Just when you think you have baseball figured out, you get thrown, figuratively speaking, another curve. Such is the case with the pitching carousel for the Texas Rangers this season. Last week, we received news that Colby Lewis would not, in fact, make a return to the rotation this season, requiring hip surgery for a problem he's been dealing with for years. This week, we learned that Matt Harrison has also been shut down for the season.
On Wednesday afternoon, news came down that the day after his start against the Milwaukee Brewers, Alexi Ogando required a CT scan due to shoulder soreness. What appeared to be a growing strength a week ago suddenly looks to be a weakness, as Ogando will likely miss at least one start, and if you read a little more into things, might not count on seeing him again this season at all.
Ogando has already spent close to three months of the 2013 season on the disabled list do to various arm issues, and the latest issue doesn't exactly bode well for his longevity going forward. Before he reported soreness, we kept waiting for his post-DL velocity to tick back up into the upper 90's, and it just never happened. On Tuesday night against the Brewers, Ogando topped out at 95, but hovered around 92 on his fastball. In previous seasons, including 2011 when he spent time in the rotation, his fastball maxed out at 100 and yet hovered around 95-97. While velocity isn't everything, Ogando has also lacked command to throw quality strikes, and at times, to throw strikes at all.
Supposedly, we'll hear some news on the Ogando front today, and there is a growing sense that the news won't bode well for the state of the starting rotation, and many would consider yesterday's acquisition of Travis Blackey a preemptive move in preparation for Ogando's absence. What's more is that Matt Garza has looked far less impressive as of late, last night giving up four runs on two home runs, and yet, it could have been much worse. If Leonys Martin doesn't have a cannon for an arm, it's entirely possible that the damage on Garza's behalf would have been too much for Texas to overcome. Nonetheless, as of right now, Texas has four quality starters they can rely on, and with Garza being shaky as of late, the club needs him to step up.
More worrisome than anything right now is the way in which Texas pitchers, most notably the pitchers that are or have recently been through rehab assignments, are falling like flies. Not being a medical professional, I feel like I still must put this out there: In no way does the following indicate a factual statement. It's merely a thought I've had that's gained more credibility in my own mind over the past week.
I have to wonder if there is some sort of disconnect within the Texas Rangers medical staff for this to continually happen. Colby Lewis had originally been projected to return in June, was pushed back, and now has finally been scratched. Matt Harrison was projected to return after the All-Star break, was pushed back, and now has finally been scratched. Alexi Ogando has been battling arm issues all season, and is now potentially looking at missing more time. Neftali Feliz was also shut down this week with what has been called "mild triceps soreness".
The setbacks continue to pile up, and whether or not it's a fair question to ask, I feel like it should be: Does the medical staff have anything to do with these setbacks? Are these guys being pushed too hard to come back too soon? While I don't suspect we'll ever know the real answer to that question, I do know from personal experience that when rehabbing an injury, if you're required to push through something too quickly, it can actually cause other injuries as well as setbacks on the original injury, which is exactly what we're seeing with the pitching staff right now.
Maybe, in the end, we're just witnessing a really bad streak of luck for the Texas Rangers, which is my hope. Hopefully, we'll see no more issues within the rotation, or even for that matter, in the bullpen. This team is good enough to hang on and get it done, but one more bad injury on the pitching front could doom that plan, and that's something no one within the Rangers organization wants to see.