Ex-Fresno State star Tanner Scheppers in line to shine in MLB?

Former Fresno State star pitcher Tanner Scheppers finally is starting to make a significant impact in the major leagues — to a point that fantasy baseball owners might want to take notice.

Scheppers appears to have earned the trust of Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington and is being used in a setup role for closer Joe Nathan, often entering in critical situations.

Given the responsibility to pitch late in games and often to hold onto leads or mantain ties, Scheppers is 2 for 2 so far this season in successful appearances, and his teammates have responded offensively each time he has taken the mound.

Scheppers pitched a perfect eighth inning and notched one strikeout while the Rangers were tied 2-2 with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Then the Rangers scored a run during the bottom of the eighth to put Scheppers in position for the win. With the Rangers ahead 3-2 going into the ninth, Nathan got the ball and locked up the game to give Scheppers a win.

In Scheppers’ first appearance of the year on Wednesday, the 6-foot-4 righty came out of the bullpen with two outs in the seventh inning, with the Rangers up 1-0 but the tying run on second base for the Houston Astros.

Scheppers induced a pop up to end the threat. Then the Rangers responded with a three-run eighth to give Scheppers a 4-0 lead when he went back on the mound. He got one more out then gave up a single before he was replaced for Michael Kirkman. Nonetheless, Scheppers was awarded a hold (a stat given to relievers essentially for maintaining close leads).

Why get so excited about two measly appearances? It’s important to note the situations that Washington has used Scheppers in so far — two pressurized moments. And with Scheppers being used in a setup role, that could eventually mean he’s in line to become a closer should he continue to perform well.

Nathan, after all, is 38-years old. And Neftali Feliz, the Rangers closer in 2011, won’t be returning any time soon after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, which has landed him on the 60-day disabled.

So should anything happen to Nathan, Scheppers’ biggest competition to become the Rangers closer would be righty Jason Frasor, who was the Toronto Blue Jays closer for a brief stretch in 2009, and lefty Robbie Ross, who likely would be reserved for lefty-vs.-lefty situations.