The next couple of days should be interesting from a starting rotation perspective. The fact that minor league games are up and running means that the Texas Rangers can free up spots in the Cactus League games for a couple of auditions.
When spring started, it was assumed that most of the rotation was set. But it's amazing how things can change in the desert. Notice the headline includes "Nos. 3-5 starters," not just the final two spots. Why? Because Alexi Ogando hasn't exactly earned anything. He may still get a rotation spot because of the injuries that have impacted things, but he'll need to pitch better to do that. Nothing is guaranteed. He's allowed 11 runs over his last 6 1/3 innings (two starts).
While Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish start in minor league games Thursday and Friday, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers get to start in the Cactus League games. It's yet another chance for both pitchers to make their case for the rotation.
It's always fun to speculate. So let's do it.
If the season started today, this would be my rotation: Darvish, Perez, Saunders, Scheppers and Lewis.
Let me explain why.
The fact that both Ross and Scheppers are still very much in the mix speaks to how uncertain things remain behind Darvish and Martin Perez, the only two pitchers with sure spots. Matt Harrison won't be ready for the start of the season, and Derek Holland is still rehabbing and could be out until midseason. That leaves three spots -- if you don't include Ogando -- that need to be filled.
Lewis isn't quite ready yet. But all the team needs is one other guy to hold a spot until Harrison is ready, and that could be one or two starts for the No. 5 starter, depending on how Harrison progresses. Why not have Lewis at least hold that spot and then see how he and the rest of the guys pitch to determine who goes to the bullpen when Harrison returns?
Yes, the club is taking this look at Scheppers in the rotation seriously. The bottom line is that he'd have more value to them in the rotation with the injuries going on now and the fact that Joakim Soria and Jason Frasor have pitched well this spring and are experienced in the back end of the pen. It doesn't hurt the club to give Scheppers an extended look at this point because if they decide they need Scheppers in the bullpen, they can always put him back there.
Ross has made it clear he wants to start, and, so far, he's gotten results. Another solid start could make things interesting. He's allowed two runs on nine hits in 8 2/3 innings pitched with a 1.27 WHIP this spring.
Joe Saunders came into camp in shape and is working his way up to 100 pitches, where he should be in time for the season. It's difficult to imagine a scenario that doesn't include Saunders in this rotation with his track record of pitching innings and hanging in games.
Tommy Hanson doesn't look like he's got the same stuff as he did with the Atlanta Braves a few years back, but he has gotten outs. Still, at this point I think there are better options and I don't have him in my rotation.
We should know a lot more after the next few days. So while you're worried about your NCAA tournament bracket, don't forget to keep an eye on that Rangers starting pitching bracket. There could be some guys moving on and others possibly moving out in the next couple of starts.
But again, if things started today, I'd go with Darvish, Perez, Saunders, Scheppers and Lewis. That could change if Ogando can settle down. But at this point, I'm not convinced he's better than those other options. I would have never guessed that Scheppers would stay in the mix this long, but he's pitched well and has been consistent. We'll see what this week brings.
Who is in your starting five and why?