ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 4: Pitching coach Mike Maddux #31 of the Texas Rangers (C) looks on with a member of the team's medical staff (L) as they watch pitcher Joe Saunders of the Texas Rangers (R) react in pain after throwing a test pitch right after being hit by a batted ball by Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning of a game on April 4, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Saunders came off the mound and was replaced by pitcher Daniel McCutchen of the Texas Rangers. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Joe Saunders was brought into the Texas Rangers' camp in spring training to help add depth to a starting rotation that was ravished by injury.
Now, all of those injuries with the exception of Derek Holland's are healed and the Rangers' starting rotation looks pretty close to what they envisioned before spring training ever began.
So where does that leave Saunders in the Rangers' future plans? It's unclear, but the veteran lefty made a rehab start on Tuesday for Double-A Frisco and had decent results as he tries to get back on the field for the Rangers after taking a line drive off the ankle in his only start for the Rangers to date, back on April 4 in Tampa.
Saunders said he wants to go back into the Rangers' starting rotation, which is currently comprised of Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Robbie Ross.
You have to think Darvish, Perez and Harrison have spots locked up, even though Harrison still has some work to do before he's at 100 percent as a starter. The Rangers would love nothing more than for Lewis to also lock down a spot, but at this point it's still up in the air. Give Ross credit, he's battled, but he might be best suited as a reliever, where he's excelled over the past two seasons before moving to the rotation out of necessity this season. The Rangers' bullpen is awfully shaky and could use another proven arm.
So does Saunders slide back into the rotation to allow Ross to return to the bullpen? It's possible, but Saunders needs to prove he's capable, as well. And even then it'd most likely be a short-term deal until Holland is ready to go.
His outing on Tuesday wasn't super encouraging, but it wasn't terrible either. He needed 66 pitches to get through four innings, allowing a walk and four hits. He struck out four batters for Oakland's Double-A affiliate from Midland. He gave up three runs — two earned — and allowed back-to-back homers.