Results tagged ‘ Matt Harrison ’

Bad Moon Rising

Adrian Beltre 2Just when it looked like things were settling down for the Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre shakes everything up again. As Michael Corleone famously said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Everything was going swimmingly well for the Rangers Tuesday night. The offense was churning out hits and scoring runs at will against the Red Sox, even with a different type of line-up for Ron Washington. Michael Choice got the start in center field, leaving Leonys Martin on the bench. Mitch Moreland also got the night off against the left-hander. Wash had both ends of the second base platoon, Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy, in the game and had Beltre occupy Moreland’s DH slot. So of course, on a night when he doesn’t have to play the field to save wear and tear on his body, one of Adrian’s quads tightens up and he pulled himself from the game in the fifth inning. Beltre won’t play today’s finale, either. He’s already jetted back to Texas to get examined by the Rangers’ team doctor.

I’d love to say this is a precautionary measure and Beltre will be back in the line-up Friday night when the Astros come to town. After all, he’s dealt with bad hamstrings the last two seasons and stayed on the field. Going back further, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody tougher than Beltre, as described in a pre-season article on ESPN.com:

Years before Beltre headed north, Welke discovered how tough the slugger could be when he visited him in the Dominican Republic shortly after an offseason gone awry prior to the 2001 campaign.

“His appendix burst and he nearly died,” Welke said.

The wound from the surgery done in the Dominican Republic also didn’t heal properly. He had to have a second surgery during spring training that year to close it, and he lost about 30 pounds. Yet he was determined to return to the field as soon as possible.

“He tried to play games with a colostomy bag attached to him under his uniform,” Welke said. “Can you imagine? That’s how badly the guy wanted to play.”

That’s what makes this early departure troublesome. Maybe it is just one of those, “We’re just two weeks into the season, let’s make sure he’s ready for everything to come” type of deals. The pessimistic me says, “Nope. This is something more.” After all, Adrian Beltre wants to play baseball. He loves to play baseball. If Wash schedules him for a day off, the odds are better than 50-50 Adrian will talk him out of it and he’ll play. This time, however, he pulled himself from the line-up in the middle of the game and apparently agreed pretty quickly to go get it checked out in Texas. That tells me this is something Adrian is REALLY worried about.

If Beltre goes on the DL, there are no really good options for Texas. Kevin Kouzmanoff had a good spring and could be brought up to replace him but face it: Nobody can replace Beltre’s defense on the field and not many can provide his offense either. A Kouzmanoff MIGHT prove adequate for a 15-day DL stint but not much more than that. Without Beltre, there’s not a lot of protection for Prince Fielder in the line-up. I can see Alex Rios moving from fifth to fourth and that will help somewhat. It will also make the bottom half of the Rangers order even weaker.

Texas pitching is on a three-week trajectory to settling down. Colby Lewis returns Saturday, Matt Harrison is about three weeks away from a return himself. The last thing the Rangers need is troubles on the offense (and defense). Losing Adrian Beltre for any amount of time could be disastrous for the Rangers chances in 2014.

Roster Projections 3/25/14

Jurickson Profar: Out 10-12 Weeks

Putting the roster pieces together.

Putting the roster pieces together.

Geovany Soto: Out 10-12 Weeks

The Rangers’ injury woes have mounted, but at least we can hold on to this: If anyone was going to miss 10-12 weeks, from an offensive perspective, Profar and Soto were probably two of the LEAST important cogs in the line-up. Not to say the line-up won’t miss them, but compared to Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo, it’s a hit that’s tolerable to the Rangers..

Still, these events open roster spaces and, with only six days to go before the Rangers have a date with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cliff Lee on March 31st, the thought of what the Rangers’ roster will look like (come Monday (it’ll be all right) (Thanks Jimmy Buffett) becomes an interesting exercise.

Here’s what we know with certainty on offense because they aren’t injured in any way, shape or form as I write this:

Prince Fielder

Adrian Beltre

JP Arencibia

Leonys Martin

Alex Rios

Michael Choice

Here’s what is highly probable, as in they have reported injuries but it isn’t expected to put them on the DL to start the season:

Elvis Andrus

Mitch Moreland

Shin-Soo Choo

That’s only nine players. The Rangers still need a back-up catcher, another outfielder, a starting second baseman and a utility infielder. I suspect Robinson Chirinos will be the second catcher. He’s been excellent in camp and deserves a roster spot. Since Moreland has gotten some reps in left field, I think the Rangers are leaning towards him as the fifth outfielder at this point, meaning Texas really needs a starting second baseman and TWO utility infielders. Kevin Kouzmanoff has had a good spring as well and likely will get one of those spots to provide a third base back-up for Beltre. Now the question is, will Texas go for a platoon at second base while Profar is out? The candidates thus far are Brent Lillibridge, Josh Wilson, Adam Rosales and Kesuke Tanaka. Of these, I think one stays, either Wilson or Rosales. As for the last offensive roster slot? I’m betting on someone who is among the last cuts in someone else’s training camp or gets obtained in a minor trade before Opening Day. That’s how the Rangers got Matt Treanor in 2010 and Andres Blanco in 2011.

Thus, the Opening Day offense is:

1B: Fielder

2B: Wilson or Rosales

SS: Andrus

3B: Beltre

C: Arencibia

LF: Choo

CF: Martin

RF: Rios

DH: Moreland

Bench: Chirinos, Kouzmanoff, Choice, Mystery Infielder

BaseballFor the pitching staff, Texas has a starting rotation in flux. Matt Harrison isn’t ready to help at season’s start. The back-end of the rotation is still unsettled. Let’s start by looking at health again. Here are the definite roster members who have no reported health issues:

Martin Perez

Tanner Scheppers

Robbie Ross

Alexi Ogando

Joakim Soria

Neal Cotts

Jason Frasor

The only one with a potential health issue that’s a lock is Yu Darvish, who’s officially ruled out to pitch Opening Day. That’s seven pitchers, leaving another five slots open. The following are in the mix for roster spots: Colby Lewis, Tommy Hanson, Joe Saunders, Neftali Feliz, Michael Kirkman, Pedro Figueroa, Rafael Perez and Shawn Tolleson. For this exercise, I’m going to assume Robbie Ross will be in the rotation, leaving one open starter position and four bullpen slots.

I want Colby Lewis in the Rangers rotation. I just don’t know if he’s ready yet, having gone through hip replacement surgery. Lewis is the talk of the camp and I think he’ll help Texas in 2014, but I think it best if he starts the season at AAA Round Rock. By default, that would hand the fifth starter spot to Hanson or Saunders. Neither one excites me. I’ll go with Saunders only because the DFW media seem to feel Hanson would work better than Saunders in the long reliever/spot starter role.

In the bullpen, it has already been established Soria is the closer and Ogando will set him up in the 8th. Frasor and Cotts are there for the seventh inning. Assuming Hanson is the long man, that leaves two slots open. Neftali Feliz has disappointed Rangers brass with his lack of velocity as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. I think he starts the season in AAA. Michael Kirkman is out of options but I don’t think the Rangers see any future for him with the club, either. He might be a trade piece for the extra infielder the Rangers need. I think Tolleson and Figueroa will be the last two pieces added to the pen. Thus we have a pitching staff that looks like this:

Starters

Darvish

Perez

Scheppers

Ross

Saunders

Bullpen

Hanson

Soria

Ogando

Frasor

Cotts

Tolleson

Figueroa

More moves still could be on the horizon between now and Monday that throw these predictions all out of whack. For the short-term, I hope this roster will be okay because for a pennant run, there’s still a lot of help needed.

QUICK NOTE: Every year, the C70 At The Bat blog, part of Cardsconclave.com, does a “Playing Pepper” feature looking at the other MLB teams. Today is Texas Rangers Day and some of my comments, along with a half dozen other Rangers bloggers are there. Make sure you give it a read!

The Walking Wounded

Spring Training records mean nothing. Spring Training statistics mean nothin. I get that.

Still, I can’t help but feel a little disconcerted by the walking wounded and reclamation projects floating around Texas Rangers camp in Surprise this spring. Today brought two more entries to the list: Elvis Andrus will be out for at least a couple of days due to right arm soreness which he’s had throughout camp. Meanwhile, Mitch Moreland could find himself on the disabled list to start the regular season after suffering an oblique injury and getting pulled from a game after just one inning yesterday.

image_20121221102423If these two were the only problems it would be OK with me, but this is the latest in a long line making its way through Rangers camp. Adrian Beltre is having problems with one of his quads and has been held out of the line-up for five days now. Jurickson Profar is just now starting in the field after having shoulder tendonitis at the start of camp. Geovany Soto is only three games into his spring after ankle surgery. Leonys Martin has had some nagging injuries that have him in and out of the line-up. Same with Alex Rios. And that’s just the offense.

Over in the pitching staff Matt Harrison had his injury comeback delayed by sleeping on a bad mattress and missing two and a half weeks with a bad back. It feels like half the pitching staff is trying to come back from injuries: Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria from Tommy John surgery, Colby Lewis from elbow problems and a hip replacement, Harrison from the back issues. At this point, there are only three starters established: Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando. Only Darvish has had what would be considered a good spring. Perez has been inconsistent and Ogando more bad than good thus far (8.43 ERA). Battling for the final two spots, Lewis has yo-yo’d back and forth: one good outing, one putrid. Harrison won’t be ready for the start. Nick Tepesch (11.25 ERA) was so bad he’s been optioned already. Veterans Tommy Hanson (3.24 ERA) and Joe Saunders (6.43 ERA) haven’t outperformed anyone. The two best prospects for the back-end right now are Robbie Ross (2.08 ERA) and Tanner Scheppers (3.12 ERA), but if both earn rotation spots, that leaves two big holes in the bullpen, where Ross served in a set-up capacity and Scheppers was the 8th inning guy.

Back to the offense: the Rangers have hit 15 home runs this spring. Three have been hit by players who were playing Low-A ball in 2013 and have no hope of making the club this year. The power hitting part of the line-up: Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo have combined for only three of them. The biggest bright spot has been Michael Choice, obtained from the A’s in a trade for Craig Gentry. Choice is hitting .378 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. With Moreland a likely DL candidate, Choice will likely be the starting DH for this year’s Rangers.

J.P. Arencibia has been so bad at the plate (.156 BA, the Rangers have put him in several minor league games to face easier pitching. He, along with two starters and the projected utility infielder are all hitting under .200.

Yeah, it’s only Spring Training. The stats and the records don’t mean anything. It does breed concern for the regular season.

Nothing’s Happening While Everything’s Happening

We haven’t even played the first exhibition game of the season, yet there seems to be no shortage of news out of Texas Rangers camp. To wit:

 

Ron Washington, soon to become 5th winningest African-American Manager in MLB.

Ron Washington, soon to become 5th winningest African-American Manager in MLB.

RON WASHINGTON GETS AN EXTENSION

All through the off-season, Jon Daniels assured everyone that Wash would get a contract extension and Wash deserved a contract extension. Yet for four long months, said contract extension was nowhere to be found. Finally the new contract was announced, though many of us were surprised it was only a 1-year extension, through the 2015 season. Wash deserves a longer contract, but I’m thinking the one-year bit wasn’t necessarily JD’s idea. After all, the Rangers’ skipper enters the 2014 season in his 61st year on the planet. While that isn’t really ancient (only three years older than me), maybe Wash is the one who wants to keep it relatively open-ended. The desire is still there but maybe he’s keeping an eye on his health as well. Wash deserves at least three years on his contract and not two. On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember when Walter Alston managed the Dodgers and it was ALWAYS on a series of one-year contracts. Short contracts lead to lots of speculation, but I’m willing to take Daniels at his word when he says he wants Wash to continue managing the Rangers for a long time to come.

NELSON CRUZ IS NO LONGER A RANGER

It was always kind of doubtful Cruz would return to Texas, but the longer he went without signing anywhere, the more we got our hopes up he just might return. Heck, for the one year at $8 million that he signed with the Orioles, it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility it could’ve happened. Cruz (or his agent) badly miscalculated the market and he ended up losing over $6 million dollars because of it. On the other hand, had Cruz taken the Rangers up on the $14 million qualifying offer, it’s likely Shin-Soo Choo or Prince Fielder or both wouldn’t be wearing Rangers uniforms today. I’m going to miss Nelly and his “Boomstick”, but wish him well in Baltimore (except when they play Texas, of course).

ACHES AND PAINSMatt Harrison

Matt Harrison slept on a bad bed and thus will not be ready at season’s open. Geovany Soto had to have surgery on his left foot to shave a small bone that was pressing up against a tendon, Tanner Scheppers has a mild sore back, as does Elvis Andrus; and Jurickson Profar has mild shoulder tendonitis and isn’t allowed to throw in camp yet. It’s amazing how these little aches and pains before even a pitch has been thrown in exhibition play, can make us fans ready to call it quits on the season already. Folks, only Harrison is doubtful for Opening Day. Hard as it is, I’m trying hard to refrain from nail-biting so soon. I refuse to worry until I hear the walking wounded list only two weeks away from first pitch. For now, I’m just treating it as players just taking a little longer to get loosened up.

MEANWHILE IN OTHER CAMPS

While it’s easy for us to think the worst over every little muscle tweak for our own team, the converse is also true: We think every positive article about our rivals is absolute truth and we start worrying about them accordingly. Case in point: There have been a number of positive articles out of Angels camp about Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. If both players played at the level they were at just three years ago, the Angels line-up would be as scary as it gets in the AL West. The thought of it doesn’t please me one bit. I have to keep reminding myself, even if they manage the feat, the Angels still have a weak pitching staff and are going to need every bit of that offense to become a credible threat in the AL West. It must be the Rangers fan in me that makes it easier to imagine the 2014 Hamilton looking like 2010 Josh. For Pujols, he could still be potent, but maybe only to the point of being like he was his first year in an Angels uniform.

In Florida, the Houston Astros have a few new faces in camp. The ‘Stros were terrible in 2012 and, while they’re likely destined to finish last again in 2014, a 10-game improvement wouldn’t be out of the question. Considering the Mariners are likely a little better than a year ago and the A’s are still the A’s, whoever wins the AL West is going to face a lot more challenges than a year ago.

Oh, and one other thing about an AL East rival: The way fans view positive news out of rivals’ camps is the same way many in the media view the New York Yankees. It’s the mystique of the Bronx Bombers (or the Evil Empire, whichever you prefer) that must make them do it. Listening to MLB TV on my radio last night, I heard one of their analysts going all man-crush on the Yankees and how they’ll be so hard to beat in 2014. Five minutes earlier, he labelled the Rangers a non-factor in the AL West. In his “critique” of the Yankees, he talked about how great the pitching staff would be and anointed newcomer Masahiro Tanaka a #2 right off the bat. The Yanks may indeed be very good this year, but I just don’t see how they’re that much improved from 2013. They’ve lost Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, Curtis Granderson and Andy Pettite (I won’t even talk about A-Rod). They’re assuming a big year from CC Sabathia on the basis of weight loss, without noting Sabathia is another year older and has a lot of innings on his arm already. There’s no guarantee Mark Teixeira will ever resemble the feared hitter he once was. They’re also assuming a big year from Michael Pineda, who hasn’t even pitched in two years. Sorry guys. I’m just not seeing it right now.

MLB At BatLAST BUT NOT LEAST

As I pulled into the office today, I noted my smartphone downloading the new MLB At Bat app! In a couple of days, I’ll be able to listen in to exhibition games again. Living in Texas, I can’t go for the MLB.TV component as I’ll never get the Rangers games, but I love getting the Gameday audio! The season draws closer. All is right with the world again.

The End Comes Too Soon

I had modest hopes. To me, a World Series appearance wasn’t in the cards for the Texas Rangers in 2013, but entering the extended regular season finale, I had hopes my boys would be able to extend their winning streak to nine to get a shot at the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. David Price put in a gutty performance and the Tampa Bay Rays ended the Rangers’ season at 163 games.

Still, it was a helluva year. Who would have thought the Rangers would be capable of winning 91 games in a season where:

1) Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli departed, replaced by Leonys Martin, AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman.

2) Berkman was a bust and the team’s best power hitter, Nelson Cruz, got suspended for the last 50 games of the year.

3) David Murphy and Mitch Moreland performed under expectations by a wide margin.

4) #2 starter Matt Harrison only managed two ineffective starts before going down to injury for the year.

5) The Rangers had a starting rotation at one point that consisted of Josh Lindblom, Ross Wolf, Justin Grimm, Nick Tepesch and Derek Holland.

6) The big pitching acquisition, Matt Garza, had many more poor performances than good ones.

The Rangers handled all this adversity and still won 91 games. They did it with a new infusion of youth that will only get better in the next few years, particularly Leonys Martin, Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez, who all showed signs of being major contributors.

Meanwhile, there are some players who won’t return for another round in 2014. David Murphy will most certainly be allowed to leave via free agency. Adam Rosales will also go. The pitching staff may say goodbye to Jason Frasor and even Joe Nathan leaving is a possibility.

Nelson Cruz

Gone? Nelson Cruz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others are iffy. Nelson Cruz will be a free agent. He has stated often over the years he wants to stay in Texas, yet management never saw fit to make him an offer these past three years. Still, they may relent and bring him back as the team’s designated hitter because this team desperately needs some power. I’d love to see utility man Jeff Baker return. AJ Pierzynski could be gone as the Rangers keep getting linked to a free agency pursuit of Brian McCann. After his year ended so poorly, I can’t see Mitch Moreland as part of the plan for 2014. Whether that means Texas will ask Ian Kinsler to move to first (which also opens up second base for Jurickson Profar) or they pursue a free agent like James Loney remains to be seen. And, of course, there could be trades in the future that could see others leave the organization. Maybe the aforementioned David Price could come Texas’ way via trade.

This off-season I expect the Rangers to address their offensive needs as there are only a couple of modifications needed for the pitching staff. Four starters and at least five bullpen pieces are already set. Then I expect Texas will be a better team than they were in 2013. The window isn’t closed yet. It still has a few good years of being open left.

Dear Houston Astros Fans

Dear Houston Astros Fans,

You know it’s been a tough season when you’ve been mathematically eliminated from the pennant race before September even arrives. That’s where you found your team Tuesday. Making matters worse, it looks like 2013 will be the third consecutive season your team has lost over 100 games and, thanks to your minuscule payroll and despite no local over the air or cable TV coverage in the Houston market, your new owner will be turning the biggest profit of all 30 big league teams this year. At least, that’s what the folks at Forbes Magazine say.

Why am I telling you all this? Is it because I, as a Rangers fan, want to rub it in? Nope. I actually want to tell you to hold your head high and enjoy the rest of this season. The fact is, if you’re an Astros fan right now, you are a die-hard because nobody in his or her right mind would want to keep watching this team lose over 100 games year after year. I know. I’ve been a Texas Rangers fan for over 40 years now.

That’s why I want to tell you to embrace this team. Be glad you have found Jose Altuve and Jason Castro. They’re your version of Cecil Espy, Geno Petralli, Pete O’Brien and Oddibe McDowell- players who were supposedly the next best thing ever to wear a Texas Rangers uniform but only turned out to be yet more cogs in the Rangers history of sub-.500 teams. But they were MY guys and they helped pave the way for better guys to come. They were the ones who, on the odd nights when they rose to the occasion, kept giving me optimism that the team had turned the corner and good times were on the way. Altuve and Castro are two of those players who help you see brighter times ahead and I can guarantee you do have brighter days ahead.

All of your full-season minor league teams made the playoffs in their respective leagues this year. The Astros have a very strong farm system and soon those players will contribute on the big-league level. I will make a bold prediction to you Astros fans. I think the Astros will be competing for an American League West title again BEFORE the Los Angeles Angels do the same. The Angels have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Despite their massive TV money, they’ll be paying Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols big bucks long after their effectiveness has gone. They’ll have to pony up more bucks in a couple of years to keep Mike Trout and thanks  to that bad minor league system, have no big chips to trade for established help. No, Astros fans, you may be on a 3-year 100+ loss streak now, but three years from now I bet you’re a force in the AL West. I think the Rangers still will be as well and that’s going to make for some intense battles for the Silver Boot.

When your team comes back and they WILL come back, it is years like 2013 you are going to remember. It is those years that will make the success taste even sweeter. I guarantee it because three years ago, this lifetime Rangers fan got to experience it for the first time. When Texas went to back to back World Series in 2010 and 2011, the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler and pitchers like Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz made all the years of following Scott Fletcher, Don Slaught, Charlie Hough, Jeff Russell, Pete Incaviglia, Benji Gil and Kevin Mench worth it.

People who climb on the bandwagon may get excited when the team they just adopted go all the way (or almost all the way), but the pure JOY belongs to us old-timers, the ones who weather through all the bad years first. That’s why I implore you, Astros fans, to embrace this bad team. Go out to Minute Maid Park in September with no hope and make your owner even richer this year. Come September 1st when rosters expand, you’ll also start seeing the first glimpse of the future Astros, the ones who just might take you back to the heights, the players you’ll adopt as your own just as you love Jose Altuve and Jason Castro now.

I’m not going to apologize or feel bad about my team being 14-2 against your team this year. I’m just going to look forward to two or three years from now when that 14-2 is 8-8 and there could be one big three-game series that will decide the AL West title. Now that’ll be fun. Oh, and thanks for sending us Travis Blackley.

About That Getting Stronger Pitching Staff Thing?

You know, I should be in a good mood right now. I’m supposed to be celebrating the fact that this dude here just broke the team record for most wins ever by a Texas Rangers manager:

Ron Washington: All Time Winningest Manager in Texas Rangers History

Ron Washington: All Time Winningest Manager in Texas Rangers History

I’m also supposed to be excited about Adrian Beltre, our intrepid 3rd baseman and clubhouse leader, was honored as the American League Player of the Month for July:

AL Player of the Month July 2013

AL Player of the Month July 2013

And I’m supposed to be ecstatic that the Rangers have shaved four games off the Oakland A’s lead in a span of just eight days to pull to within two of the AL West leaders.

Colby Lewis

Colby Lewis

Yeah, things are sure happy in Rangersland, don’t you think? But no, first you have to throw the Nelson Cruz 50-game suspension at me. Then, to add to the pain, word comes out today that Colby Lewis, expected to rejoin the Rangers rotation in maybe just a week’s time, has now been sidelined for the rest of the season with bone spurs on his hip. The man went down in the stretch run a year ago and has busted his butt all season long to recover from an arm injury. He rehabbed early in the season and had to be shut down in early May with arm soreness. He started rehab outings again about three weeks ago and was probably just one rehab start away from  making his season début for the Rangers and what happens? An injury unrelated to the arm. Bone spurs on the hip.

The immediate beneficiaries here are Alexi Ogando and Martin Perez. For Ogando, it means at least another three weeks in the Rangers rotation, as it was likely Lewis would have supplanted him next week. Now he appears safe until Matt Harrison returns next, around the end of the month. For Perez, it’s a permanent win. The rookie southpaw has been pitching very well of late. Lewis being down for the season means Perez will remain with the parent club as a starter for the remainder of this season and on into the future.

I feel for Colby. The Rangers did him a solid by re-signing him in the off-season, knowing he wouldn’t be available until at least mid-season. They did this to thank him for the efforts that led to two World Series appearances in two years. It was just a one year contract, though, Just as it’s possible Nelson Cruz has played his last game as a member of the Rangers, so too is it possible Colby Lewis will never throw a pitch for the Rangers again. I suspect that’s not true, as Jon Daniels can almost certainly sign Lewis yet again to a one year deal at a price that is definitely favorable to the Business Office, but it’s not a certainty.

Colby Lewis started and won some of the most important games in Texas Rangers history: He beat the Yankees twice in the 2010 ALCS. He was credited with the W in the Rangers’ only 2010 World Series win. He tossed six innings of 1-hit ball in a win against the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2011 ALDS. And while he didn’t earn any decisions, Lewis had a 2.25 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series. Game 2 went the Rangers way, Game 6 should have.

Colby, if you never again wear a Rangers uniform, know that I, as well as thousands if not millions of Rangers fans, thank you for everything you’ve done for this franchise. The Rangers wouldn’t have gone as far as they did without you and that’s the truth.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 15

Rangers primary logo

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 3-4

Overall: 54-41  (2nd Place AL West) (-2)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Adrian Beltre  ..407/.467/.778  1 2b, 3 HR and 8 RBI

A.J. Pierzynski  .375/.385/.625   3 2b,  1 HR  and 5 RBI

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Leonys Martin   .150/.292/.150

David Murphy  .174/.208/.217

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Cory Burns/Neal Cotts/Wilmer Font/Joe Nathan/Joseph Ortiz/Robbie Ross/Tanner Scheppers/Joakim Soria  A combined 0.00 ERA in 16.2 IP. Only 6 Hits allowed with 1 Save

Derek Holland  2-0, 2.63 ERA  14 K in 13.2 IP

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Justin Grimm   0-1, 18.90 ERA

The All-Star Break couldn’t get here fast enough. The Rangers hobbled into the break with a starting rotation of Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Josh Lindblom, Justin Grimm and Ross Wolf. Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis are all on the DL and they were even joined by rookie Nick Tepesch. When you look at the rotation as it is comprised, it is amazing to even conceive of Texas being 13 games over .500 at the break. A mediocre 3-4 is not that great a week, but considering the Rangers were on the road the entire week against the Orioles and the Tigers, 3-4 wouldn’t be bad even with the starting pitchers we’d expect. One of the three wins was pinning Max Scherzer with his first loss after he started the season 13-0.

As for when the starters return, it might not be this week but next week. Yu Darvish may be back this weekend for the home series with the Orioles. Alexi Ogando is expected back next week, but whether that means he’ll start one of the games against the Yankees or be held back until the Indians series is unknown. How much can be expected of Ogando is also unknown. His first two rehab starts in the minors have not gone that well. Colby Lewis finally starts rehab appearances again next week and could be a month away.

While I was out on vacation, the bullpen got a jolt with the return of Joakim Soria, who’s thrown three shutout innings in his first 3 appearances. Meanwhile, the non-names of Cory Burns, Joseph Ortiz and Wilmer Font threw enough quality relief innings to give overworked Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Neal Cotts a break.

The Rangers’ offense continues its inconsistent ways. Were it not for the injury to Jeff Baker, David Murphy would probably be a platoon player. Elvis Andrus was dropped in the order and now Ron Washington is giving Leonys Martin a shot at the 2-slot in the line-up. Texas needs help in the rotation and in the offensive line-up. It will be interesting to see what moves Jon Daniels makes in the next two weeks leading up to the trade deadline. For now, the team gets three much-needed days off.

Being Spoiled

2010 World Series

2010 World Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

For the past three years, Texas Rangers fans were spoiled. During the 2010 and 2011 trips to the World Series and the disappointing 2012 season that ended in a 1-game playoff with the Baltimore Orioles, we have seen pretty much superb baseball. The offensive line-up, featuring Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Vladimir Guerrero and Adrian Beltre was lethal, putting up over five runs a game on average. The starting pitching was workmanlike, with Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando and Yu Darvish last year, with a late season assist one year from Cliff Lee got the lead to the bullpen, where such notables as Neftali Feliz, Frank Francisco, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Joe Nathan were more than capable of shutting things down. Texas had so many ways to beat you, it was clear you weren’t going to keep them down for long.

2011 World Series

2011 World Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which brings us to 2013. Hamilton, Young and Napoli are gone from the offense. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz have yet to throw a pitch in a major league game. Matt Harrison got shelved after three ineffective starts. Alexi Ogando has hit the disabled list twice. The bullpen has dealt with woeful performances from Michael Kirkman, Derek Lowe, Joseph Ortiz and Kyle McClellan. Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch were not supposed to start meaningful major league games in 2013 and the rookie who was, Martin Perez, is just now beginning to help the club.

Defensively, Adrian Beltre has actually shown some signs of losing a fraction of a step. Beltre has actually committed two more errors at third base than Michael Young (8 to 6), although Beltre has gotten to a lot more balls than Young in the first place. Ian Kinsler missed substantial time on the DL, as did Mitch Moreland. David Murphy has had an awful year, entering July hitting below .220. Elvis Andrus hasn’t been much better, checking into July below .250 and, while always a bit of a light hitter, has seen a large decrease in his extra base hit numbers. Of the new arrivals, Lance Berkman has performed considerably below expectations, A.J. Pierzynski spent some time on the DL and shown little ability to throw out opposing baserunners. Jeff Baker was a godsend until he was high-fived in the dugout by an unnamed teammate, bending his thumb back and putting him on the list of walking wounded on the DL.

No, things have not gone much the Texas Rangers way. Even Yu Darvish, while looking like an ace in many respects, went a month and a half without a win. The bullpen suffers from overwork, with four relievers logging at least 13 appearances in the month of June. Yet here we are, at the end of June, and the Texas Rangers continue to hold on to first place in the AL West, a half game ahead of the defending champ Oakland A’s.

They’ve done it with a good year from Nelson Cruz and a lot of small ball from the likes of Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and now rookie Engel Beltre. Some nights the bottom of the line-up is outproducing the heart of the order. They’re doing it because Tepesch and Grimm, while performing at or below average, are keeping the team in games long enough for the bullpen to take over. The back of the bullpen has been solid, with Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Neal Cotts and Joe Nathan closing the door on most rallies.

The month of June ends with Texas sporting a mark of 48-34. That’s the same record the 2010 World Series team had at the same point, 5 games better than the 2011 World Series team and only 2 games worse than last year’s Wild Card team. Despite a bad start to the month of June, the Rangers went 14-14 on the month and closed out going 3-1 against Oakland, 3-0 against St. Louis (on the road), 2-1 at Yankee Stadium and 2-1 against the Cincinnati Reds. That’s a combined 10-3 against four over .500 teams, three of whom are at or near the top of the Power Rankings.

The first three months have been bright for the Rangers and there’s help on the way without even going to the trade market. Joakim Soria could boost the bullpen as soon as next weekend. Colby Lewis could be ready in late July. Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz are targeting August for their returns. Baker should give a boost to the bench in another week or so. With the July trade deadline coming up, the Rangers will be among the teams most talked about for both starting pitching and offense.

I don’t know if the Rangers can keep this pace up. It’s such a different team, struggling to score runs one night, pitching challenged the next. I do know this. With all this team has gone through in 2013, if they end up winning the West despite all the departures and injuries, Ron Washington will deserve serious consideration for AL Manager of the Year.

Rangers primary logo

 

Not Part Of The Game Plan

You’ve heard the saying “You can never have enough pitching.”? For proof, just check out the Texas Rangers right now.

Going into Spring Training, here’s what was known about the Rangers’ starting rotation. It would be Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and an unknown 5th starter, with rookie Martin Perez being the favorite.

This lasted until early in Spring Training, when Perez took a line drive off his pitching arm, breaking it and sending him to the DL. He is currently rehabbing at AAA Round Rock.

As the spring progressed, other 5th starter candidates began dropping out. Kyle McClellan got injured, Justin Grimm was ineffective, long-shot Cody Buckel totally lost any command of the strike zone (and still hasn’t). By the end of the spring, rookie Nick Tepesch had earned the #5 spot, easily outdistancing his rivals.

This pitching line-up lasted for all of two turns through the rotation. Tepesch hadn’t even had his first start when Harrison hit the DL with back problems. He’s had two surgeries since and probably won’t return until August.

Tepesch performed well in his first start and found himself promoted to #4 starter with Harrison’s injury. Justin Grimm was recalled from Round Rock to replace Harry.

A week ago, Alexi Ogando became the second Rangers starter to go down. While his injury isn’t serious, Texas decided to play it safe and put Ogando on the 15-day DL. Having a 6-game lead makes it easy to decide on the side of safety. So now the rotation became Darvish, Holland, Tepesch (rookie), Grimm (rookie) and now Josh Lindblom. Lindblom was acquired from the Phillies in the Michael Young trade, but was primarily a reliever until, knowing he hadn’t made the club out of Spring Training, asked the front office if he could try being a starter at Round Rock. The Rangers agreed, Lindblom did well and got the call to pitch last night’s game against the A’s. He didn’t pitch well.

Lindblom was optioned back to Round Rock after the game, but he  could be back Monday for a twin bill start against the Diamondbacks.

Now Nick Tepesch has developed a blister on one of his pitching fingers and is going to miss his start against the A’s tomorrow. In his place will be Ross Wolf, an off-season sign who was merely expected to be filler on the Round Rock staff, never an option on the major league level.

Now the Rangers rotation consists of Darvish, Holland, Grimm, Wolf and Lindblom. If you want to rate them on a 1-5 scale, in essence the Texas rotation consists of a #1, a #3, a #6, a #8 and Wolf at best is a #10.

There’s never been a better time for the Rangers offense to make themselves known consistently.

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