While the Texas Rangers managed to avoid the injury bug for the majority of Cactus League play, they haven’t been so lucky over the past few days.
With injuries to key pieces of the pitching rotation, Ron Washington has some serious decisions to make prior to next week’s opening day.
Ranger pitchers Arthur Rhodes and Tommy Hunter have suffered injuries which will make them questionable for the first part of the 2011 season.
Arthur Rhodes is battling wrist tendonitis and recently received a cortisone shot to relieve swelling and inflammation. Rhodes’ return will be important for the Rangers rotation as he is expected to make a play for one of the starting spots, especially given the recent injury to one of last season’s surprises, Tommy Hunter.
Hunter could be out for up to six weeks with a groin injury similar to that which sidelined him during the 2009 season for 10 weeks. Due to advancements in treatment options, Hunter’s rehab shouldn’t take as long during April and he could return more quickly than anticipated.
Alexi Ogando’s name has also popped back up as candidate for a starting gig.
Ogando has some good stuff, we have seen it from time to time, and he showed the ability to take control of batters during Cactus League play.
Unfortunately, like Feliz, Ogando may not be built for long-term success in starting scenarios and may be best served to stay put in the bullpen.
He had some very poor stretches in Arizona and if this translates to starts it could prove to be quite a hole to dig out of for the Rangers relievers and an offense which will be expected to score runs in bunches all summer.
Brett Tomko is a major league journeyman that signed with the Rangers just last month, his twelfth team overall. He has had a solid camp with over 13 IP, an earned runs average under five, and holding opponents to a .288 average.
Tomko has the ability to eat innings as either a starter or in long relief. If the injury bug continues to bite, he could easily spot start during the dog days of June and July.
Pedro Strop is a darkhorse to emerge within the Rangers’ staff.
Strop was lights out during camp, posting 13 strikeouts and giving up only 2 hits over nine innings pitched. Strop’s opposing batting average was a team best of .229, a great number regardless of the number of innings pitched or batters faced.
The injury bug aside the reigning AL champs are shaping up nicely.
Although there are voids to fill, Jon Daniels will make the moves necessary to ensure the best possible 25-man is in place for opening day.
This time last season, the Rangers had Scott Feldman take the rubber on Opening Day coming off a stellar 2009, everyone was excited about the resurrection of Rich Harden, and Frank Francisco was still the anchor at closer.
Each of these storylines was an afterthought by May.
Some of the overlooked commodities from spring training could pan out and be the next big thing to push the Rangers over the top in the AL West and toward another World Series appearance.
Which Rangers pitcher do you think will make the greatest impact in 2011?