Scott Feldman or Kris Benson for the Fifth Spot in the Rangers' Rotation?

Matthew IrbySenior Analyst IMarch 30, 2009

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 05:  Relief pitcher Kris Benson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the San Diego Padres during the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on March 5, 2009 in Surprise, Arizona. The Rangers defeated the Padres 4-3. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

With the start of the season now less than a week away, the Rangers still have a couple of questions they need to answer about the 25-man roster.

One of the main questions is what the team’s decision is going to be as to who will make up the starting rotation.

Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla have already been named to the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, at the top of the rotation.

Unless there is an injury issue, the next two spots of the rotation are going to be held by Brandon McCarthy and Matt Harrison.

This leaves the fifth spot as the only one in question.

However, it is not as easy as simply naming a pitcher to the spot. Because of the Rangers' schedule, they will not necessarily need a fifth starter until the end of the second week of the season. 

On the other hand, manager Ron Washington has stated that he would like to have his fourth and fifth starters match up against opposing teams' fourth and fifth starters. This is good news for a pitcher like Harrison who, in his rookie season, faced top-line pitchers like Roy Halladay, Matt Garza, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Scott Baker.

At the beginning of spring training, it seemed as though Scott Feldman was the favorite to be in the fifth spot. However, the acquisition of veteran pitcher Kris Benson has put the last position in the rotation up in the air.

The Rangers have a few options that the front office, manager, and pitching coach Mike Maddux are discussing in deciding how to handle this situation.

The first would be to name Feldman the fifth starter and option Benson down to Triple-A Oklahoma City to pitch every fifth day, making him the first option to be brought up to the major league squad.

The second option is just the opposite: to name Benson the fifth starter and option Feldman down to Triple-A to start the season, allowing him to get regular work as a starting pitcher.

The third option is naming Benson the fifth starter and using Feldman out of the bullpen to start the season. Feldman was a relief pitcher for the Rangers in 2007, but excelled as a first-time starter in 2008.

This option seemed less likely until a week ago, but due to the struggles of Warner Madrigal, the front office might start “Mad Dog” in Triple-A.

If this happens, then the Rangers will use Benson as the fifth starter and Feldman as a middle relief pitcher and spot-starter, if necessary.

It's hard for me not to see Feldman starting the season in the rotation. He had a solid season last year and led the team in quality starts.

However, I also like what I have seen out of Benson so far this spring and would love to have another seasoned veteran on the staff, mentoring these young pitchers.

If Feldman isn’t going to be a starter, then I would rather keep him up in the majors as a reliever and possible spot-starter, with the option of dropping him down to the minors if need be.

But as alwaysand Ranger fans know this all too wellthe pitching situation not only changes from week to week, it changes from day to day.