The Rangers get a dose of reality

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM
Member United States Basketball Writers Association

The Texas Rangers are back in town this weekend to begin a three
team, nine game home stand against divisional foes.  Each series is
for three games and the opponents are (in order) Oakland, Los Angeles,
and Houston. The euphoria of the 4-2 opening home stand against
strong teams gave way to a dose of reality on the road over the past
week. The Rangers won the first and last games of the road trip and
lost a season high four games in a row in between against the Angels
and Diamondbacks, two teams projected to be also-rans this season.

The reality of their sub-par pitching staff is the problem. Among
the starters, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn have given a good account of
themselves.  After three starts each, they have combined for a 2-2
record and a 4.34 ERA. Both were rocked hard in their first starts,
but both have been outstanding in their second and third outings.

They have pitched at least six innings and combined to allow just
three earned runs combined in those four starts.
However, the rest of the rotation is a mess. None of the other
three starters have lasted more than four innings in the other six
starts. Edinson Volquez has landed on the injured list with a
strained right forearm.  The best case is that he’ll be back in a
month to six weeks…..the worst case is that his career might be
over. He stayed with the team as it journeyed to Arizona, so he had
not undergone an MRI through Wednesday.  If the MRI shows that he
needs another Tommy John surgery, Volquez said he will retire rather
than undergo the surgery again.  He’s already had two Tommy John
surgeries.

Adrian Sampson gets the first shot at the rotation. He’s pitched
extremely well in two long relief outings and is scheduled to start
Saturday against Oakland.  At AAA Nashville, the two most likely
candidates to get called up to join the Rangers’ rotation are Ariel
Jurado and Taylor Hearn.  Jurado is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his first
two AAA starts.  He doesn’t project to be a top starter in the Majors,
but he throws strikes and can keep his team in the game.  Hearn is
ranked as the Rangers’ number 11 minor league prospect.  He gave up a
run in five innings last Tuesday after getting knocked around in his
first start.

There are better pitching prospects at AA Frisco. Joe Palumbo,
Jonathan Hernandez, and Brock Burke are more highly regarded than
Hearn and Jurado, but they are farther away from being Major League
ready.  The Rangers, however, don’t want to rush these guys, so don’t
look for them in a Ranger uniform until at least June, if at all.
That leaves searching outside the organization for starting
pitching depth.  The most prominent free agent starter available is
Dallas Keuchel, who overpriced himself in free agency. The former Cy
Young Award winner held out for a nine digit guaranteed contract that
has yet to materialize, so he sits at home while 30 Major League teams
play baseball.

Keuchel and the Rangers, though, don’t make sense for each other.
If Keuchel gets to the point of accepting a short term deal to give
himself another stab at free agency in a year or two, he’ll
undoubtedly want to go to a contending team, which the Rangers don’t
figure to be this year. From the Rangers’ standpoint, Jon Daniels
virtually scratched Keuchel from Ranger consideration as Keuchel
turned down the Astros’ qualifying offer last fall and thus carries
draft choice compensation. The Rangers would forfeit the pick they
received from Milwaukee in the Alex Claudio deal (#39 in this June’s
draft) if they signed Keuchel before the June draft.  Daniels has said
they are not willing to give up the pick for Keuchel.
There are not many other alternatives.

Another concern is the closer situation, which was no concern a
week ago.  Jose Leclerc had been lights out since being named closer
last July after Keone Kela was traded.  He started this week having
converted 14 consecutive save opportunities and not having allowed a
run in 25-1/3rd innings. This week in Arizona, he faltered badly in
both games.  On Tuesday, the Rangers went to the bottom of the ninth
leading 4-2.  Leclerc faced four batters and retired just one.  He was
charged with a blown save and a loss when the fourth batter homered to
win the game for Arizona by a 5-4 score.

On Wednesday, he again took the mound in the ninth inning.  It was
a non-save situation as the Rangers led 5-1.  A lead-off single was
followed by two hit batsmen, a pop out to the only batter he retired
and a walk that drove in a run to cut the lead to 5-2 and ended
Leclerc’s night on the mound.  He threw 11 fastballs out of 18 pitches
and only three of them were strikes.  Fortunately, Kyle Bird followed
Leclerc and was able to stop the Diamondbacks for his first Major
League save.

The Rangers’ 6-6 record going into the weekend puts them in last
place in the American League West as the other four teams have better
than .500 records.  Surprising Seattle is sitting at 13-2 to lead the
division.  It’s been an impressive offensive showing as the Mariners
have hit at least one home run in each game to set a new record for
home runs in consecutive games to start a season.

The Rangers next 16 games starting Friday night are against
divisional opponents.  It’s a critical stretch for the team to stay in
the mix.  The offense has been inconsistent at times, but shows
promise.  If the pitching, particularly the starting pitching can
improve, this team may have a chance to hang around the fringes of a
race for a playoff berth.
NOTABLE
• The Diamondbacks’ home – Chase Field – has installed B1K turf
this year, the same as the Rangers plan to use at the new Globe Life
Field.  Owners Ray Davis and Neil Leibman were in Phoenix for the
latest series to get a first-hand look and to evaluate the feel of
this synthetic turf.  Early reports by Arizona’s players are generally
favorable.
• MLB has awarded the All-Star game to Cleveland and Los Angeles in
2020 and 2021.  They further named Philadelphia to be the host of the
2026 game, to celebrate the 250th birthday of the United States.  The
Rangers with Globe Life Field opening next season are strong
candidates to host one of the All-Star games between 2021 and 2026.
• The Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant reported this week that the
Rangers rank in the top 15 Major League teams in franchise value
according to Forbes Magazine.

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