The Texas Rangers converted C.J. Wilson from a combustible reliever and closer into a starting pitcher prior to the 2010 season, when the Rangers won their first playoff series and made it to the World Series for the first time in club history.
In 2008, Wilson had 24 saves but an ERA on the wrong side of 6.00. In 2009, he had 14 saves as a primary setup man and lowered his ERA to 2.81. In spring training of 2010, Wilson begged and pleaded for a shot at the rotation, and he successfully made the transition thank to his relentless work ethic and his top-notch care of his own body.
In 2010, Wilson won 15 games and put up a 3.35 ERA, while pitching 204 innings. In 2011, it was more of the same, to the tune of 16 wins, a league-leading 34 starts and a stellar 2.94 ERA, as a Rangers starter.
After that he was let go in free agency, but his success led the Rangers to try the trick with several of their other relief pitchers — Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz and most recently, Robbie Ross Jr. and Tanner Scheppers.
All of those guys had key roles in the Rangers bullpen before being converted, and the only one that had any success as a starter was Ogando for a four-month run in 2011 before he hit a workload wall and was eventually moved back to the bullpen that year and in 2012. In 2013, he was back as a starter and it didn't go so well with DL stint after DL stint.
Now, the Rangers entered the 2014 season with thoughts of putting Ogando back in the bullpen, and he hasn't been the same. On Wednesday, he was placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation after several ineffective outings and appears on a fast track to the operating table, joining the likes of Feliz, a former All-Star closer and AL Rookie of the Year.
The jury is still out on Scheppers, who emerged on to the scene in 2013 as an elite setup man before somehow getting the nod to start on Opening Day this year — his first professional start. That experiment failed horribly and ended with DL stint, for which Scheppers is on a rehab assignment currently. Ross' go as a starter didn't go a whole lot better, and he was moved back to the pen where he's been ineffective thus far.
The Rangers should have learned their lesson by now on converting key relievers to the rotation. You sure hope so. Wilson did great things in his two years as a starter for the Rangers, but he might have wrecked a few other arms in the process.