We're not sure just how the Rangers plan to replace Neftali Feliz in the rotation until the righty's elbow allows him to get back on the mound, but we are sure that any choice they make will step up the pressure on the rest of the rotation.
Matt Harrison will be feeling more of that pressure than anyone else. After three good starts to begin the season, Harrison has not pitched particularly well this season. His biggest problem has been the longball -- he's allowed six in 48.1 innings after allowing 13 all of last season -- but general inefficiency is also a concern.
Harrison didn't pitch terribly against the A's last week, but he was only able to last 5.1 innings against a poor hitting team because he couldn't throw enough strikes. With Feliz out, there's almost certainly going to be increased pressure on the bullpen once every five days. Harrison can't make their lives even more difficult by turning in such short outings.
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When Harrison takes the mound against the Mariners on Tuesday night, he'll again be facing a team that can't hurt him offensively if he doesn't hurt himself. So he needs to trust his stuff and attack the hitters instead of nibbling around the margins and making it a short night for himself.
Feliz's spot comes up for the first time on Wednesday which means that Scott Feldman won't be around to bail out Harrison if things get messy in the early innings. It also means that the relievers will have to work overtime on Wednesday because Feldman isn't likely to find himself pitching into the seventh or eighth inning.
It's not the first time that Harrison has struggled with getting out of innings quickly. His slump this season started after a 120-pitch outing against the Tigers, which is still better than the trip to the disabled list that happened after his first 120-pitch start. This isn't a pitcher who thrives while throwing a lot of pitches, in other words, and Harrison needs to work cleaner to help himself as well as the rest of the Rangers pitching staff.