The Texas Rangers have withstood a myriad of injuries. The number of players on the disabled list and who they are is well chronicled. While the team has been a major surprise with the best record in the American League, they are about to get a valuable piece of the puzzle back from injury.
Starting pitcher Matt Harrison, who lost almost all of 2013 and the start of the current season is slated to return to the hill on Sunday in Seattle. Harrison is a sight for sore Ranger eyes, as his return strengthens a rotation that has been up and down. Adding Harrison to the staff of Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross and Colby Lewis is a sign that stability is about to return to Arlington, if the veteran left-hander can be effective. Matt Harrison being back in the rotation also strengthens the bullpen by allowing the Rangers to slide Nick Martinez into a relief role, along with Tanner Scheppers when he returns from the disabled list.
Derek Holland, Lewis and Harrison are the only three holdovers from the 2011 American League Champion pitching staff. Having that experience back on the hill should be comforting to the Rangers by having a guy who can eat innings and can be very effective. From 2011 to 2013 Matt Harrison won 32 games for Texas with a 3.47 ERA, 271 strikeouts, and a 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings percentage in 409.2 innings pitched. Obviously that is not Cy Young material, but it is very solid, especially for a team that is going to compete for a division title. A bonus to his return to the big league club is his effect on the younger pitchers in Martin Perez and Robbie Ross. We've seen the effect a veteran can have on young players in Texas, such as when Cliff Lee was in a Ranger uniform.
In 2012 'Harry' had his best year with 18 wins, an ERA of 3.29 in 213.1 innings and was an All-Star. All of those numbers were better than Yu Darvish that year, who had 221 strikeouts and dazzled us all. Matt Harrison isn't going to dazzle us. He's going to try to keep the ball down and get hitters to pound the ball into the ground and let his defense do the work. Martin Perez and Matt Harrison are very much alike in approach.
If Matt is 100% healthy, effective and can keep the ball down the Rangers could be in a very good spot going into May. All Ron Washington asks from his pitchers is to keep the team in the game. If Harrison can do that, then the staff goes from question mark to exclamation point. When Derek Holland comes back....look out.
Matt Harrison is a professional pitcher when healthy. The Rangers are hoping to see a professional pitcher on Sunday.
Patrick Despain is the former CEO of ShutdownInning.com and co-host of a new Rangers podcast launching later this month. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickDespain or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.