to the Rangers.
Bibens-Dirkx was moved to the bullpen after making five starts because the Rangers had a healthy rotation. He’ll now take the spot of the injured Tyson Ross and hopes to regain the form that had him 2-0 with a 4.30 ERA as a starter. He has made just two relief appearances in July.
“Obviously everybody wants to be out there and throw,” Bibens-Dirkx said. “But that’s part of my job as a long guy. When your starters are rolling as well as our starters have been, the opportunities are few and far between, so that’s something I have to adjust to.”
Bibens-Dirkx does have a little experience against the Orioles, but not a good one. He pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief on July 18 and allowed two runs, including a grand slam to Chris Davis. But that outing could be attributed to some rust as it was his first appearance since his June 30 start.
At least for this outing, Bibens-Dirkx had an idea he was going to get the nod. That’s allowed him to prepare for it.
“The biggest thing for me is that I’ve been throwing bullpens,” he said. “Obviously it’s not the same intensity, but I’m throwing bullpens, getting a feel for pitches. I think that’s a big deal, especially at this level because if you make a mistake, you get hit really hard. I pretty much do the same thing every bullpen session, so the preparation’s the same. It’s just the frequency of actually facing hitters that what I really think sharpens most of your pitches better than bullpens do.”
Bibens-Dirkx’s mound opponent got hit really hard early this season, but right-hander Kevin Gausman (7-7, 5.79 ERA) has pitched better recently. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said sending Gausman to the minors was an option after he allowed eight runs in three innings in a July 14 loss that raised his ERA to 6.39.
But Gausman turned things around with six innings of one-run ball in a July 19 victory over the Rangers. He followed that with six scoreless innings in a win over Tampa Bay.
Showalter said Gausman has relied more on his fastball and it’s paid dividends.
“It’s his command of his fastball,” Showalter said. “It’s one of the few pitches you can throw that’s four different pitches. It’s still the best pitch in baseball, a well-located fastball. It’s the same thing as Ubaldo’s (Jimenez) outing or Wade’s (Miley) outing, when they do it, it starts and stops with that.”
Gausman has a history of good starts against the Rangers. He’s 2-2 in five starts with a 3.58 ERA. But he’s struggled in the Texas heat, as he’s 0-2 in Arlington with a 6.17 ERA.
Baltimore made a move to bolster its starting rotation on Friday by acquiring right-hander Jeremy Hellickson from the Philadelphia Phillies.