Rangers Rotation In
The bad news happened to Texas lefties Martin Perez and Matt Harrison. Perez (4-3, 3.35) has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, which means Tommy John surgery. Yet another promising young pitcher in baseball under the knife -- this is about to epidemic status.
Harrison (1-1, 4.15) has some back condition called spondylolisthesis. That apparently causes severe nerve irritation in his back and could require spinal-fusion surgery. So essentially it's way worse than, say, a herniated disk, an injury that kept Harrison out almost all of last season. This new condition could be a product of surgery to fix that. Not only is Harrison's season surely over, his career might be. This guy was one of the best lefties in baseball in 2011-12 when he was 32-20 with a 3.34 ERA. That got him a five-year, $55 million deal in January 2013. He's made six starts since then.
Of the eight pitchers who have started games for the Rangers in 2014, only Nick Tepesch, Robbie Ross and Nick Martinez have avoided the disabled list thus far. Texas has a potential starting rotation on the DL now in Perez, Harrison, Derek Holland, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Saunders. Holland is still working his way back from a knee injury suffered this winter when he fell down the stairs after his dog tripped him up. He should be back by July, but Texas could be buried by then.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels says he has no plans to trade for pitching right now, but that's hogwash. He must look into the likes of a David Price or Jeff Samardzija, two ace types who are surely available and both under club control through next year. The problem is that the Texas farm system, once one of the best in baseball, has been depleted either by promotions (Jurickson Profar) or trades (the Matt Garza mistake last year). Any team with a good pitcher will demand the Rangers include minor-league second baseman Rougned Odor in a deal.
Unless Daniels makes a big move or ace Yu Darvish somehow can learn to pitch every other day, it's hard to see Texas as wild-card contender, much less win the AL West. The Rangers are now third-favorites in the division at +350 on MLB odds at sportsbooks.
The Rangers' Ross (1-4, 5.04) realistically should be in the bullpen. That's where the lefty was the previous two seasons, never making a start, but the injuries have forced him into the rotation and it hasn't gone smoothly. The Rangers have lost the past five times he has taken the hill, and Ross has allowed 21 runs and 29 hits over 15.1 innings in his past three. Right-handers are batting .333 off him this year. Ross has a 5.46 ERA in 28 home innings. He pitched 3.1 scoreless innings against Toronto last year. No current Blue Jay has more than five at-bats against him. Brett Lawrie is 2-for-2. Streaking Edwin Encarnacion is 1-for-3.
The Blue Jays start one of the early leaders for the AL Cy Young Award in veteran lefty Mark Buehrle (7-1, 2.04), who leads the AL in wins and ERA. That ERA would be much lower if not for one start in which Buehrle was rocked by Boston. Otherwise he has been terrific and Toronto has won all of his other outings. Buehrle has dominated on the road, going 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA. Hitters are batting only .192 off him outside of Toronto. Last season Buehrle had the Rangers' number, going 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two starts. Texas batters hit .167 against him. Adrian Beltre is 12-for-33 with a home run career off Buehrle. Shin-Soo Choo is 14-for-33 with a dinger.
Actually, the Rangers might want to call the Blue Jays about Buehrle should Toronto fall out of contention. The Jays would certainly make him available if so, and it might not cost too much to land him as Buehrle is owed $19 million next season in the final year of his deal. Buehrle is no ace and is pitching out of his mind right now, but he's a very solid innings-eater. That's exactly what the Rangers need.
MLB free picks: Blue Jays -109 on MLB odds and 'under' 10 runs at sportsbooks. Toronto is 9-1 in Buehrle's past 10 against the AL West. The Rangers have lost five straight Game 2s of a series. The 'over' hasn't hit in Buehrle's past eight Saturday starts.