Rangers Starting Rotation
For the Rangers, 2011’s Spring Training was always about the rotation. The Michael Young side show stayed just that. Nothing developed from it and more than likely nothing will. Chuck Greenberg’s departure was another issue that popped up, but once again the rotation debates trumped that during the pre-season. Why? To men like Nolan Ryan, Mike Maddux, Jon Daniels, and Ron Washington baseball is won with pitching and defense. In the deepest rotation battle the Rangers have ever seen, Matt Harrison, Tommy Hunter, and Derek Holland were named as starters filling out the rest of the spots behind Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson. So what does this rotation look like for the 2011 season?
The Rangers have an unusual top of the rotation. Their best two pitchers have only one season of quality work as starters. Lewis has been unable to pitch a full season in the United States, because of injuries and poor performances.
Wilson was a middle reliever and closer prior to his move to the rotation. 2010 was a career year for the convert. Wilson has always been a quality pitcher, but his innings are a primary issue. Moving from the bullpen to the rotation is never easy and has resulted in some untimely injuries during the second year for some well known names, including Justin Duchscherer.
Lewis struggled with injuries and performance prior to pitching in Japan. His time in Japan revitalized his career and the Rangers gave him an opportunity. Lewis not only earned it, but 2010 was a statement for Lewis. He finally became the pitcher the Rangers envisioned when the drafted him in 1999.
Harrison will try to pitch his first full season as a starter at the major league level. He has failed in previous seasons due to injuries. Last year a stint on the disabled list cost him his job as Hunter and Holland both forced their way onto the rotation. The young left hander will try and prove that this time around he can pitch consistently and for a full season.
Holland had the best stuff amongst those that vied for a rotation spot this spring. He has always had good stuff, but his issues seem to be linked to injuries and consistency. Holland also has a history of giving up a lot of home runs. In the hitter friendly confines of Arlington this could prove fatal.
Hunter was supposed to have a spot in the rotation, but according to Yahoo Sports he suffered a moderate right groin strain and is out until May at the earliest. That leaves Alexi Ogando and Michael Kirkman as the two possible choices. According to T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers announced that Dave Bush will be the long reliever. Ogando is supposed to start in Hunter’s place this week. If everything goes as scheduled expect Ogando to become the fifth starter. He has a nasty slider and a mid 90s fastball. There is a chance that Ogando may make the rotation if he pitches well. He has the fastball and secondary pitches to be a major league starter, but it all comes down to execution. The right hander has until May to prove that he belongs in the rotation.
With the injuries suffered by the Rangers this late into Spring Training another name that can crop up is Scott Feldman. The former 17 game winner lost his spot last year when he couldn’t control his sinker. During the off-season he underwent knee surgery that will likely keep him out until June. If there is still uncertainty about the last spot in the rotation by June or July, then Feldman has a fair chance of returning as a starter.
Overall this isn’t a dominate rotation, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. There are just a lot of question marks for the Rangers going into the 2011 season. The Rangers have a lot of upside with this rotation, but they haven’t shown the ability to be healthy or consistent. That is where depth comes in. The team has a lot of depth in the minors with Kirkman and Hurley. If those two put together a strong couple of months there is a high possibility one of them may come back. As Opening Day nears, the Rangers biggest question is the same that they’ve had for decades. Do they have enough pitching to win the division?
By: Luke Truxal
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