Buzz: Scheppers 'has stuff to be a closer'

OAKLAND, Calif. -- While he was blanking the Oakland A's in the eighth and ninth innings Tuesday night, Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers consistently threw mid-90s heat and even touched 98 mph on the radar gun.

Scheppers is a setup man with closer's stuff. At least for now.

"Right now his role is going to be setup," Rangers manager Ron Washington said before Wednesday's series finale against the A's. "That's what we're trying to use him as. Future down the road, he has stuff to be a closer. But right now we want his mentality being coming in and giving the ball to Joe (Nathan). And whatever else happens after that down the road, let it happen. But I want his mindset to be he's coming in and getting the ball to the closer."

Scheppers has been doing exactly that. He's 3-0 with a 0.45 ERA in 17 appearances and 20.0 innings pitched. He's struck out 12 and walked just four.

Scheppers said he's happy with his current role but has bigger goals for the future.

"I think long-term, I'd like the opportunity to start," Scheppers said. "I would like to close, as well. I would like to start or close, one of the two. I'd be happy with either one."

Scheppers, who started in college at Fresno State and started seven games in the minor leagues, said starting would be choice 1-A and closing 1-B on his list.

"You got a set routine where you kind of know exactly what's happening," Scheppers said of starting.

Scheppers has made marked improvement this season after going 1-1 with a 4.45 ERA in 39 appearances as a rookie last year.

"He's hitting his spots," Washington said. "He's not afraid to throw inside. He's always had a real good breaking ball, and he's putting it into play now. He's keeping the ball down, and he's consistently 95, 96 mph. So you can make some mistakes with that and get away with it. You throw those same pitches and it's 92, 93, they get pounded."

High wire act: Nathan is a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities this season, but he's had a few high-stress outings, including the 10th inning of Tuesday night's 6-5 win. Nathan gave up a run and then had to pitch his way out of a bases-loaded jam, striking out Daric Barton and getting Eric Sogard to ground out.

"After making it interesting, he got his outs," Washington said. "If you ever wanted to find out what Joe Nathan is about, he showed you last night. Yeah, put himself in a tough situation. Bases loaded. Tying run at third, winning run at second. Strike out and a ground out. About as tough as it gets. So that's Joe Nathan. He's not always going to put himself in those types of situations. But when it materialized, he got us off the field."

Washington said he might give Nathan a day off Wednesday after his high-stress save.

Pierzynski update: Injured catcher A.J. Pierzynski (strained right oblique muscle) said he expects to play a rehab game Sunday for Double-A Frisco and hopes to be in the starting lineup for the Rangers on Tuesday against the A's when he's eligible to come off the disabled list.

"It's definitely gotten better," Pierzynski said. "From the time I did it, the doctors and the trainers said it would be a month, and Friday will be just about a month. Swinging the bat was the biggest thing, and I've been hitting the last couple days. Yesterday, it was free and easy."

Washington, however, is still in a wait-and-see mode. He wants to see how Pierzynski handles live batting practice Thursday at Rangers Ballpark before he sets a rehab date.

Add one: The Rangers signed former Blue Jays right-hander Scott Richmond to a minor league contract and assigned him to extended spring training. Richmond, 33, pitched earlier this year for the Lotte Giants in the Korean Professional League. In 36 career appearances and 29 starts -- all for Toronto -- he's 9-14 with a 5.27 ERA. He appeared in three games for the Blue Jays in 2012 but spent most of last season at Triple-A Las Vegas.