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Texas Rangers hoping rebuilt arms can carry retooled rotation

The Rangers have a strategy of opting for pitchers with upside, but lengthy histories of injury, as they look to put together a rotation for 2019.
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ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 22: Mike Minor #36 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the first inning against the at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 22, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Believe it or not, we’re less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. Therefore, over the remaining days leading up to the start of camp, we’ll be taking a look at where the Rangers sit at each on-field position compared to where they were last year. 

The nebulous strands of hope that existed at the start of 2018 have frayed to a threadbare state for the coming 2019 season, but there is a reason they play the games between the lines; and everyone starts with the same record on Opening Day. With that in mind, let’s look at the starting pitchers for the Rangers.

Starting Rotation

In 2018:

  • Cole Hamels

  • Mike Minor

  • Martin Perez

  • Doug Fister

  • Bartolo Colon

  • Yovani Gallardo

  • Matt Moore

The Rangers were already at a disadvantage going into last season, betting on one ace and several reclamation projects. When Martin Perez started the season on the disabled list after an unfortunate bull incident, the Rangers were forced to rely on the timeless legend of Bartolo Colon. 

When Texas realized that Mike Minor’s innings would have to be more closely monitored than originally thought, they brought aboard Reds castaway and one-time Ranger Yovani Gallardo. Matt Bush’s transformation as a starter took a turn for the disabled list. Matt Moore was…Matt Moore.

Once the team jettisoned Cole Hamels to the Cubs at the trade deadline, the team entered its experimentation phase. Texas called up youngster Ariel Jurado to make a few starts, moving Moore to the bullpen and toward the end of the year, they began toying with the latest baseball strategy craze – the opener. 

Utilizing middle relievers for an inning or two at the beginning of games made for a few less than entertaining baseball games, but a lot of feel good stories. There’s a real possibility that you will see the Rangers opt for the untested strategy again in 2019 should their depth be tested.

There wasn’t a single starter who threw over 160 innings with Texas last year. The one who came closest, Minor, had to have his innings limited towards the end of the season as he completed his first season back from being exclusively a bullpen arm in Kansas City which followed seasons where he had trouble staying healthy when he pitched as a starter. 

There was no constant to the 2018 Texas Rangers’ starting pitching corps. Colon, unflappable as anyone, had several streaks of brilliance, followed by several streaks of the opposite. He eventually moved to the bullpen, as Texas sought to find future rotation arms from its farm. Gallardo, after a disastrous, short tenure with the Reds, was also up and down throughout the year, although he provided a far more reliable outing than most.

Overall, the 2018 Rangers used 12 different starting pitchers and had three traditional relievers make starts for them as openers. Depth is always an issue for teams when it comes to starting rotations and it could become a key theme for the 2019 Rangers, as well.

In 2019:

  • Mike Minor

  • Lance Lynn

  • Edinson Volquez

  • Drew Smyly

  • Shelby Miller

If you thought Mike Minor was under innings limitations in 2018, wait until you get a load of 3/5 of the 2019 Texas rotation.

How many innings did Edinson Volquez, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller combine to pitch in 2018?

Sixteen total IP. 

All 16 of those were by Miller. They weren’t pretty, either as he was attempting a comeback from Tommy John surgery.

That being said, neither Mike Minor nor Lance Lynn will be under innings limitations going forward, so as the back three build towards some extended innings in the summer, new manager Chris Woodward will have to do some finagling with Minor’s and Lynn’s outings to ensure the bullpen doesn’t get overworked.

Volquez – once traded by Texas for Josh Hamilton – returns to the Rangers after a 13-year career, bouncing from the Reds, Padres, Pirates, Dodgers, Royals and Marlins. He spent all of 2018 rehabbing from ligament reconstruction surgery in 2017. In a rotation short three arms, Volquez has one of the easiest tracks back to the Majors following an injury-robbed season.

So, too, does Drew Smyly. Smyly, whose most recent stop was in Chicago with the Cubs, was traded to Texas with a player to be named later for another player to be named later. The move was essentially made to mimic Texas paying off Cole Hamels’ $6 million option. The 29-year old hasn’t pitched in two years, due to complications in coming back from Tommy John surgery. All seems well now and he’s poised to prove he still has some impressive upside.

Shelby Miller is hoping for better luck. After a tumultuous stint with the Diamondbacks, Miller had Tommy John surgery – the Rangers have a theme going here – and had some issues coming back from it last season. Miller pitched well enough to be successful in Arizona, but never received the offensive support he needed. Before his time in Arizona, he had been a standout pitcher for both the Braves and Cardinals. The Rangers are banking on him being healthy and ready to bounce back. 

So, total, the Rangers have penciled in two pitcher going into their second seasons as starters after 2017 was spent elsewhere, two pitchers rebounding from Tommy John surgery, and one pitcher rebounding from almost Tommy John surgery. 

On MLB Network Radio, Lynn said that if everything goes right for the Rangers, they have a chance to be sleepers. That’s a lot of ifs. And the ifs start in the rotation. But, as Lynn said, IF all five of these pitchers pitch to once fabled form…well, maybe Jon Daniels deserves an executive of the year award. 

Do you think the Rangers have done enough with their retooled rotation to survive the 2019 season or do they need to continue to look for arms to get them innings? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB

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