Deadline talk: Bullpen comes into focus

ARLINGTON, Texas -- We've talked a bunch about starting pitching and the possible names for the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline. But many of those names have been traded or, it appears, aren't going anywhere. The Rangers had a scout to see Josh Johnson again Sunday and he gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits in five innings, but he had six walks to drive up his pitch count. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported Sunday that the asking price remains high for Johnson. If that's still the case come Tuesday, a deal doesn't seem likely. The Rangers like James Shields, but he's got a club-friendly contract and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday and remain in the hunt for a wild card spot. So they may not be dealing him, either.

But the Rangers have more than a few baseballs in the air at this time of year. And now that it seems the market for starters is thinning, they've turned their attention more toward relievers. Why bullpen pieces? One reason is they still want to get Alexi Ogando further stretched out so that they've got the option to slide him into the rotation if they choose (Scott Feldman may make that tough to do right now as he pitches well). To do that, they'd like to fortify the pen, especially with Neftali Feliz's setback Sunday. Let's take a look at a few possibilities:

* Jonathan Broxton. The Kansas City Royals closer has 23 saves and a 2.27 ERA and could join Mike Adams as a setup man for closer Joe Nathan. Broxton has pitched in 35 games for the Royals this season. He signed a one-year, $4 million deal for 2012.

* Brandon League. ESPN.com's Jerry Cransnick tweeted Sunday that the Rangers weren't in on League. But we've seen in the past how things can change, especially with a few days until the deadline. League has a 3.63 ERA, six holds and nine saves in 44 2/3 innings this season.

* Rafael Betancourt. The Rangers' have been listed as a club interested for a while now. One big reason: He's signed through 2013 and has a mutual option for 2014. We saw at the trade deadline last year that the club was willing to give up some prospects for Mike Adams and Koji Uehara because they were under control for another season. Betancourt is 1-3 with a 2.92 ERA and 17 saves in 37 innings. His contract: $4 million in 2012, $4.25 million in 2013, $4.25 million mutual option with $250,000 buyout.

Others could be considered too, but have some draw backs (one scout mentioned Carlos Marmol to me, but with $9.8 million due to him in 2013, I can't see that one). The club is also exploring the hitting market. They'd like to have a right-handed bat for the bench to give manager Ron Washington some more options.