The Texas Rangers haven’t set the team’s pitching rotation for 2012, a task that will be tougher than ever this season after the departure of CJ Wilson to the Los Angeles Angels via free agency. The Rangers signed Japanese phenom Yu Darvish in January, but he’ll likely man the No. 3 spot in the rotation as Derek Holland will hold down the No. 2 slot and Colby Lewis will be the ace. That leaves Matt Harrison at fourth and Texas will need a big year from him to have any hopes of returning to the World Series.
Harrison completed his first full year as a starter in 2011, pitching a career-high 185 2/3 innings. He finished the year 14-9 while striking out 126 and walking 57. He did this with the lowest run support average of any Rangers pitcher at 4.99 runs per nine innings pitched.
However, Harrison wasn’t nearly as good in the postseason. His inconsistent play caused him to become a liability for the team and his awful performances in Games 2 and 7 of the World Series capped a forgettable playoff performance.
Harrison seemed like a young man on his way up the Rangers’ pitching ranks, but then flopped in the Fall Classic. While starting Games 2 and 7, Harrison pitched a total of 7.2 innings, giving up 11 hits, eight runs (six earned) and two home runs while striking out four and walking three. Harrison didn’t last past four innings in either start and the Rangers lost both games.
The Rangers are hoping Harrison learns from his two World Series starts as he vowed he would and be a reliable starter in 2012, including the postseason. With Wilson gone, Lewis and Holland will have to shoulder the pitching load while Texas feels out Darvish. That leaves Harrison to hold down the No. 4 spot in the rotation while the Rangers decide who will man the occasional No. 5 spot.
If the Rangers are to return to the World Series, it will take an even better regular season from Harrison in 2012. If Texas is to have any hope of winning the franchise’s first title, it will require at least one quality start from Harrison in the 7-game series. October is a long ways away, but the preparation for that starts now and a lot is riding on Harrison’s left arm.
Follow Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin