Mar 7, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcherMichael Kirkman
(50) throws in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Surprise, AZ. The fourth and fifth starters sport for the Texas Rangers are still up for grabs, so who is going to take them? We have a large group of talented pitcher all vying for those last two spots, as we discussed last night on the Ranger Report Podcast. Pitchers like Joe Saunders, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hanson, Nick Tepesch, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman. That is seven guys attempting to fill just two rotation spots, for now. We will see what kind of spring Alexi Ogando has, as there is a possibility that his spot could also come open before the season starts.
Hanson, Lewis and Saunders are the most experienced of the group, but two of those guys are coming off of surgeries and not really playing last season. Lewis, who has only thrown 2.2 innings so far this spring, has an ERA of 6.75 in those innings. He has given up two runs on three hits and three walks, so he appears to be limiting the damage. He needs to start impressing as camp goes on if he wants to win one of those spots. Tommy Hanson has thrown 4.1 innings and has an ERA of 4.15. He has give up three runs on five hits and walked just one while striking out four. Saunders looked good in the “B” game that he pitched in on Friday. He is going to get a lot more chances to pitch coming up, as I believe the Texas Rangers really want him to win one of those spots.
Nick Tepesch has thrown 5.0 innings and has an ERA of 5.40. He has surrendered three runs on three hits. He needs to step it up a little in order to stay in the competition in my opinion, but I think that he can. I would like to see Nick go deep into this competition. Scheppers so far has had a great spring, and he is not one I figured to be in the discussion for a starters position for very long, but it is looking like I may have been wrong. Scheppers has thrown 4.2 innings and has a very solid 1.92 ERA so far. He has allowed one run on two hits and struck out three. He is really fighting for that spot and putting on a show so far. Robbie Ross has also thrown 4.2 innings and has a very respectable 3.86 ERA. He has allowed two runs on four hits and two walks and two strike outs. He is doing a good job of commanding the ball and is most definitely still in the hunt for one of those spots.
Michael Kirkman has been in a category all to himself so far this spring, quietly getting the job done in a big way. In 5.0 innings Kirkman has yet to give up a run and has only surrendered two hits and two walks while striking out four. Kirkman may be back to full health after several health problems and other issues over the past few seasons. It may be time to finally trust Kirkman, and I hope it is because I really like the guy. I want to see him succeed. If the season started today, I think I would have to give the spots to Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman, but there is still a lot of spring training to go before that decision needs to be made.