With Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison unlikely to be ready for the start of the season in less than three weeks, and Derek Holland out of the picture until at least the all-star break in July, the Texas Rangers are scrambling to try to piece together a starting rotation before Opening Day on March 31, when we know for sure that ace Yu Darvish will toe the rubber to open the season.
Lewis and Harrison should be ready to roll by the end of April, but you can never know for sure with guys who haven't pitched in the majors in a year, or more in Lewis' case. With that said, the Rangers are still trying to figure out the back-end of their rotation and from the look of it, it seems there are three guys competing for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots.
Nick Tepesch hasn't been great this spring and was pretty bad after a great April last season in his rookie year. The positive for the Rangers on the Tepesch front is that he has plenty of options available and can be sent to the minors without fear of losing him. Chances are, he'll probably start the season in Triple-A Round Rock and will be the first guy brought up if any problems arise and Harrison/Lewis aren't ready.
Assuming the Rangers don't move Robbie Ross or Tanner Scheppers from the bullpen (which would be a mistake), that leaves Hanson and Saunders. Saunders is a known innings eater who has historically struggled in Arlington as an opponent. Hanson is coming off a few poor seasons after a few really good ones in Atlanta, and has seen his velocity approach the mid-90s this spring after having a hard time cracking 90 mph last season with the Angels.
At this point, put the money on Saunders taking the No. 4 spot just because of his ability to eat innings and Hanson to take the No. 5 spot.
When Harrison and Lewis are ready to hit the majors, hopefully sooner rather than later, then the depth becomes much greater and you can maybe even move Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen, where he fits much better.