When rookie Tanner Scheppers was announced as the Texas Rangers‘ Opening Day starter, the immediate reaction was to think “did Roger Pavlik not answer his phone?” April should be the best time of year for pitchers, because they’re just rounding into game shape after Spring Training and have yet to face the grind of throwing 100-plus pitches every fifth day. Instead of building on optimism and success, the Rangers are hoping that things don’t get any worse.
A few short months ago, the predicted rotation was Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis. That top three is as good as any other trio in the American League, especially with Holland coming off a career year and Perez adding a new pitch (a cut fastball) in the offseason. Harrison won 20 games just two years ago, and Lewis is an inspiring, overcoming-obstacles human interest story.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. Darvish will begin the season on the DL due to neck stiffness. That’s not exactly a major injury, but it’s also the kind of nagging injury that gets worse instead of better. Holland fractured his knee in January and probably won’t be back until July. Harrison had multiple back surgeries a year ago and has been temporarily dropped from the rotation due to, you guessed it, back pain. The club hopes that Lewis will be ready to go by mid-April, but there is no guarantee that he will be both healthy and effective.
And now, drum roll please, the starting rotation for your Texas Rangers as of March 27: Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross, Joe Saunders and Nick Martinez. Scheppers is a career reliever making one of his first professional starts. Ross is also a career reliever, although he did have a very good spring as a starter. Saunders is a recent castoff from the Seattle Mariners and Martinez wasn’t even in the major league camp.
There are all the makings of a slow start and, perhaps, a long season in Arlington this year.