Rangers have pitching reinforcements
ARLINGTON -- If some other franchise had 60 percent of its Opening Day rotation on the disabled list, the reaction to this situation could include panic, demoralization and the contemplation of desperate personnel moves.
But the Texas Rangers, who actually have 60 percent of their Opening Day rotation on the DL, simply call up another pitching prospect and expect to win.
And these expectations consist of more than empty rhetoric and empty promises. The Rangers, winners of back-to-back American League pennants, have the second-best record in the Major Leagues as we speak, just percentage points behind the Yankees. Injured pitchers or not, this group isn't going away any time soon.
The Rangers did have a nice bout of good health at the beginning of the season. They did not have to make a move to the disabled list until May 21.
"It was borderline boring," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday. "We had nothing to do."
The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Three Texas starters are on the DL: Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis. Lewis went on the DL Tuesday with tendinitis in his right forearm. The Rangers expect him to miss only the two starts he would have made between now and the All-Star break.
"We expect that he will be able to bounce back and be activated after the break," Daniels said.
The disabled-list trio of starters could also be considered a quartet. Alexi Ogando was primarily a reliever for the Rangers this year, but he injured a groin muscle while making his one start of the season, in place of Holland who had gone on the DL with a stomach virus.
At least none of these injuries was season-ending. The latest any of the injured pitchers is expected to return is late July or early August in the case of Feliz.
When Daniels was asked if the injury situation will lead him to seek out help in the trade market, he responded:
"I don't think it does. The group we're going to get back is probably more impactful than anybody we could get out there."
The Rangers, of course, have already made some important pitching acquisitions. One of them, Yu Darvish, was on display Tuesday night in a 7-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers. His status has quickly climbed from being a highly publicized import to becoming a staple of the Rangers' rotation.
Darvish had control problems early and paid for them with two runs after a walk and a hit-by-pitch in a 29-pitch first inning. But with the Rangers' bullpen needing some relief of its own, Darvish managed to dig in and work seven innings.
Rangers manager Ron Washington noted that Darvish typically becomes more proficient as the game progresses. This is a particularly useful trait when the game-time temperature is 103 degrees. Darvish was obviously good enough and tough enough to deal with a difficult Detroit lineup and the relentless Texas heat.
He also seemed modest enough to deal with the hype. He is tied for the AL lead in victories and is among the league leaders in strikeouts. Given these numbers, Darvish was asked, did he think that he had made himself a candidate for the American League All-Star team?
With a small smile, Darvish said through an interpreter: "I think I also lead the league in walks." Darvish added that it was not for him to judge himself an All-Star. Very nice.
There is plenty of praise to be found for Darvish in other quarters. Tigers manager Jim Leyland, while he pointedly did not place Darvish on a pitching pedestal, did find plenty of positives in his discussion of Darvish's ability.
"He's got good stuff," Leyland said. "He's an impressive guy. To be honest with you, I tip my cap to him, because he's got good stuff. But there's a lot of good pitchers over here. He's a very good Major League pitcher. I want to give him all the respect in the world, but we see good pitchers all the time. I don't want to make it sound like I'm not impressed with Darvish, because I'm very impressed with him. But we see a lot of good pitchers and you've got to be able to beat them if you want to win anything.
"But he's very good. He's got a nice assortment [of pitches], he's aggressive. He's got a very good arm. Looks like he knows what he is doing. Very impressive."
The most recent Rangers' pitching acquisition, Roy Oswalt, will make his second start of the season Wednesday night against the Tigers. Oswalt, coming off a brief semi-retirement, defeated the Rockies in his first start. The Tigers might represent a greater degree of difficulty but Oswalt is an accomplished veteran.
The rest of the Rangers' rotation at this moment consists of Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison (also an All-Star candidate) and one of two rookies, Justin Grimm or Martin Perez. Grimm beat the Astros, but then was rocked by the Tigers on Tuesday. Perez will soon be making his Major League debut.
This is not the rotation of the 1971 Baltimore Orioles. But it is also not a crisis for the 2012 Texas Rangers. This is a severe test of their organizational pitching depth. But this is one of the few organizations in a position to pass this kind of test.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.