Finishing touches may remain for Rangers
Rotation could get even deeper, with 'pen tweaks possible
SHERMAN, Texas -- The Rangers may not be done putting together their 2012 pitching staff. Major League sources said the Rangers are "intrigued" by the idea of signing free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt and that there is a "pretty good chance" they could trade reliever Koji Uehara soon.General manager Jon Daniels, while declining to discuss specific moves that might be in the works, acknowledged that the Rangers might have some unfinished business this offseason. "I said after we signed Yu Darvish that I didn't anticipate any more major moves, and I still don't," Daniels said Thursday after returning from the Dominican Republic. "But we might tweak some things in the bullpen." What happens in the rotation impacts the bullpen, and that's why the Rangers are willing to move Uehara. They are likely to get Minor League prospects in return, although the Rangers could still use more left-handed relief. Uehara became available because the Rangers signed Darvish. Right now, the plan is to move Alexi Ogando back into the bullpen -- the Rangers have already spoken to him and his agent about the possibility. Ogando is willing to do that, even though he was a member of the American League All-Star team as a starter last season after pitching in relief as a rookie in 2010. "The guy has unbelievable makeup," Daniels said. "He's the ultimate team player. He wants to start, but he also wants to do what's best for the team." Ogando, who would team with Mark Lowe and Mike Adams as the right-handed setup relievers, was 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 2011. But the Rangers signed Darvish to go into a rotation that already includes Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. The Rangers are also moving Neftali Feliz into the rotation after signing Joe Nathan to be their closer. That chain of events is what will force Ogando back to the bullpen. "It seems like we're going to be a stronger team," Harrison said at the Rangers' winter caravan stop in Sherman on Thursday. "Darvish put up good numbers over there in Japan. It will be interesting to see how he does over here, but those are good numbers anywhere. He'll fit right in. Plus, we're putting Neftali in the rotation and I'm sure he'll so a good job, same as Ogando did last year. "You hate to see Ogando have to go back to the bullpen, but I guess nothing is written in stone." Apparently not, because the Rangers are still mulling the possibility of signing Oswalt, a two-time 20-game winner with the Astros who has a long-standing relationship with club president Nolan Ryan. Oswalt remains unsigned, he wants to pitch in Texas and his price appears to be coming down to a level the Rangers could handle. But there is also that matter of fitting him into a set rotation. The Rangers like the idea of having that kind of depth, but they also understand they could have a "messy" situation if nobody gets hurt. Oswalt, 34, who was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts for the Phillies last season, wants to sign somewhere as a starter. He has made just 13 relief appearance in his Major League career, and eight of those came as a rookie in 2000. The Rangers have not made a full-scale commitment to pursuing Oswalt, and some club officials suggested they may be good with what they have now. Scott Feldman, a 17-game winner in 2009 who is now in middle relief, does give the Rangers some proven depth. "As far as I know, I'm going into Spring Training with one of those spots in the rotation, and I'm going to do everything I can to stay in the rotation, stay healthy and make all my starts," said Harrison, who was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA last season. Rangers starters were 74-40 with a 3.65 ERA last season that was the third lowest in the AL. Their .649 winning percentage was the best of any rotation. But the Rangers are still going to have a 40 percent turnover, with Darvish and Feliz replacing C.J. Wilson and Ogando. Adding Oswalt in favor of somebody else would constitute a 60 percent turnover in a rotation that had the second-highest number of wins among starters in club history. "We all have to be ready to go," Holland said. "We got lucky last year having five guys stay healthy all season, and hopefully we can do that again. We all expect big things this year. Other teams got better, but we still have one of the top rotations in the league. We've still got the [American League] title, they've got to take it away from us."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.