SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Brendan Donnelly and Derrick Turnbow were All-Star relievers. Now both are being reminded of what it was like before they had success in the major leagues.
Sidetracked by injuries, Donnelly and Turnbow both are in spring training with the Texas Rangers on minor league deals with no assurance of a spot in the bullpen.
"You're on audition the whole time you're here," Turnbow said. "It's a completely different situation, something you never want to have to get used to."
Turnbow was a dominating closer as a rookie with Milwaukee in 2005, and an All-Star the following season. The 31-year-old right-hander pitched in 210 games from 2005-07 before missing the second half of last season with shoulder problems.
After toiling 10 years in the minor leagues, Donnelly was a key setup reliever for the Los Angeles Angels during three playoff runs in a four-season stretch (2002-05) that included a World Series. But the 37-year-old Donnelly didn't pitch until the final seven weeks last season with Cleveland following ligament transplant surgery in his right elbow.
"I actually feel better than I've felt in a few years, as far as my body being in shape, my arm being healthy for the first time since really '04," Donnelly said. "It's been a while, but I've always gone into spring training whether that I have a secure spot or not, with the idea that I have to fight for a job."
Donnelly gave up two runs and three hits in an inning Tuesday against San Francisco. Two of the hits were doubles to deep center, and he's allowed three runs in his two spring innings.
Turnbow has allowed a run and a hit in three innings this spring.
The Rangers had the most overworked bullpen in the majors the last two seasons, working 572 2-3 innings last year.
Frank Francisco appears set to begin the season as the closer. The big right-hander took over that role at the end of last season after C.J. Wilson had elbow surgery. He didn't allow an earned run his final 11 appearances while going 5-for-5 in save chances.
Wilson, a left-hander who had 24 saves in 28 chances, is also healthy again.
Eddie Guardado, another former All-Star in camp on a minor league deal, was 3-3 with four saves and a 3.65 ERA in 55 appearances for Texas last season. The left-hander was traded Aug. 25 to Minnesota, the team for which he was a two-time All-Star, but returned to the Rangers in the offseason.
If healthy, the 38-year-old Guardado seems like a sure bet to be back in the bullpen and in a similar role that he had last year: get outs and be a mentor to younger pitchers.
"He knows how to get prepared. He knows what you have to go out there and do," manager Ron Washington said. "He sits down and talks the game to those guys. ... He's a leader in the clubhouse. You can never have enough of that."
Guardado's 860 career appearances over 16 seasons with four teams are third-most among active left-handers in the majors. He has 187 career saves, 14th among active pitchers with Billy Wagner (385) as the only active left-hander with more.
Josh Rupe overcame two injury-plagued seasons and threw 89 1-3 innings in relief last year, matching the major league high. Converted outfielder Warner Madrigal made 31 relief appearances over the final three months.
After making 276 appearances for the Angels from 2002-06, Donnelly appeared in 42 games the last two seasons for Boston and Cleveland. In 318 major league games, still 103 fewer than he pitched in the majors, he is 26-9 with a 3.12 ERA.
Turnbow is 17-16 with 65 saves and a 4.30 ERA in 257 games, all but 15 coming the last four years with pitching coach Mike Maddux, who left Milwaukee for Texas during the winter.
"All those guys are just veteran guys who know how to pitch," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "Any given day, they may not have their best stuff, but they're still going to pitch. ... Older guys like that who have been around, they know what it takes."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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