Another day, more questions for the Rangers organization as it relates to the starting rotation.
The Rangers lost another Cactus League game late as the White Sox were able to withstand a 5-run 8th inning from the Rangers to score in both the bottom of the 8th and the 9th innings for a 7-6 victory.
Since Spring Training scores don't really matter, it's easy to not read too much into scores. Nonetheless, it's still interesting to analyze individual performances that happen within said meaningless games.
Joe Saunders made his Cactus League debut and was underwhelming, to say the least. In 3.0 innings of work, he gave up 3 earned runs on 6 hits. Despite the rough outing, Saunders didn't seem to be too worried about the results.
I don’t consider results in Spring Training. I want to make sure everything is good to go. I feel very happy with where I am. Really ahead of the curve from past years.
Given that Saunders is one of many candidates for the rotation, the hope would be that he would be a bit more concerned with results as it relates to proving to the organization he can contribute. I'll still maintain that Saunders can provide a bit of stability to the back-end of the rotation, and you could certainly find worse options, although outings like yesterday are something you can certainly expect at times from him.
Speaking of individual performances, Robinson Chirinos continues to put together a solid Spring. After hitting 4 home runs in 14 at-bats in the Venezuelan Winter League championship series (1.571 OPS), he has continued that trend by going 2-for-2 with a walk in yesterday's game. That brings his Spring line to .467/.529/.533, good for a 1.063 OPS.
I feel I can't emphasize enough that we're talking about an extremely small sample size here in 15 at-bats. Regardless, seeing Chirinos seize extra game time while Geovany Soto rehabs is encouraging.
Chirinos was acquired last April from the Tampa Bay Rays and stashed in Round Rock for most of 2013. He hadn't played at all in 2012 after a concussion from a foul tip off of the facemask in Spring Training kept him out for the season. Prior to that, he had accumulated 60 plate appearances in a brief Major League stint in 2011. With 30 plate appearances at the Major League level with the Rangers in 2013, he now has a grand total of 90 plate appearances in real Major League games.
In other words, despite being 29 years of age -- he'll turn 30 on June 5 -- Robinson Chirinos is still somewhat of an unknown at the Major League level.
In all likelihood, Geovany Soto and J.P. Arencibia will be the top two catchers on the roster on Opening Day. The question then becomes this: If Chirinos continues this type of play through Spring Training, what will the organization do with him?
While the prospect of carrying three catchers on the 25-man roster doesn't seem to be a direction the Rangers would go, the fact that Chirinos can also play the corner infield positions would seem to help his case. However, keeping Chirinos would likely mean the club would need to leave either Michael Choice, Engel Beltre, or another reliever off of the roster.
Given that Choice figures to be part of some sort of future in Texas, and he's impressed in his own right this Spring, the Rangers would likely need to decide whether keeping Chirinos and stashing Choice in Round Rock would be the best option. Furthermore, it would seem to compoun the whole Choice vs. Beltre debate, which would likely be a separate conversation in its own right.
Whatever the Rangers decide to do, the organization has players that are, to this point, making the decisions tougher, which all in all, is probably a good problem to have.
Perhaps the next few weeks will weed out the pretenders, but when you're basing roster decisions off of meaningless games, it becomes more difficult to decide what the best options are in preparation for a 162-game (and hopefully longer) season.