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Gibson Set to Lead Rangers Creative Starting Rotation

Opening Day is almost here. The Texas Rangers have yet to finalize their roster, but they have set their starting rotation.

ARLINGTON, Texas — While we are still waiting to see how the Texas Rangers address the 26th and final spot on the active roster for Thursday's opener, there is no more mystery regarding their starting rotation.

The Rangers will head into the 2021 season with a rotation that will force manager Chris Woodward to be creative. There are three traditional starters (Kyle Gibson, Kohei Arihara, and Mike Foltynewicz), along with five other pitchers in multi-inning roles (Wes Benjamin, Dane Dunning, Taylor Hearn, Jordan Lyles, and John King).

Woodward plans to employ two "tandems" to go along with the three traditional starters, where one pitcher will start the game to a set inning or pitch limit, and be followed by a "piggyback" starter who will also pitch to a set ceiling.

It's been announced for more than a couple of weeks that Kyle Gibson would start Opening Day in Kansas City, a ballpark he's very familiar with from his days in Minnesota.

"'The K' is probably one of my favorite places to pitch," Gibson said. "I don't know if it's because it's close to Mizzou, or because it's close to family and family are normally there, I don't know. But it's definitely familiar. I've pitched there quite a bit."

For the rest of the rotation, manager Chris Woodward has set his starters for the first time through the rotation. In addition, sources tell Wes Benjamin will follow Jordan Lyles in the first tandem role, while Taylor Hearn will follow Dane Dunning in the second tandem spot.

Here is how the first five games should look:

  • Thursday (Opening Day) @ Kansas City: RHP Kyle Gibson 

  • Saturday @ Kansas City: RHP Kohei Arihara

  • Sunday @ Kansas City: RHP Jordan Lyles w/ LHP Wes Benjamin
  • Monday (Home Opener) vs Toronto: RHP Mike Foltynewicz
  • Tuesday vs Toronto: RHP Dane Dunning w/ LHP Taylor Hearn

While the tandem roles are a key part of the rotation to begin the season, it's not something Chris Woodward wants to stick with all season long.

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“It's gonna be a tough challenge to do the tandem the whole year,” Woodward said. “It was one of those things where I hope one of these guys [steps up]. Especially Jordan, who's got no limit. He's thrown a ton of innings in the past and he can build up to whatever.”

Lyles is coming off a year where he struggled mightily, which led to his demotion to a tandem role in this season. However, Chris Woodward and the coaching staff really like how Lyles has looked this spring. Woodward says all four opitches are better, and if he shows well in his first few start of the season, moving him back to a traditional starter will be an "easy move."

"I think he's really close," Woodward said. “I think that's something I hope happens sooner than later. But I also think it's in his best interest to get off to a good start and keep it, I wouldn't say to a minimum, I just want to let him go out and get some confidence. He feels really good right now.”

Rangers Roster Moves

As the Rangers begin to finalize their 26-man roster, they will need to make subsequent 40-man roster moves to add the non-roster invitees who have been told they are making the club. Following Tuesday's exhibition loss to the Brewers, the Rangers began that process.

  • Selected the contracts of infielder Brock Holt and right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy to the big league roster.
  • Placed right-handed pitchers Jonathan Hernández (low-grade UCL strain) and José Leclerc (Tommy John surgery) on the 60-day injured list.

There are 39 players on the Rangers' big league roster following Tuesday's moves. The deadline to set their 26-man roster is 11:00 a.m. CST on Thursday morning.

READ MORE: Odor Ouster: How Will Rangers Opening Day Roster Change?

READ MORE: Odor Out: Inside Texas Rangers' Goodbye

READ MORE: BREAKING: José Leclerc to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Chris Halicke covers the Texas Rangers for Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHalicke.
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