Jose Leclerc retains role as Rangers closer

Jose Leclerc will begin the season as the Texas Rangers' closer, according to manager Chris Woodward, who referred to the hard-throwing right-hander as "one of the best pitchers in baseball."

Woodward named Leclerc as the closer Friday night at the Rangers' Winter Warm Up event. The first-year manager said he wanted to clarify Leclerc's role before spring training began.

"I felt he needed to understand that going forward, get used to being the closer," Woodward said. "He doesn't want anything handed to him. He has to earn it. But he's ready for it."

Leclerc, 25, emerged as Texas' most effective reliever last season, going 2-3 with a 1.56 ERA and 12 saves in 59 appearances. He took over as the Rangers' closer in August after Keone Kela was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and was dominant down the stretch, closing out the season with 29 strikeouts over 18 scoreless innings.