THE RUGGED ROAD
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The bullpen has Frank Francisco pitching at an All-Star level to close games and almost nothing else. There have already been numerous changes, and more are certainly on their way. Former Rookie of the Year, Jason Jennings is becoming a reliable middle reliever, usually tossing more than one inning at a time, but he can’t pitch every day. C. J. Wilson is inconsistent, and Eddie Guardado has been awful!
Derrick Holland is also in that pen, and his use is curious. Holland is 22 and one of two top starting pitching prospects in the Ranger system. Texas has said they want to acclimate him to the Majors out of the bullpen, rather than continue to groom him as a starter with regular AAA work. Holland has said he was told, he’d most likely enter games at the start of an inning, yet two of his first three appearances have come with two outs and the bases loaded in close games. Four of the six inherited runners have scored. This is supposed to build his confidence?
This week’s road trip promises to be one of the most rugged of the season, as it includes two of the dreaded two-game series on the West Coast ( Oakland after Seattle) finishing this weekend in Chicago. It also promises to be one of the most critical junctures of the season, as 10 of their next 13 games are against A. L. West opponents. Each of those games effectively counts double in the standings, as a win is not simply a win; it is also a loss for a divisional opponent. As wide open as the West looks, every loss for a divisional opponent has value at this stage of the season.
The trip comes at a time when injuries are beginning to take their toll. Josh Hamilton missed last week with a rib cage injury that ultimately forced him to the disabled list on Friday. Starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been out for the past few days with a mysterious eye ailment, hastening the recall of AAA catcher Max Ramirez. However, Saltalamacchia now appears to be okay, and speedy outfielder Greg Golson will join the Rangers in Seattle to take Ramirez’s roster spot. With a rainout last Wednesday, Texas pushed the rotation back a day, setting up number one and number two starters, Millwood and Padilla, to pitch the Seattle series. ( Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu is also set up to start his two top starters – Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard against the Rangers.) A good start against the surprising division leaders will go a long way to allaying the rigors of two-game series, and West Coast travel.
By: Richard W. Humphrey
MLBcenter.com Texas Rangers Correspondent
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