Rangers place Ian Kennedy on IL with 'mild' hamstring strain
Texas Rangers relief pitcher Ian Kennedy (31) throws in during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Field.  Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers announced Wednesday that they’ve placed right-hander Ian Kennedy on the 10-day injured list due to a “mild” hamstring strain and selected the contract of right-hander Spencer Patton from Triple-A Round Rock in his place. Texas already had an open spot on the 40-man roster, so an additional corresponding move is not necessary. Patton will be in the club’s bullpen for Wednesday’s game.

Kennedy, 36, has proven to be one of the best minor-league signings in all of baseball this season. He inked a non-guaranteed pact with an invite to spring training and parlayed a strong showing there into a $2.15M base salary. He’s not only justified that modest investment, he’s thrived as one of the game’s more effective late-inning relievers. Kennedy has pitched 21 1/3 innings and racked up 12 saves to go along with a 2.53 ERA, a hefty 29.8% strikeout rate and a tidy 8.3% walk rate.

That standout performance, coupled with a generally poor performance from the team as a whole, makes Kennedy one of the most obvious trade candidates on this summer’s market. Texas has dropped nine of its past 10 games, falling to 16 games south of the .500 mark and 13 games back of the division-leading Athletics. As such, it’s good news for the Rangers that Kennedy is dealing with only a “mild” strain. While a timeline for his return wasn’t provided, the mild nature of the injury should allow him to return long before the July 30 trade deadline.

As for Patton, Wednesday’s promotion will mark the culmination of a nearly five-year journey back to the big leagues. A 24th-round pick of the Royals back in 2011, Patton made his MLB debut as a Ranger in 2014 and spent parts of the next three seasons as an up-and-down member of the bullpen for both the Rangers and Cubs.

From there, Patton went on to spend four seasons pitching with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. The righty was one of NPB’s best relievers in 2017-18 before struggling, in part due to injury, in 2019-20. Even with the downturn in his final two years in Japan, however, Patton’s overall NPB track record was strong: 205 2/3 innings of 3.68 ERA ball with a 27.4% strikeout rate against a 9.5% walk rate.

Patton returned to the Rangers on a minor-league deal of his own this winter, and he’s fired off 12 scoreless innings to begin his season in Round Rock. He’s walked six hitters, which clearly isn’t ideal, but has also yielded only six hits and whiffed a dozen of the 45 batters he’s faced. He’ll now get the chance to prove that the gains he appeared to make in NPB are sustainable here at the game’s top level in North America. Patton turned 33 back in February, so if he is indeed able to replicate his NPB success here in MLB, he could have several years remaining as a productive, late-inning reliever — be it with the Rangers or with another club.

This article first appeared on MLB Trade Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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