Every major league team faces pitching questions during this time of the year. It’s practically become a spring training ritual. This is no different with the Rangers, except it’s not just about injuries. One topic of discussion centers on whether going to a four-man starting rotation is a possibility.
The five-man rotation is a staple in major league baseball, mainly due to the 162-game season. But the Rangers are considering the alternative, at least to start the season.
So why is this an option? The Rangers are playing the waiting game with Andrew Cashner, who just recently started throwing off a mound after dealing with biceps tendinitis. Manager Jeff Banister said the Rangers have thought about skipping the fifth spot in the rotation until Cashner, signed by the Rangers during the offseason, is ready to go.
The early part of the schedule could play a major factor in the decision. The Rangers have two off days in the first eight days of the season and the hope would be that Cashner could potentially be ready to start April 15 on the road against the Seattle Mariners. If not, the team would need to someone for that fifth spot.
If the Rangers only go with four starters to open the season, who would they be? Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels are the 1-2 punch, followed by lefty Martin Perez. Competition for the fourth spot comes down to veterans A.J. Griffin and Dillon Gee, along with Rule 5 draft pick Mike Hauschild, with three weeks to go in spring training.
The Rangers did take a hit with another possible rotation candidate after the announcement that Chi Chi Gonzalez will likely miss the first half of the season due to a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Rangers decided to use the treatment plan consisting of a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection and six weeks of rest. Gonzalez said he’ll likely seek a second opinion before moving forward.
If Gonzalez decides to go through with the treatment and it doesn’t work, he’ll likely have Tommy John surgery with an expected return around the 2018 All-Star break.
However, there is some good news for the Rangers concerning the pitching. Tyson Ross, another offseason signing by the Rangers, is now throwing bullpen sessions after having surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in October. The team is working on bringing the righty back slowly but is happy with the progress he’s made. The expectation is Ross will be ready to face live hitting before the end of spring training and could make his season debut by the end of April.
Once completely healthy, the Rangers could have a solid starting rotation as they drive for their third straight A.L. West division title. Getting there could take some innovative thinking, such as the idea of starting out with a four-man rotation. Things could get interesting once spring training starts to wrap up.