Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland is done for two months with a strain of the subscapularis muscle in his pitching shoulder. The amazing Yu Darvish is gone for the year. Not even a week into the season and 40% of the Texas Rangers pitching staff is on the disabled list. Did you happen to notice that 2012 All-Star and 18-game winner Matt Harrison was quietly added to the 60-day Disabled List? The faithful keep rooting for Harry to make it back from his back issues, but that road seems to get a longer every time you check the map. Throw in left fielder Ryan Rua’s sprained ankle and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo’s tweaked back and the first week of 2015 begins to feel a lot like last year.
So, what are the Rangers to do? First order of business is to rethink the pitching staff. On paper, it would seem that Yovani Gallardo would move up to be the ace of the staff, Colby Lewis as the number two, Ross Detwiler third, Nick Martinez at number four and a large gaping hole at number five.
Jeff Banister and pitching coach Mike Maddux need to throw away the “on paper” staffing order. Banister has shown a willingness to be flexible in his batting order and the hitters responded in Oakland to pound the A’s. Now the new manager will have to apply that same flexibility to his pitching staff.
Lewis has shown that he’s come back from his injury problems – Tommy John surgery in 2012 and hip resurfacing in 2013. Pitching is more than just body mechanics, and while he’s not the pitcher he was in 2010, Lewis has the brain of a true pitcher and the fire of a competitor. He’s my ace.
I think Nick Martinez has shown that even as young as he is, he brings a lot to the mound every time he starts. He needs innings and some strong guidance from Maddux and maybe even Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez, but I think the potential upside for Martinez is strong.
Next, I think you have to look to Anthony Bass, who in two relief appearances has looked exceptional. Bass was limited in Houston last year with an intercostal strain, but as he dove for a bunt pop-up, snagged the ball and fired it to second for a double play, it looked like his injury issues are a thing of the past. He’s been set as a long relief guy, but I’d give him the ball in the spot he handled so well filling in for Holland.
I want Gallardo to be great. Hometown boy makes it big with the team he grew up watching. The Rangers need him to be great. But I worried about this move when he came over and I’m still skeptical. Gallardo’s numbers in Milwaukee were so-so for the last few years. Yes, he’s a perennial Opening Day Starter, but he’s only won one of those six starts. The Rangers need some solid inning eating production out of him and they need it now.
Detwiler has to perform better. In his first outing against Oakland he gave up 5 earned runs out of 8 total in 4-1/3 and posted a 10.38 ERA. That can’t happen again. The glimmer of hope is that if he and Gallardo can’t make the contributions the team has to have right now, there is help on the farm. Right-handers Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez and Anthony Ranaudo seem likely candidates for advancement. Both have shown flashes, and as Martinez showed last year, sometimes too rough diamonds polish up pretty well. The Rangers also just signed left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, a 10-year vet with a 4.00 lifetime era, so there are options standing by.
The Rangers also have last year’s Opening Day starter Tanner Scheppers recovering from an ankle sprain in Frisco. He is scheduled to throw there in rehab this weekend but has looked solid in the single inning he’s thrown so far. He had been tagged as the late-inning set-up man this year, but trying times call for adjustments, I’d let the former starter fill Bass’ long man spot.
This year is starting with challenges at every turn, call it the Kinsler Curse or Nolan Ryan’s Revenge or whatever tinfoil hat superstition conspiracy theory you may have, but all Rangers fans know that “this is the way baseball go.” You make the best of it, put the best nine you have on the field and Never Ever Quit. That’s a maxim that should apply to the fanbase as well.