With all of the new injuries coming to the Texas Rangers’ pitching staff this off season, not to mention the ones that have come up during spring training, it looks like this team could be limping into the regular season. With all of these injuries, only time tell what the Rangers and their pitching rotation will look like come March 31st for the home opener.
The Rangers lost Derek Holland, the number two starter in the rotation, until at least mid-season due to a freak accident in January suffering a micro-fracture in his knee and is not expected to be back until after the All-Star Break. Holland, along with Yu Darvish, were looking to be one of the most lethal 1-2 punches in the American League, maybe in all of baseball, coming into the season, but that will now have to wait. Optimistically, Holland will be able to come back full strength for the Rangers in July. If not, this team might be in panic mode.
The Rangers could also be without Joseph Ortiz until possibly early May after a freak accident back in his home country of Venezuela. Tanner Scheppers, who was expected to compete for one of the spots in the rotation, has recently been scratched from throwing after suffering from back spasms and is listed day-to-day.
The starting rotation this year is looking like it will be a group of pitchers who have been lucky enough to survive the dreadfully long winter. The opening day rotation looks something like this right now: Darvish, Martin Perez, and Matt Harrison, who was having problems with his lower back but says he’s 100 percent and ready to go, then it’s a toss-up between Robbie Ross, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Scheppers and Tommy Hanson for the final two spots. I cannot imagine the Rangers taking Ross or Scheppers out of what was a very reliable bullpen in 2013. Ogando should have a spot in the rotation if he can stay healthy, but that seems to be a problem for Ranger pitchers these days.
The Rangers still want to be careful with Harrison and make sure they do not lose him for the season, especially since he is in the second year of his five year deal worth $55 million. In baseball, those contracts are guaranteed money. They desperately need Harrison now that Holland is out, more than that they need him to have the kind of season he had before he got his big contract (18-11, 3.29 ERA).
Colby Lewis is looking for a spot back in the rotation this year after not pitching in the Majors since July 18, 2012. Several surgeries later, the veteran right-hander is back with the Rangers competing on a minor league deal. Lewis was picked up from Japan in 2010 and went 32-29 with a 3.93 ERA in his two-and-a-half seasons with the Rangers, playing a huge part of their postseason runs and would love to form in this last ditch effort to revive his career.
The other candidate for a spot in the rotation is recently signed Tommy Hanson, who was 4-3 with a 5.42 ERA last year as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. Hanson had a 45-32 record with a 3.50 ERA in his four years with the Atlanta Braves. Hanson pitched to double-digit wins in all four years but his ERA got progressively higher each of those four seasons. With any luck, he could produce double-digit wins and will pitch more towards his ERA numbers when he was in Atlanta, if he gets the fifth spot.
Texas spent big on their offense this year to make sure it was not lacking as it did this past season. Unfortunately, they did almost nothing to acquire pitching besides players who want to revive their careers. However, general manager Jon Daniels has a knack for that and the players he ends up with surprises everybody.
Hopefully, that is the case and the decision to not pursue a big arm will not keep the Rangers out of the playoffs.