As the Injuries Mount the Rangers Starting Pitching Continues to Thin
BY: Dic Humphrey
The Rangers went to spring training proud of their starting pitching depth with seven viable candidates. The two that did not make the rotation (Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando) have had 17 and 13 win seasons as starting pitchers in the past. It seemed like a luxury as a year ago, the starting rotation stayed healthy for the entire season. None of the original starting five ever saw the light of day on the disabled list, and the group made all but five starts out of 162.
This year, the team went past the ides of May with the original 25 man roster that opened the season. The clear sailing ended when Neftali Feliz was placed on the disabled list in late May. Scott Feldman took his place, and has made five starts since. Only one, his most recent start last Saturday, has been good.
Derek Holland was next to head for the disabled list. His case is strange. In his final start before being placed on the disabled list, he pitched into the sixth inning and was credited with the win. His fastball velocity noticeably dropped from 93-94 early in the game to 86 later. Afterward, he admitted that he had been suffering from a stomach virus for more than two weeks that had caused him to lose 15 pounds. He was placed on the disabled list the following day and shut down from throwing for a week.
Last Sunday, Alexi Ogando became starting pitcher number seven for the Rangers. He was marvelous for all of three innings, nine up and nine down on 39 pitches. In the fourth inning, he strained his groin running to first on a bunt. He beat the throw to first base for a single, but left the game immediately. Back in Arlington, he underwent an MRI on Monday which was read Tuesday. The results were not good. He was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to Monday, but that extra day probably won’t matter, as he is projected to be out four to six weeks.
Michael Kirkman has been called up from AAA Round Rock to take Ogando’s place on the roster. At this point, Saturday’s starting pitcher is TBA. Most are speculating that Robbie Ross will get the start. He has been groomed as a starter in the minors, and last Sunday he completed four innings after Ogando left the game. Ross is probably good for 60 pitches if he gets the assignment.
Kirkman takes over Ross’s role as the bullpen left-hander if Ross gets the start. However, he was in the rotation at Round Rock and is a candidate to start Saturday. Roy Oswalt also could figure into the mix. His third minor league preparatory start is Tuesday evening in Frisco. The Rangers could hold down his pitch count Tuesday and bring him back Saturday.
Jon Daniels met with beat writers Tuesday and indicated going outside the organization for Saturday’s starter is not likely to happen. This may be a one-shot start anyway, as with another off day next week, Oswalt could make a fourth minor league start and take over this rotation slot the next time it comes up after Saturday. Daniels also said that Holland is doing well and has gained some of the weight back. However, he will be on the disabled list for more than the 15 days minimum.
The bottom line though is that as the middle of June approaches, three of the original seven starters from spring training are parked on the disabled list and the Rangers are scrambling for a Saturday night starter. The depth that seemed like an over abundance a month ago has vanished, and starting pitching is for the short-term anyway in short supply.