The title of this entry pretty much says it all. Per T.R. Sullivan on the Texas Rangers official site, Ron Washington has ordered his starting rotation for 2012, with stud Japanese import Yu Darvish making his first Major League start on Monday, April 9th, against the Seattle Mariners. Before Darvish, Texas will throw Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison — respectively — in the opening series in Arlington from April 6-8 versus the Chicago White Sox. Rounding out the rotation is Neftali Feliz, who will face the Mariners a day after Darvish does.
This is the same collection of starters most expected even before Spring Training started; all that needed to be decided was what type of sequence they would go in. So it’s no revelation that these are the five guys we’ll see, with proven starters Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando relegated to teaming up as part of one of the most formidable bullpens in all of baseball.
Though being the Opening Day starter is mostly a meaningless designation, I’m happy it’s Colby Lewis, if for nothing else that he’s probably the least talented of the five starters Texas will begin the season with. Lewis has been the most consistent of all pitchers the Rangers have possessed in each of their last two postseasons, so from a symbolic standpoint, he’s paid his dues and earned the right to be the first person to touch a baseball in a worthwhile game this coming year.
Following Lewis are two lefties, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, which is where the only discrepancy lies in how I assumed the rotation would look. In my mind it made most sense to split the righties and lefties, going Lewis/Holland/Darvish/Harrison/Feliz. But it’s all immaterial, really. The likely reason Texas went against this logic was due to financial purposes. Coming off back-to-back American League Championships, there’s a strong chance the Rangers will sell out every seat in the opening weekend series against the White Sox. Starting Yu Darvish the following Monday keeps fans in the bleachers, therefore bringing in money that wouldn’t be as substantial with any of the other four starters, and relieves pressure from Darvish for not starting say, Opening Day, or something.
It makes perfect sense. It also means the third batter he’ll face in the Major Leagues will be the most famous Japanese baseball player of all time, Ichiro Suzuki. Thank goodness for story lines.
Of course, just because the rotation is set on March 29th does not mean that’s how it will look by the time the end of the regular season hits us. If the Rangers could write the narrative of the season themselves, somewhere it would say Yu Darvish grew into the top-of-the-rotation pitcher that they expect him to. Maybe that’s not going to be until July or August. Perhaps it will be right out of the gates. Who knows. But If the Rangers are fortunate enough to taste playoff baseball for a third straight season, whether it be as 3-time AL West Champions or as one of two Wild Card teams, it’s Yu Darvish’s able hands where the ball will be placed. He starts the season in the four-hole of the rotation; though, essentially he’s being asked to carry the team through the playoffs the same way CJ Wilson could not last year. That is why they spent in the neighborhood of $110M to bring him here. Simple.