What have we learned the first trip through the Texas Rangers rotation?
The Middle Three Pitchers
Bookends would not be what they are without the books contained within them. Now lets talk about the middle three pitchers held up by the bookends and see if they did their job. Those books are represented by Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, and Jon Gray.
Nathan Eovaldi was more like a paperback book. He was good, but flimsy. He did his job sufficiently. He pitched five innings in his start against the Phillies, left with the lead in tact, and ended up getting the win. He was far from dominant in his first start. He did strike out six and only walk two batters. He navigated numerous obstacles and came out the other side.
Eovaldi made use of all of his pitches. The first time through the order he mainly relied on a fastball that fluctuated between 95-97mph. Then he started working more on his cutter, curveball, and splitter after that as the fastball velocity decreased slightly. He was effective overall, and held the Phillies to just three runs in a game that the Rangers won 16-3.
The next night it was Martin Perez. It was a typical Perez night. He gave the Rangers innings as he pitched 5.2 innings, he worked in and out of jams, and lived on the corners and bottom of the zone. He wasn't particularly sharp with his control as he walked three batters.
What did work though was his use of the changeup. It was devastating all night and had the Phillies flailing at pitches that dipped below the zone as it crossed the plate. He ended the night with seven strikeouts. Five of the strikeouts were in pitches in the bottom half of the zone. Perez can be successful up in the zone. as he struck out JT Realmuto and Nick Castellanos there with high sinkers, but he is much more successful down around the bottom of the strike zone.
Perez ended up pitching into the sixth only giving up one run. The Rangers held on to win that game and give Perez his first win of the season in a 2-1 game. Perez is going to have better nights than this when his control is better and he pitches deeper into games as we saw in 2022.
The final piece of the book collection and maybe the best book of them all was Jon Gray's start against the Orioles. Gray is maybe the most overqualified fourth starter. When taking into consideration other teams' fourth starters one might look at Jon Gray and wonder what he is doing with these other starters. He should be grouped with the number two or three starters.
He showed that even in a loss on Monday night. He pitched 6.1 strong innings, and only gave up two runs on the night. He gave up a solo home run to Gunnar Henderson and a solo home run to Jorge Mateo. That was the only scoring on the night as the Rangers lost that game 2-0.
He was the best of the five member rotation but ended up with the first loss of the season. He struck out seven much like deGrom and Perez did, but did not end up with the run support that either pitcher received. He gave up four hits and had two walks. He was in control most of the night and just really had the two pitches that ended in home runs.
Gray relied mainly on a fastball that was between 94-96mph on the night. His slider had good bite on it and generated several swings and misses and also weak contact. He did hang a slider though to Jorge Mateo that was hit out. He did also throw a few changeups as well. He was working mainly off of his fastball and slider for most of the night. It was effective, but did not lead to a positive result in the win-loss column.
Overall I would say that the books in the bookshelf were solid, nothing really special. There was not a great start among those three pitchers. They were workmanlike and each of these three gave the Rangers a chance to win and as a starting pitcher that is what they aim to do.