In the final piece of this series of articles laying out the players that are going to make up the Texas Rangers’ 2009 season, I’m going to to finish up with the biggest piece of the puzzle for Texas.
Whenever you hear about the Texas Rangers in national media it always seems to be about the pitching, or really the lack there of.
This season is going to be a huge part on how the team will develop into the next couple of seasons, and I’m going to breakdown this players and what to expect this season and in the future.
Kevin Millwood - 34 - RHP: In 2009, Millwood enters his fourth season as the team’s “so-called” ace of the staff. In that time he has a 35-36 record, 4.89 ERA, 405 strikeouts, and 169 walks.
In his time with Texas, Millwood has not been terrible, but he has not brought the No. 1 starting rotation type numbers that are being expected of him. He has been very inconsistent in his outings and struggles to make it to the sixth inning at times.
Again in 2009 he will be looked at as a pitcher to mentor young pitchers, go out every fifth day and give the bullpen some breaks, and hopefully pitch 200+ innings, which he only did in his first season with Texas (2005).
Vicente Padilla - 31 - RHP: The team leader in wins in 2008 (14 wins), had a solid year coming back from a horrible 2007 campaign. He raised his wins from 6 to 14, lowered his ERA from 5.76 to 4.75, improved his strikeouts from 71 to 125, and upped his innings pitched from 120.1 to 171.
Once again in 2009 the Rangers are going to look at Padilla from some stability in the rotation, again expecting 30 starts, 200 innings pitched, 15 wins, and an ERA under 5.00.
On most Major League teams, these are numbers that would be expected at of the No. 3 pitcher, but with the instability in Ranger pitching since the late-1990s, these would be solid numbers that would help the team win.
Brandon McCarthy - 25 - RHP: Entering his third year with the Rangers after being the biggest piece acquired in the 2006 trade that brought him to Arlington and sent Ranger pitching prospect John Danks to the White Sox.
McCarthy had a difficult 2007 season still adjusting to pitching against Major League talent and then a 2008 season marred by injuries.
Coming into Spring Training McCarthy is looking to earn the No. 3 spot on the rotation behind a strong finish in 2008, continued solid outings during the offseason and consistent performances during Spring Training.
A tall, skinny, right-handed pitcher, McCarthy has the proven stuff to be a Major League type pitcher, he just needs the continued experience and to stay healthy.
Scott Feldman - 25 - RHP: Brought up through the Minors and used from 2005-07 in the Majors as a middle relief pitcher. 2008 was a huge step for Feldman when the Rangers used him exclusively as a starting pitcher.
Their reward was Feldman making 25 starts last season, leading the team in quality starts, and possibly finding a diamond in the rough with Feldman.
Feldman is currently competing for a spot on the rotation and is likely to start the season as the #4 pitcher, but if he struggles similar to how he did at the end of 2008 it is possible the team will move him back to the bullpen.
Matt Harrison - 23 - LHP: Another one of the many pieces acquired in the 2007 trade of Mark Teixeira, Harrison (pictured above) finished tied for second on the team last season in wins with nine (he wasn’t brought up to the Majors until July 8).
Matt finished 2008 with a 9-3 record, 5.49 ERA, and 83 innings pitched, on his down side he surrendered 12 home runs, had a low 1.35 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, and didn’t even last four innings in five of his 15 starts.
The numbers don’t lie, especially with Matt last year, at times he could go 7-9 innings allowing less than three runs and then come back in his next outing go three innings and give up eight runs.
If Matt can continue to find some consistency he has the potential to be the most dominant pitcher on this staff.
Dustin Nippert - 27 - RHP: Acquired from the Diamondbacks at the beginning of last season as a potential long reliever, Dustin was used as a starter near the end of the season.
During the offseason and now into Spring Training it seems as though the club once to continue using him as a starting pitcher.
He is currently competing for the final spot on the rotation, but it is unclear what the club will do with him if he isn’t the No. 5 starter.
Will they keep him on the Major League roster as a long reliever with the ability to make spot starts or will they assign him to Triple-A Oklahoma City to continue to work on his game?
Jason Jennings - 30 - RHP: Signed as a free agent before the 2008 season, Jennings never got the ball rolling. He had only six starts, had an 0-5 record, an ERA of 8.56, and only pitched 27.1 total innings before missing the rest of the season from injuries.
Now with back-to-back seasons marred in disappointment, Jennings is looking to try and rebound and show Ranger players, coaches, and fans the reasons why he was such a highly touted prospect coming out of college.
Along with Harrison and Nippert, Jennings is competing for the fifth and final spot on the starting rotation.
Thomas Diamond - 25 - RHP: The final remaining piece from the Ranger pitching prospects called DVD over two years ago. DVD referred to Diamond, Volquez (Edinson - CIN), and Danks (John - CWS).
Coming off a lost season due to Tommy John surgery Diamond is looking to re-establish himself as a reliable pitcher to the Rangers front office.
More than likely he will be start the 2009 season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but struggles from the players listed above and the likelihood of injuries increase the chances of seeing Diamond make his Major League debut.
Tommy Hunter - 22 - RHP: In his first season of professional baseball, Hunter quickly rose through the Minor League ranks until he saw his first appearance in the Majors late in the season.
Probably will start the season in the Minors again while he continues to work on his off-speed pitches and lose some weight. His weight right now is not an issue, but he is listed at 255 pounds and the Rangers staff would like to see that decrease a little bit.
Look for him to get a couple of starts again when the rosters expand in September.
Omar Poveda - 21 - RHP: One of the Rangers' top pitching prospects with Feliz, Holland, and Michael Main. Currently on the 40-man roster in order to protect him from being claimed off waivers.
Likely to start the season in Double-A Frisco but could move up to Triple-A quickly if he continues to strong start that he has shown in Spring Training.
Another pitcher for the future that will use the season to work on command and stamina, but look for him to maybe see some relief work when the rosters expand in September.
Eric Hurley - 23 - RHP: A solid pitcher in 2008 for the Rangers when he was brought up to fill some starting rotation gaps left by injuries.
But has already had rotator cuff surgery that has put an end to his 2009 season.
Look for him to make a complete recovery, rehab all season long and begin working towards returning to the Majors in 2010.
Neftali Feliz - 20 - RHP: Widely considered the No. 1 prospect in the entire Rangers farm system. This youngster, yet another piece acquired from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade, spent his 2008 season in High Class-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco.
Received an invite this season to Spring Training and will likely start the season in the Double-A rotation, but should be promoted to Triple-A at some point.
Much of the Rangers success in pitching for the future relies on how well and how quickly Feliz can become a Major League type pitcher.
I will try to spend a good portion of the year keeping it-touch and writing about the success of Feliz and his fellow prospect Holland, watch for Feliz to maybe make his debut in September.
Derek Holland - 22 - LHP: If Feliz is considered the No. 1 prospect in the system, here is No. 2. A lefty, that already has the stuff that has been proven to succeed at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Along with Feliz, he is going to start the season off at Double-A Frisco, but could get to make his Major League debut in September. A lot of that depends on how well he continues to pitch in the Minors.
Every step through the Minors, so far, both Feliz and Holland have been absolutely dominate, and I mean dominate.
If they both can continue that throughout the 2009 season, they could be starting rotation with the Major League squad for Opening Day 2010.
Casey Daigle - 27 - RHP: Signed to a Minor League contract as a possible experienced pitcher that could help along some pitchers.
Getting his chance with a new team and is hoping that it what he needs to possible succeed in baseball.
Best known for his wife, softball superstar Jennie Finch.
Kris Benson - 34 - RHP: Another seasoned veteran that is hoping to re-establish himself in the Majors. Signed a minor league contract with the Rangers and an invite to Spring Training.
So far throughout Spring Training he has been a solid pitcher for the Rangers, and still has an outside chance of making the Opening Day roster.