The ripple effects of the Hunter injury

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The news that Tommy Hunter could be out six weeks with a right groin strain certainly has an impact on other parts of the roster:

* Obviously, first and foremost is the rotation. The Rangers will continue to search external possibilities, but it's likely that Hunter's replacement comes from within. Manager Ron Washington said Thursday that Brett Tomko wasn't one of those rotation options. That would leave Michael Kirkman and Dave Bush as the two leading internal contenders. Kirkman was vying for a rotation spot until hours before Hunter's injury, so he would appear to have the inside track. The plan was for him to go to Triple-A Round Rock as a starter, so his preparation will be the same.

* Bush has an out in his contract on Sunday. The club must decide if he's on the roster or he can take his out and be free to join any team. But this late in spring training, it's possible Bush would decide to go to Triple-A Round Rock (especially with the Rangers' depth issues with pitchers down there not quite ready to pitch in the majors because of injuries, etc.) if he isn't on the team. Either way, Texas must figure that out in the next few days. Bush and Brett Tomko are competing for that long relief spot. But with Hunter out, Bush becomes an important guy to have on the squad because of his starting experience.

* Speaking of Tomko, the out clause in his contract isn't until June. So he could go to Triple-A, stay stretched out, and be another depth starter/long reliever should they need him. He's pitched well this spring and could still make the big club, of course.

* The Rangers have talked about depth being a major factor in their ability to win games last season. They will likely keep looking to build that starting pitching depth. Because right now, it appears that Tanner Scheppers will start in Round Rock (he's still learning to start and coming back off some minor back issues this spring) along with either Tomko or Bush, Zach Jackson, Eric Hurley (who missed most of the last two years) and someone else. That wouldn't leave many guys ready to come up to the majors quickly if another injury occurred.

So we'll see how the Rangers sort the pitching situation out. Of course, they have some other roster decisions off the mound too. All of that should be coming into focus over the next few days.