The Back End of the Rotation

Update: Less than 30 minutes after this entry was set to publish, it was reported by TR Sullivan that Tommy Hanson has agreed to a minor league deal with the Rangers, and will come to camp competing for a rotation spot. Most of the following still applies, but take that as you will.

Despite weekend reports that the Rangers and Tommy Hanson were involved in serious talks, the Rangers are apparently willing to look internally to fill the rotation spot left open by Derek Holland's injury.

While that should come as no real surprise, it would appear that last season's rash of injuries to the pitching staff has everyone within the organization holding their collective breath, especially when considering the freak nature of Holland's injury. In doing their due diligence, the organization is likely looking to add some depth -- at the right price of course -- to hedge against any further injuries.

According to the Rangers own Website, the leading candidate to fill the role internally is, before Spring Training begins, Nick Tepesch. Tepesch, of course, earned his way into an early promotion with a solid camp in 2013 and when Matt Harrison went down, he stepped up and pitched well for awhile.

In 93 innings pitched in 2013, Tepesch compiled a 4.84 ERA, although his xFIP of 3.82 suggests that he may have been better than the results would indicate. Tepesch is 25, and given his quick rise through the upper levels of the minor leagues, it's not far-fetched to believe that he could improve moving forward.

It's also easy to forget another pitcher the Rangers will take to camp: Colby Lewis.

Understandably, the Rangers, while getting good reports on Lewis's health, are inclined to treat any contribution from Lewis moving forward as a bonus, if only simply out of fear that Lewis and his bionic hip could fall apart at any moment.

If, however, Lewis can contribute in 2014, his presence would be a welcome addition, and I could foresee a scenario in which Lewis and Tepesch split time in the rotation -- Tepesch hasn't pitched more than 163 innings in a professional season -- in order to limit the wear and tear on both.

Lewis will of course always have a special place in the hearts of Rangers fans due to his previous postseason reliability, but it isn't clear whether or not he'll be able to be effective as he once was. In a lot of way, Lewis and Tepesch are very similar. Both are right-handed, neither rely on velocity, and each is at their best when their command allows them to induce ground balls, something Tepesch did very well in 2013 with a 47.3% ground ball percentage.

Now, perhaps the Rangers finalize a deal with Tommy Hanson sometime this week prior to Spring Training. If so, I'd still expect there to be a competition. Given Hanson's recent injury history, it still remains unclear if he will ever return to his pre-surgery form.

There have also been mentions of Korean right-hander Suk-Min Yoon, although given the current interest of other teams in Major League Baseball, it would surprise me if the Rangers get into a bidding war of sorts for his services.

Chances are, we'll have a better idea of where things stand in two to three weeks, as signings will mostly be over with, we'll start seeing some live pitching, and possibly most importantly, Colby Lewis will be somewhere closer to a known commodity.

But just for fun, here's this Colby Lewis GIF from the 2011 playoffs.