Can Rangers overcome barrage of injuries to begin 2024 season?

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers
Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

Coming into the 2024 season, the Texas Rangers were already off to a troubling start with injuries. Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle began the year on the injured list and Nathaniel Lowe was the lone everyday position player alongside them.

Injuries were a known commodity on the starting pitching front but have now plagued the bullpen and lineup. As the injured list continues to grow, manager Bruce Bochy's list of answers shrinks; and the results are beginning to show that.

As if those aforementioned injuries to the rotation weren't enough, Cody Bradford going down is another killer because he briefly filled the void admirably with a surprise showing across his first three starts. His IL stint could be brief, but any lost time with key rotation members is going to be bad.

Bradford has been the Rangers best starter so far this season and off the bat he looked like me may be the answer to the rotation worries. He has a 1.40 ERA so far and has become a valuable asset to a rotation that needed someone to step up. But with him now on the IL and the other starters having a bad string of outings, the rotation sits in a worse place than it began just a few weeks into the season. It's crucial Michael Lorenzen comes in and establishes himself as a contributor in his first few starts to provide some much needed help for this group.

The bullpen, which was a focal point for improvement coming into this season after an abysmal 2023 regular season, has also faced setback due to injuries. This group really can't afford that, though. They already have a small group (and it's getting smaller with Jose Leclerc's struggles) that is trustworthy, and the bullpen received less reinforcement than most hoped for during the offseason due to the Rangers' financial constraints.

The injury that has really hurt the Rangers in the bullpen is the one to Josh Sborz. Sborz was crucial to the Rangers postseason success in 2023, so when he went down after just 2.2 innings this season, it was a devastating blow. His loss has only proved to be more and more detrimental as the days go by, as it has become apparent there aren't many bullpen arms the coaching staff can trust. This group has really struggled in high-leverage situations, where Sborz tends to thrive, since he went down.

Losing Brock Burke wasn't a death knell, but it hurt Texas' depth. Although Burke was likely not long for the big league roster after the Astros shelled him for four runs in less than an inning pitched on Friday night, even losing guys who aren't the most trustworthy adversely affects the bullpen. Depth is the bigger issue here and is a necessary component of a good bullpen. Bochy and Mike Maddux will have fewer options that can take on more volume until the bullpen gets healthy or a replacement establishes themselves as a trustworthy reliever.

The strongest point of this team is no different than the other groups -- injuries have hampered the offensive production as well. Lowe going down was a rough, but was seemingly a manageable loss when it happened. His injury was short-term and the Rangers are well known to have great position player depth. But the platoon of Jared Walsh and Ezequiel Duran have not provided what was hoped for.

Walsh started very strong with hits in each of the first five games. But since then he has only had two hits in his last seven -- five of which he was the starting first baseman. His right-handed counterpart in this platoon in Duran has also struggled after a couple strong early performances.

Duran has played substantially fewer games than Walsh but still has only a .583 OPS and recorded just his first hit this month during Sunday's loss to the Astros. The other right-handed bat that was supposed to split reps with Duran, rookie Justin Foscue, went to the IL after just two major league at-bats.

The injury to Josh Jung was more worrisome when it happened due to its extended nature and how good he looked in the first few games of the season. But Josh Smith has filled his role at third better than the replacement first basemen. He has had solid production at the plate and seems to have taken a big step forward as a hitter. Smith can't quite replicate what the slugging Jung provided, though. The reduced slugging has been noticeable throughout the lineup so far and is a large part of why the offense has under-performed up to this point.

The 2024 Rangers have already been bit by the injury bug -- and hard. The offense will likely be just fine because of the depth and with Lowe returning soon, but things are a little more gloomy on the pitching front. Bochy and Maddux are grasping for answers in the bullpen, having called up three guys from Round Rock just in the last week for added support.

Unfortunately, there's still no resolution in sight. The starting rotation should get Bradford back sooner than later, but he alone isn't enough. The Rangers also need to figure out how to get more quality starts and survive until reinforcements arrive from the IL, especially with the bullpen's renewed struggles.

Here's to hoping injuries don't eat the Rangers alive before they can reach the competitive part of the season.