Plenty of moves made by the Texas Rangers today, most of them of the unexpected variety.
The first day of the International Signing Period was today and the Rangers were far busier than even the most aggressive fans would have thought. The rules have changed under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement as it applies to Latin American players. In the past, teams could spend as much as they liked on as many international players as they’d like (usually from Latin America), as long as they were eligible. Texas has been among the freest of spenders on Latin American talent. It has netted them Jurickson Profar, baseball’s #1 prospect and current utility player; Martin Perez, now in the starting rotation; Alexi Ogando, a starting pitcher now on the DL; and a whole slew of players working their way through the minor league system.
This year, the rules have changed. Teams are given a cap on how much they can spend on Latin American players and the cap varies depending on the parent club’s fortunes in the standings. The Houston Astros can spend the most, the Rangers are among the teams who can spend the least. It’s also complicated. Teams can acquire more money to spend via trades. At least one club already has done that this year. If clubs go over their cap, they not only have to play a luxury tax, they’re penalized the following year.
Count the Rangers as a team in the penalty box. Today they’ve already signed SS Yeyson Yrizarry (Baseball America’s #7 International prospect), RHP Marcos Diplan (BA’s #6), OF Jose Almonte (MLB.com’s #13) and SS Michael DeLeon (BA’s #26 prospect) for a combined total of over $5 million. Texas didn’t make any deals to acquire more cap money. Their cap budget was $1.94 million, so they’re already at least $3 million over the cap. Texas will have to pay an extra luxury tax of 100% (another $3 million) PLUS in next year’s signing period, the most they’ll be allowed to sign a prospect for will be $250,000. If an International Player Draft comes to pass, Texas would pay the luxury tax PLUS lose their first round pick in the 2014 and 2015 drafts. Texas has apparently decided to go all in this year and look elsewhere next year, probably to Japan or on a Cuban defector, neither of which is a part of the International pool of players.
As if this wasn’t interesting enough, the big league club made a move today that is very curious, designating RHP Kyle McClellan for assignment and recalling RHP Josh Lindblom from AAA Round Rock. McClellan was certainly a candidate to be DFA’d. After a decent start, allowing one run over 4 innings in his first three appearances, McClellan gave up runs in each of his next four outings, 7 in all in only 5.1 innings. Not a surprise there at all. What’s curious is the timing. Curiosity #1: Texas is playing Seattle and Houston this week, two teams on the lower end of the league. It’s pretty safe to assume Rangers starters will be able to go longer over the next six games, thus taxing the bullpen less. In other words, McClellan probably would only be needed once at best this week. Curiosity #2: Why was Lindblom brought up to replace him? He’s been a starter all year, including 4 starts for the Rangers. Why convert him to the bullpen now, especially when it’s doubtful he’ll be needed much this week? Curiosity #3: Rumor has it Joakim Soria is about ready to be activated by the
Rangers, perhaps in time for the Astros series this weekend. The former Royals closer will go in back to back outings for Frisco Wednesday and Thursday. As long as those outings go well, and Soria has already tossed 5 scoreless innings in rehab thus far, he’ll be deemed ready to go. That would have been the time to DFA McClellan. Lastly is Curiosity #4: When Soria is activated, who will be the player to go? Lindblom? Why bring him up just for four days? Ross Wolf? He hasn’t done anything to deserve a demotion. Those are the only possibilities in the bullpen. Possibly Nick Tepesch or Justin Grimm could go down to Round Rock, with Lindblom moving into their starting role, but that’s pretty much a lateral move that doesn’t improve the ballclub much, if at all.
The only thing that makes much sense is we’re about to see an unexpected disabled list move on the pitching staff, maybe Tanner Scheppers, who insists he’s healthy yet had horrible command on Sunday. Or we’re about to see the first mid-season trade go down, one that changes the face of the pitching staff. Maybe Robbie Ross or Neal Cotts will find themselves part of a trade package.
Things will start shaking out the day Soria joins the Rangers. We’ll see how the dominos fall.
- Rangers notes: Lindblom recalled, McClellan DFA’d; International signings (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
- Rangers sign Diplan among trio of DR prospects (mlb.mlb.com)
From gloom to doom is the space of 96 hours. It was but Monday the Rangers were coming of a disastrous start to their longest home stand of the year, going 1-6 against the Indians and the Blue Jays. The offense was going nowhere, trailing the entire major leagues in runs scored for the month of June, by a wide margin. Elvis and David Murphy weren’t hitting at all, Lance Berkman wasn’t much better, getting a hit with runners in scoring position was like trying to stop a zombie invasion: too much for one person to do alone, unless they’re Brad Pitt. Worse yet, Texas was now three games behind the Oakland A’s and guess who was on the schedule next for a big four game series? You guessed it.
Then a strange thing happened. The offense decided to return. The fact it returned within just a couple of days after the return of Ian Kinsler from the disabled list is probably not coincidental. Once the offense returned, Texas began resembling those Rangers we’ve come to know and love over the past few years. By the time the dust settled Thursday afternoon, the Rangers had taken three of four from the front-running A’s, cutting the deficit to one game. Surprisingly enough, the one game Texas lost was the one started by Yu Darvish. The wins came with starters Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Josh Lindblom. Lindblom’s gutsy effort Thursday, in which he averaged about two baserunners per inning while only giving up two runs in five innings of work, got rewarded with a post-game demotion back to Round Rock.
Whether the Rangers would win the series or get out of town with a split came down to the last out Thursday, with Joe Nathan on the mound and the tying run at second base:
Now there’s nothing but optimism surrounding the Rangers again. Kinsler is back. Mitch Moreland returns from his DL stint tonight. Even the bullpen appears to have quality help on the horizon. Joakim Soria began his rehab stint Thursday at AA Frisco, tossing a scoreless inning with good movement on his pitches. Add the former Royals closer to the late inning mix and Texas will have three quality arms to get the game to Nathan. Soria could even spell Nathan for a save opportunity or two to help keep the 38-year-old closer from wearing down at season’s end.
Even with the team back at close to full strength, it won’t be easy. Texas is on the road this weekend against the team with MLB’s best record, the St. Louis Cardinals. followed by three games at Yankee Stadium and three home dates against the Cincinnati Reds. It’s a killer June, but thanks to taking three of four from the A’s, it can now be approached with far less trepidation.
Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 2-4
Overall: 37-25 (1st Place AL West) (+1/2)
Adrian Beltre .333/.360/.708 3 HR 4 RBI
A.J. Pierzynski .360/.385/.520 4 Doubles
Leonys Martin .067/.176/.067
Lance Berkman .118/.286/.118
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Neal Cotts 0.00 ERA 2-0 in 3 appearances
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Justin Grimm 0-1 14.73 ERA in 2 starts
Michael Kirkman 0-1 27.00 ERA in 2 appearances
Plain and simple, this past week sucked. Texas got off to a miserable start to the week, dropping a 17-5 decision to the Boston Red Sox. The only inning the Red Sox DIDN’T score in that game was the 8th, pitched by non-pitcher David Murphy. Texas recovered to take Game 2, but dropped the series finale. In Toronto. one bad inning ruined Nick Tepesch‘s decent pitching performance but the offense went south. On Saturday, Yu Darvish had one bad inning, but the Rangers came back to tie the game in the 9th. After that, the offense went south again and Toronto finally eked out the win in the 18th inning. There was finally some offensive life shown on Sunday as Texas took the finale 6-4. Saturday, the Oakland A’s took over first place in the AL West, but Texas took it back on Sunday.
To add to the Rangers’ woes, the Rangers lost Mitch Moreland for at least two weeks with a hamstring issue, while two pitchers landed on the disabled list Sunday. Alexi Ogando, who had just returned from the DL and made a winning start against Boston, reported shoulder soreness and went right back on the list again. When he returns, it is now doubtful he will be a starting pitcher. Michael Kirkman, who everyone has been expecting to be released due to poor performance, turned up with skin cancer recurring on his non-throwing arm, so he alit on the DL as well. Rookie Chris McGuiness got the call-up from Round Rock to fill in for Moreland and had his first two career hits on Sunday. Replacing Ogando and Kirkman are Kyle McClellan, who pitched in relief on Sunday, and Josh Lindblom, who made a spot start a few weeks ago and will start tonight against the Indians.
Texas gets to enjoy home cooking for the next week and a half, with an 11-game home stand coming up. First up is Cleveland Monday through Wednesday, followed by four against the Blue Jays. Despite the injuries, home cooking should suit the Rangers, so I see them going at least 4-3 for the week. Hopefully, that will be enough to stave off the hot A’s, who also are at home all week against the Yankees and the Mariners.
- Rangers place Ogando, Kirkman on DL (myrtlebeachonline.com)
It finally happened. For the first time in 2013, the Texas Rangers have a losing streak longer than two games.
The speed bump was bound to happen. This is baseball, after all. It doesn’t help that it comes at a time when the Oakland A’s have gone on a hot streak of their own. Within days, the Rangers lead has gone from an impressive 6 games to a miniscule 2 1/2 games. The good news? Even with a recent 8-game winning streak, the Angels still find themselves nine games back of Texas at this writing.
What hurts about this losing streak is, save for two pitches, it didn’t have to happen. On Sunday, Texas was enjoying a 2-0 lead on the Mariners and appeared on their way to a sweep when suddenly, Kendrys Morales turned on the first pitch he saw from Nick Tepesch, easily clearing the fences and plating two runs to tie things up. I could say the same thing about Raul Ibanez‘ 9th inning shot off Joe Nathan that tied the game again, but Nathan was pitching for the third game in a row, so frankly it didn’t surprise me. Still, those two shots led to the Rangers burning through just about everybody in the bullpen before dropping the game in 13 innings.
This led to a problem Monday, as Texas had a doubleheader with the Arizona Diamondbacks. To his credit, Martin Perez, in his first game of the year, recovered fairly well from a rocky start to give Texas 5 1/3 decent innings. Ross Wolf went another inning and 2/3 and the Rangers, while losing 5-3, got through the first game using only two bullpen pitchers. That became the second consecutive loss. Things were looking bright for the nightcap with Yu Darvish taking the mound for Texas.
Darvish was as advertised. As usual, Yu had a bad first inning, when Arizona touched him for two runs (he has a 9.00 ERA in the first inning of games this year). Then, as usual, Darvish settled down. By the time it got to the 8th inning, Texas had a 4-2 lead and Rangers fans were envisioning the first complete game in Yu’s MLB career. Darvish entered the 8th with 13 K’s on the day and no walks. The D-Backs found themselves in the same hole so many teams before them have encountered: Once Yu settles down, good luck.
Darvish gave up a single to start the 8th, but struck out Cody Ross for K #14. Once again, though, one bad pitch changed everything. Didi Gregorius got a hold of this one, tying the game at 4. As soon as it happened, Rangers fans could be heard all the way to Phoenix heaving a collective sigh, knowing the beleaguered bullpen was going to have to come through again and pretty much resigning themselves to the fact that they wouldn’t.
Sure enough, Arizona got a walk-off win in the 9th and Texas has their first 3-game skid of the season.
Now, following an off day, the Rangers and Arizona go back at it again the next two nights, this time in Texas. The question for today for Rangers fans is now, “Is this a sign all is not well with Texas?”
To that I respond, all is NOT well, but all is NOT lost. Two key components were supposed to return from the DL in the next week in Ian Kinsler and Alexi Ogando. Ogando will help settle the starting pitching staff somewhat, which has seen starts in the last week and a half from non-household names Josh Lindblom, Ross Wolf and Martin Perez. While we’ve all enjoyed seeing a more prolonged look at top prospect Jurickson Profar the past week or so, and while Profar has played well offensively, the offense is badly in need of Kinsler’s presence at the top of the line-up. Now that will be longer than anticipated. Shortly after posting this article, the Rangers announced Kinsler will miss at least two more weeks with a stress injury to his ribs. This week or three weeks from now, the following remains true: Profar is good and could eventually be a great major leaguer. Kinsler is a plus major leaguer already and makes the line-up that much more dangerous. Get Ogando and Kinsler back, things will improve again while we wait for more reinforcements to arrive in the coming months.
While on the subject of Profar, many have wondered why he hasn’t started every game for the Rangers while Kinsler’s been disabled. It’s because, as the utility infielder, Leury Garcia will be with the Rangers all year. In that role, he’s expected to play and come through when he gets an opportunity. The only way to get those results is to keep him playing while Kinsler is out. This keeps Leury involved instead of just pining away on the bench. This becomes doubly important if Profar becomes part of a blockbuster trade at the July deadline to bring in someone like David Price or Giancarlo Stanton.
I get that. The playing time he gets today could have an effect in August, when the Rangers won’t have Profar around. It is Garcia who will contribute more to the Rangers post-season chances than Profar. In a sense, that’s a shame. When Kinsler is activated, Profar will go back down to Round Rock so he can play every day. Then, if by some chance he ISN’T part of a blockbuster trade, the Rangers will bring him up on the last possible day he can qualify for a post-season roster spot. In other words, thanks for all you’ve done to get us to the playoffs, Leury. Sorry you won’t be with the team when they happen. Tough luck, dude.
That’s looking too far into the future, though. Maybe we’d better worry about breaking the losing streak tonight first.
Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 3-3
Overall: 32-18 (1st Place AL West) (+4.5)
Mitch Moreland .300/.300/.450 3 Doubles
Elvis Andrus .150/.250/.150 Not only did he hit poorly, the normally sure-handed Andrus also had three errors on the week.
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Neal Cotts 6 IP 3 Hits 0 Runs 6 K’s
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
The Rangers finally cooled off a little bit, dropping two of three at home to the Oakland A’s. They recovered enough to take two of three on the road at Seattle, but missed out on a sweep with a 13-inning loss on Sunday. As a result, the A’s gained two games on the Rangers for the week and now stand just 4 1/2 games back. For a brief time, the Rangers also had a double digit lead in the AL West over three of their four rivals. The Angels are on an 8-game winning streak, but it wasn’t until Sunday’s Rangers loss that they were finnal able to cut their deficit in the division to less than ten games.
Sunday’s loss could have big repercussions as the week begins. Only Joe Ortiz did not pitch in Sunday’s finale against the Mariners and the Rangers open the week with a doubleheader today against the Arizona Diamondbacks. You have to figure closer Joe Nathan is unavailable, having pitched in all three games against Seattle. It’s also possible Neal Cotts, recently recalled from AAA Round Rock, also would not pitch due to going 2 1/3 innings on Sunday. All other hands need to be available for both games and most of them will be tired. That makes it imperitive to get a lot of innings from today’s two starters, Martin Perez (making his first start of the season) and Yu Darvish. The Rangers could make another move today to bolster the bullpen for a day, maybe sending Nick Tepesch down for five days to bring up another arm for the twin bill.
Seven games on the schedule this week: 4 with the Diamondbacks in a home and home (the doubleheader today and two in Arlington beginning Wednesday), followed by three at home against the Royals. Oakland has a home and home with the Giants plus three at home vs. the White Sox while the suddenly invincible Halos do the home and home thing with the Dodgers followed by a 3-game home series with the lowly Astros. Of the three, the Angels appear to have the easiest week and could gain a little more ground. Oakland and Texas will probably remain steady on the week.
You’ve heard the saying “You can never have enough pitching.”? For proof, just check out the Texas Rangers right now.
Going into Spring Training, here’s what was known about the Rangers’ starting rotation. It would be Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and an unknown 5th starter, with rookie Martin Perez being the favorite.
This lasted until early in Spring Training, when Perez took a line drive off his pitching arm, breaking it and sending him to the DL. He is currently rehabbing at AAA Round Rock.
As the spring progressed, other 5th starter candidates began dropping out. Kyle McClellan got injured, Justin Grimm was ineffective, long-shot Cody Buckel totally lost any command of the strike zone (and still hasn’t). By the end of the spring, rookie Nick Tepesch had earned the #5 spot, easily outdistancing his rivals.
This pitching line-up lasted for all of two turns through the rotation. Tepesch hadn’t even had his first start when Harrison hit the DL with back problems. He’s had two surgeries since and probably won’t return until August.
Tepesch performed well in his first start and found himself promoted to #4 starter with Harrison’s injury. Justin Grimm was recalled from Round Rock to replace Harry.
A week ago, Alexi Ogando became the second Rangers starter to go down. While his injury isn’t serious, Texas decided to play it safe and put Ogando on the 15-day DL. Having a 6-game lead makes it easy to decide on the side of safety. So now the rotation became Darvish, Holland, Tepesch (rookie), Grimm (rookie) and now Josh Lindblom. Lindblom was acquired from the Phillies in the Michael Young trade, but was primarily a reliever until, knowing he hadn’t made the club out of Spring Training, asked the front office if he could try being a starter at Round Rock. The Rangers agreed, Lindblom did well and got the call to pitch last night’s game against the A’s. He didn’t pitch well.
Lindblom was optioned back to Round Rock after the game, but he could be back Monday for a twin bill start against the Diamondbacks.
Now Nick Tepesch has developed a blister on one of his pitching fingers and is going to miss his start against the A’s tomorrow. In his place will be Ross Wolf, an off-season sign who was merely expected to be filler on the Round Rock staff, never an option on the major league level.
Now the Rangers rotation consists of Darvish, Holland, Grimm, Wolf and Lindblom. If you want to rate them on a 1-5 scale, in essence the Texas rotation consists of a #1, a #3, a #6, a #8 and Wolf at best is a #10.
There’s never been a better time for the Rangers offense to make themselves known consistently.
Rangers Record: 5-2
Overall: 29-15 (1st Place AL West) (+6.5)
Mitch Moreland .308/.345/.846 2 Doubles 4 HR 10 RBI
Adrian Beltre .448/.500/.655 3 Doubles 1 HR 5 RBI
Ian Kinsler .125/.263/.125 And he hit the Disabled List to boot.
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Joe (Call Me Joseph) Ortiz 3 IP 1 Hit 3 K’s
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Derek Lowe 2/3 IP 2 Runs (could be DFA’d today)
Last week I said a 3-4 record would be satisfactory with Texas at Oakland for 3 and home for a 4-game set against Detroit. Color me ecstatic today with the Rangers’ 5-2 record for the week. What made the weekend series with the Tigers so unique is the guys you expect to be the best pitchers, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, both struggled against the vaunted Detroit offense, while the two we expected to get shelled, Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm, both pitched well, though Tepesch was the loser of record in his start.
Just to show how weird baseball is, though: Texas entered the week with a 6-game lead on Oakland, took 2 of 3 from the A’s followed by 3 of 4 from Detroit and only managed to put another half game of ground between the second place A’s and themselves.
This week begins with three more against Oakland, this time in the friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. After an off day Thursday, it’s off to Seattle for three against the improved Mariners.
Two DL moves in the last week as well. Alexi Ogando went on the DL Thursday. Cody Burns got the call from AAA Round Rock and pitched two games in relief this weekend, but Ogando’s official replacement is Josh Lindblom, acquired in the Michael Young trade, who starts tonight’s series opener against the A’s. Texas will have to make a move today and the popular opinion is that veteran Derek Lowe will get released, since Burns did so well in his first two games. Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler hit the DL on Saturday, with the roster opening taken by #1 prospect Jurickson Profar. Profar didn’t play in Sunday’s series finale against Detroit, but expect him at second base tonight and for most of Kinsler’s DL stay. Should be an interesting week of baseball!