You may remember the Texas Rangers entering the 2012 season with what was widely heralded as the deepest pitching staff in all of baseball. Whether or not it was the best pitching staff was debatable, but being the deepest wasn’t much of a question, as no other team could go seven deep with MLB-quality starting pitchers. Today the Rangers are putting that depth to the test after placing Derek Holland on the 15-day disabled list, joining fellow starter Neftali Feliz.
Having already inserted the bullpen’s long man, Scott Feldman, into the rotation for Feliz, the Rangers will now turn to Alexi Ogando on Sunday in San Francisco to take Holland’s place. Tanner Scheppers has been called up from AAA to reinforce the bullpen.
Roy Oswalt will not be ready to join the Rangers until he has made another two or three starts for AAA Round Rock. Another option for the Rangers would have been to give the Sunday start to Robbie Ross, who has been more stretched out than Ogando so far this year. However, Ogando spent all of 2011 as a starting pitcher, and did so with great success. Also, Ogando is a former outfielder who drew comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero, so having his bat in the lineup in an NL park is an extra perk.
In 2011, only five starts were made all year by a Texas Rangers pitcher besides the original starting five. This weekend, in San Francisco, the 2012 squad will surpass that number. Starting pitching health cannot always be counted on, and after a very fortunate 2011 campaign, it is no surprise that the Rangers are running into some issues with health. One also has to wonder if deep playoff runs in the last two years are paying a toll on some of the young arms in the Ranger pitching staff.
Ross is now the lone member of the bullpen who can truly be counted on to pitch two innings, or longer if needed. Scheppers is a one inning, maybe two, kind of pitcher. This could be an issue because Feldman has not yet finished a 5th inning in his five starts in 2012, and Ogando has not been stretched out this year beyond two innings. Those two will pitch back-to-back days on Saturday and Sunday, meaning the bullpen could be left vulnerable to a heavy workload.
The Rangers are in the middle of a rough stretch of baseball. This injury to Holland adds another wrench to the works. It will be a challenge for this team to overcome, and the best way to do that is by the club working as a cohesive unit. Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison can help by pitching deep in the game and giving the bullpen rest before the Feldman and Ogando starts. The offense may be an even bigger aid by providing the run support that a team’s 6th and 7th starting pitchers need. The road of a 162-game season isn’t easy for any team, and the Rangers may be headed into one of 2012’s toughest times.