The Texas Rangers‘ front office did an exceptional job this past offseason of improving the starting lineup with the acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo along with the riddance of pop-up machine Ian Kinsler. General manager Jon Daniels pulled all the right strings to better the roster, but all of that could mean nothing if the pitching situation doesn’t improve soon.
The injury bug is mainly to blame for the worries Rangers fans feel about the starting rotation. Derek Holland is out until the All-Star break with a knee injury, Matt Harrison is trying to rejoin the rotation after being out since July 2012 and Neftali Feliz is back fighting for the closer role.
New to the Rangers this spring is John Saunders, who compiled an ERA above five last season, and Tommy Hanson, who missed parts of last season due to injury.
The only surefire pitcher Texas employs at the moment is Yu Darvish. Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando are set up to be second and third in the rotation, but not much about them makes opposing teams quiver in the batter’s box.
Ogando proved in 2011 he has the ability to be a shutdown starting pitcher but tailed off later in that season and ended up back in the bullpen. He started 18 games last season and had a 7-4 record, which is nothing to get excited about.
Martin is still on the younger side and is entering his second full year in MLB. His 3.62 ERA and 10-6 record last year was a solid start to his career and exceptional for a fourth or fifth starter. But now that the Rangers need him throwing the day after Darvish, he’ll need to see his numbers improve for Texas to be the championship contenders their fans expect this season.
Thankfully, the middle relievers and back end of the bullpen have the arms to keep the Rangers in close games. Manager Ron Washington has never had a problem with leaving pitchers in a game too long, so the bullpen may be used very often on certain days.
One can only hope that guys like Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers are not run down in September and October from overuse during the summer months, because they’ll certainly be needed come playoff time. It could take some delicate planning from Washington to ensure no one’s arm is out of juice in the final months of the season.
Clay Ihlo is a Texas Rangers writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClayIhlo