In what could be some of the worst news we could have received, especially this early in camp, news that Matt Harrison will require an MRI qualifies as falling into gut-wrenching territory.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Harrison experienced some neck stiffness which caused the Rangers to, reportedly, cautiously keep Harrison from throwing. At the time, Jon Daniels said he expected Harrison to be able to throw live batting practice today, but apparently lower back stiffness has blown that plan out of the water.
Lower back stiffness is, of course, what derailed Harrison's 2013 campaign after only two starts, forcing him to have two surgeries and end up being shut down late in the season as he attempted to rehab. Whereas last year's issues were from the left side of his back and this year's appear to originate on the right side, it's worrisome nonetheless coming from a player that is less than a year removed from two back surgeries.
In a best-case scenario, Harrison will see a spine specialist in Dallas on Monday, and if cleared, will only be about a week behind schedule. Of course, the worst case would have Harrison missing significant time and thus forcing another opening in an already thin starting rotation.
Such a scenario would leave two spots open for what would likely be a competition between Colby Lewis, Tommy Hanson, and Nick Tepesch. While I believe Tepesch will be improved after gaining some Major League experience last season, it's still a gamble to count on Colby Lewis or Tommy Hanson being able to jump in feet first.
We probably won't know much of anything until at least Monday at the earliest. If hope prevails, we'll see Matt Harrison back in Surprise next week or shortly thereafter. Nonetheless, the idea that Harrison has become so fragile has to be a huge concern for the organization moving forward, regardless of the short-term prognosis on this particular back injury.