Rangers Can Never Have Enough Pitching
As pitchers and catchers begin their third day of work I am reminded of a question I asked Jon Daniels at spring training in 2012. “Where are you going to put all these pitchers?” The significance of the question was not lost on me. I have been covering this team since 1990 and we had never had a spring training discussion about an overabundance of pitching. JD’s answer was simple and wise, he said, “you can never have too much pitching.” Even though they had Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Mat Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis and Scott Feldman as potential starters, they needed more. Feliz and Lewis suffered injuries that season, during that year Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster were acquired and even that was not enough starters.
Fast forward to 2014, there are 7 starters vying for five spots. Darvish, Harrison and Martin Perez, are set. Alexi Ogando, Lewis, Tommy Hanson and Nick Tepesch are the other experienced starters, with all seven having spent time on the disabled list last year. Granted we are only three days in, but the manager is not concerned, “If we stay healthy, I like what we’ve got,” Ron Washington said. “We’ll figure the rest of it out. One thing we feel like we have is depth in our pitching.”
I love the optimism but that is a really big IF. IF they stay healthy it will be rare. Baseball is such a long season that it becomes a game of attrition. It is remarkably likely that they won’t stay healthy. In fairness to Wash though, he has always done a great job of just working with the players he is given. Plans B, C and D are not his to ponder. His job is to execute Plan A, ever mindful that the plan may well change when the injury bug strikes. It is up to JD and Thad Levine and the others in baseball ops to build a roster that allows for B, C and D.
Here is what I hope, that Tommy Hanson and Colby Lewis pitch great this spring so that Ogando will be allowed to do what he does best, that is work out of the bullpen. Hanson, who the Rangers signed last week was once considered untouchable in the Braves organization. He had good years with the Braves from 2009-11, but has been losing velocity on his fastball since. Rangers fans have fond memories of Lewis, the bulldog that he was during the playoff runs of 2010 and 11. But he is 34-years-old and if he makes the opening day roster he will be the first pitcher ever to pitch at the major league level after hip replacement surgery. The procedure he had last August was called resurfacing, but he called it a form of hip replacement.
“The first toss off the mound, I was kind of worried,” Lewis said. “But after the first toss, I haven’t worried about it not even one bit. I feel like I have drive off the back side.” In fact Colby admits that he has pitched through hip pain since 2006. There is no telling how that might have affected his delivery and/or contributed to his injuries. One of his best attributes is leadership. Young pitchers like Perez, Darvish and even Harrison can learn so much by just watching the way Colby goes about the business of getting ready for a long season. Perhaps, more importantly, how Lewis gets people out with guts and guile and tenacity rather than electrifying “stuff.”
Suffice to say that this spring is not like 2012, there is no overabundance of pitching, as JD said then, there never is. The Rangers spent the off season addressing their greatest need, hitting. I don’t disagree with the approach but I hope that it does not come back to haunt them.