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Rangers Pitching Woes Go Beyond Fifth Starter

Texas is preparing to start a four-game series with Oakland, and Wednesday's starting pitcher is, well, up in the air.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward knows he has to make a decision about Wednesday’s starting pitcher. He’s just not ready to make it yet.

The Rangers are projected to start Glenn Otto in Monday’s opener with Oakland, and follow that with rookie Cole Ragans on Tuesday, which will be his third start. The Rangers don’t have an off day until Aug. 25, so there’s no way for Woodward to reset the rotation.

So, Wednesday is an open issue. On Saturday, he talked about it. He said that outside of Martín Pérez, who pitched six innings in a 5-3 victory on Sunday and is the team’s best starting pitcher, there are a lot of “question marks.”

Woodward didn’t have an answer. There aren’t many options. And there are circumstances working against getting the desired rotational outcomes he wants.

The Rangers aren’t getting much in consistent longevity out of their starters, outside of Pérez. In many cases, pitchers like Otto, Ragans and Saturday’s starter, Dane Dunning, aren’t getting out of the sixth inning. Injuries to Jon Gray and Spencer Howard aren’t helping. Gray still has weeks before he can return. Howard is improving from his injury, Woodward said.

This puts more tax on the bullpen, which for the first three months was an asset for the Rangers. Since the All-Star break, the bullpen has shown some cracks.

Friday’s game was a bullpen game, and Woodward thought he had things set up well. But if he had wanted Josh Sborz to throw for more than one inning, that ended after he took a 100 mile-per-hour line drive off his pitching arm. Sborz finished the inning, but it was clear he couldn’t take another inning.

“Once you go back and sit down (in the dugout), especially for guy who's not a starter, to have to go back and sit down it just kind of tightens up a little bit,” Woodward said.

The Rangers ran through six pitchers on Friday, including two pitchers that Woodward didn’t really want to use — Matt Moore and Jonathan Hernandez. Both had to pitch an inning, based on the game.

A bullpen game is something to get you through a tight spot. But a bullpen game every five days, Woodward said, isn’t sustainable, unless the other starting pitchers are getting deeper in games.

“Every five days that's pretty taxing,” Woodward said. “Most of those bullpen guys are really valuable for us.”

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To preserve the bullpen, the Rangers need a fifth starter. Taylor Hearn — who threw on Friday — has started for the Rangers this season. But the Rangers are happier with him in a bullpen role where he can focus his performance on each pitch and not the long view of trying to navigate a game where the Rangers hope he can give them six or seven innings.

The Rangers could turn to Hearn in a pinch, especially if he doesn’t pitch in the first two games of the Athletics series.

Woodward didn’t rule out calling up a pitcher from the minors, either. That has its own set of issues.

The Rangers would have to make a decision now to prepare a starter from Triple-A. It could be Dallas Keuchel, the former Cy Young winner who is pitching on a minor-league contract with Texas. He’s made three starts and has a 3.31 ERA, but he pitched on Saturday and moving up to the Rangers to start on Wednesday would require pitching on four days’ rest.

The more likely option might be Top 100 prospect Cole Winn, who pitched on Friday for Round Rock and would be able to throw on the scheduled five days’ rest on Wednesday. Winn won his start on Friday, improving his record to 8-3 while going 5 2/3 innings and giving up one run and three hits. But he also walked three while striking out seven. His biggest issue is his ERA, which is 5.65. It’s the highest it’s been in his professional career, dating back to 2019.

The Rangers also have to make a decision on Winn’s exposure to the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, if there is one. To shield him from it, the Rangers must put him on the 40-man roster. Starting Winn on Wednesday would require that sort of move in advance.

Woodward and the Rangers likely won’t have an answer until close to game time on Wednesday. But it’s emblematic of a Rangers team that is starting to feel the wear of injuries and a season where the tease of being a playoff factor back in June is gone.

“It's just the uncertainty about what we can do, and it's hard to predict Wednesday,” Woodward said.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering — the now-legendary ‘Rally Bird’ has wings, but no opposable thumbs. So he — or she — isn’t an option.


You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

Catch up with Inside the Rangers on Facebook and Twitter.

Rangers Pitching Woes Go Beyond Fifth Starter

Texas is preparing to start a four-game series with Oakland, and Wednesday's starting pitcher is, well, up in the air.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward knows he has to make a decision about Wednesday’s starting pitcher. He’s just not ready to make it yet.

The Rangers are projected to start Glenn Otto in Monday’s opener with Oakland, and follow that with rookie Cole Ragans on Tuesday, which will be his third start. The Rangers don’t have an off day until Aug. 25, so there’s no way for Woodward to reset the rotation.

So, Wednesday is an open issue. On Saturday, he talked about it. He said that outside of Martín Pérez, who pitched six innings in a 5-3 victory on Sunday and is the team’s best starting pitcher, there are a lot of “question marks.”

Woodward didn’t have an answer. There aren’t many options. And there are circumstances working against getting the desired rotational outcomes he wants.

The Rangers aren’t getting much in consistent longevity out of their starters, outside of Pérez. In many cases, pitchers like Otto, Ragans and Saturday’s starter, Dane Dunning, aren’t getting out of the sixth inning. Injuries to Jon Gray and Spencer Howard aren’t helping. Gray still has weeks before he can return. Howard is improving from his injury, Woodward said.

This puts more tax on the bullpen, which for the first three months was an asset for the Rangers. Since the All-Star break, the bullpen has shown some cracks.

Friday’s game was a bullpen game, and Woodward thought he had things set up well. But if he had wanted Josh Sborz to throw for more than one inning, that ended after he took a 100 mile-per-hour line drive off his pitching arm. Sborz finished the inning, but it was clear he couldn’t take another inning.

“Once you go back and sit down (in the dugout), especially for guy who's not a starter, to have to go back and sit down it just kind of tightens up a little bit,” Woodward said.

The Rangers ran through six pitchers on Friday, including two pitchers that Woodward didn’t really want to use — Matt Moore and Jonathan Hernandez. Both had to pitch an inning, based on the game.

A bullpen game is something to get you through a tight spot. But a bullpen game every five days, Woodward said, isn’t sustainable, unless the other starting pitchers are getting deeper in games.

“Every five days that's pretty taxing,” Woodward said. “Most of those bullpen guys are really valuable for us.”

To preserve the bullpen, the Rangers need a fifth starter. Taylor Hearn — who threw on Friday — has started for the Rangers this season. But the Rangers are happier with him in a bullpen role where he can focus his performance on each pitch and not the long view of trying to navigate a game where the Rangers hope he can give them six or seven innings.

The Rangers could turn to Hearn in a pinch, especially if he doesn’t pitch in the first two games of the Athletics series.

Woodward didn’t rule out calling up a pitcher from the minors, either. That has its own set of issues.

The Rangers would have to make a decision now to prepare a starter from Triple-A. It could be Dallas Keuchel, the former Cy Young winner who is pitching on a minor-league contract with Texas. He’s made three starts and has a 3.31 ERA, but he pitched on Saturday and moving up to the Rangers to start on Wednesday would require pitching on four days’ rest.

The more likely option might be Top 100 prospect Cole Winn, who pitched on Friday for Round Rock and would be able to throw on the scheduled five days’ rest on Wednesday. Winn won his start on Friday, improving his record to 8-3 while going 5 2/3 innings and giving up one run and three hits. But he also walked three while striking out seven. His biggest issue is his ERA, which is 5.65. It’s the highest it’s been in his professional career, dating back to 2019.

The Rangers also have to make a decision on Winn’s exposure to the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, if there is one. To shield him from it, the Rangers must put him on the 40-man roster. Starting Winn on Wednesday would require that sort of move in advance.

Woodward and the Rangers likely won’t have an answer until close to game time on Wednesday. But it’s emblematic of a Rangers team that is starting to feel the wear of injuries and a season where the tease of being a playoff factor back in June is gone.

“It's just the uncertainty about what we can do, and it's hard to predict Wednesday,” Woodward said.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering — the now-legendary ‘Rally Bird’ has wings, but no opposable thumbs. So he — or she — isn’t an option.


You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

Catch up with Inside the Rangers on Facebook and Twitter.