The bad situation that is the pitching rotation for the Texas Rangers just keeps getting worse by the day. The rotation started the season with Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, and Nick Tepesch. Tepesch had already been a replacement after Martin Perez suffered an injury just before the season started. Matt Harrison quickly required surgery, forcing Justin Grimm to fill in.
Since then, the situation has only been worse. Colby Lewis, who had originally been expected to return in June, still has no official timetable for return. Matt Harrison, once pegged to return after the All-Star break, required a second surgery and may not return until September. Alexi Ogando has been on and off of the DL for much of the season. Just when it seemed the Rangers rotation could limp into the All-Star break and simply get some rest, the news came down yesterday that Yu Darvish is headed to the DL with what is being deemed as "fatigue" in his trapezius muscle.
Today's start is expected to go to Ross Wolf, although the word is that Neil Ramirez was scratched from his start for AA Frisco for undisclosed reasons, which leaves open the possibility that he could get the nod this evening, although I wouldn't expect it since he would need to travel to Baltimore to do so. Ross Wolf is already with the team on the road.
Supposedly, Darvish will only miss one start and be ready to return at the first opportunity after the All-Star break, but forgive me for not being so optimistic. Clay Buchholz hasn't pitched in a game for the Boston Red Sox since June 8 with a trapezius issue, and there is still no set timetable for him to return. Granted, Darvish was given similar rest around last year's All-Star break as well, but given this year's history with return timetable's given for injured pitchers, I just don't have full confidence that this injury is simply as minor as it's being played as.
Even before the announcement of his injury, I was less than encouraged by the way Darvish has recently reacted toward the media's criticism of his pitch selection, which had led Darvish to make claims that the criticism has affected his pitching.
The American media tells me what to do. I don’t think the Japanese media ever did that. We play a game on the field, not on a desk. And I think we are the experts about the game.
It seemed to be an angry reaction from a pitcher that has recently been in denial about the importance of his fastball, deeming himself to be a "breaking ball pitcher". Despite the results showing otherwise, Darvish feels he is a better pitcher nibbling around the edges of the plate with his slider and relying on opposing batters to swing at pitches out of the zone. When Darvish has been at his best, batters had no choice but to swing at those pitches because they were behind in the count after some well-placed fastballs earlier in the count. His curveball was an important part of his pitching arsenal. His slider was merely a complementary pitch. Yet, at his worst, Darvish relies on the slider too often, as seen by the chart below.
Lately, that nasty curvelball has been virtually non-existant. This isn't a new problem, as Darvish faced the same struggle last season as well. It can only be hoped that he'll make the same adjustments he did to finish 2012.
With 4 out of 5 opening day starters on the DL, uncertaintly with Yu Darvish, no timetable on Harrison or Lewis, and no news whatsoever on Neftali Feliz, it may be time for the front office to test the market to see what's available. Unfortunately, the Rangers are now in a position of need rather than one of luxury, needing some fresh arms to throw into the mix. It isn't likely that anyone like Matt Garza will be the type of player to help the team in the playoffs, and the cost may be too high. Cliff Lee? Sorry, that one's not happening. The Phillies appear unwilling to deal him, he has a backloaded contract, and it would cost too much for a pitcher at age 35.
I just keep telling myself that, at some point, this run of poor luck on the injury front has to turn around. That Colby Lewis will be able to slide into the rotation at some point for a playoff push. That Matt Harrison will finally be able to contribute, and he'll be more effective than he was in his two starts early in the season. That hopefully the bullpen can keep it together long enough to avoid being gassed when the games matter most.
I just keep telling myself, everything with the pitching staff will be OK... well, unless it isn't, and I don't think I'm prepared to venture down that road of thinking.