With spring training just six weeks away, the Texas Rangers still have some issues they need to take care of.
The club has invested a lot in improving the offense. It traded Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder, which ultimately opened the door for Jurickson Profar to have an everyday job. Texas also filled in the final outfield spot and leadoff spot after signing Shin-Soo Choo.
As for pitching, there are two things the Rangers need to do before the start of spring training, which opens up Feb. 27 against the Kansas City Royals.
Finding a Replacement for Derek Holland
Up until a few days ago, the Rangers’ rotation was nearly 100 percent complete. The only thing that seemed uncertain was if Alexi Ogando would be one of the starting five. He would join Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison.
But Holland had an incident at home that required him to have microfracture surgery last Friday. He is expected to be out until midseason, forcing the club to find a replacement in his absence.
If Texas decides to stay in-house, Nick Tepesch could find his way back to the rotation. Elbow soreness and inflammation put him on the disabled list for much of last season. He finished the year 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 17 starts.
Tanner Scheppers has also been considered to move to the rotation, although he's probably best in the closer's role.
Another option is a free agent, although general manager Jon Daniels said the team has spent more than its budget. The team has been speaking with former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jerome Williams, according to the Dallas Morning News' Gerry Fraley. Williams has spent the past three seasons as a reliever and starter for Texas' rival team in L.A.
Williams could prove to be a good option if on a one-year deal. The Rangers need somebody durable considering how injuries plagued the rotation all of last season.
Establish the Closer
The Rangers currently have three pitchers capable of closing out games.
Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria both have closing experience, while Scheppers earned just one save last season. However, there have been talks of Scheppers being moved to the rotation during Holland’s absence, according to Fox Sports' Anthony Andro.
That is why Ron Washington needs to make his decision sooner than later. Feliz was solid for Texas as the closer in 2010 and 2011. He compiled 72 saves in 81 opportunities and won Rookie of the Year in 2010.
Soria was great for the Royals, converting 160 saves in 180 tries during a five-year span. He and Feliz are both one year removed from arm surgeries, but both made good progress during the 2013 season.
Scheppers was a solid option out of the bullpen last season. He had a 1.88 ERA in 76.2 innings and struck out 59. If he can start missing more bats and earn more punch-outs, he should find himself shutting the door in the ninth inning in 2014.
At any rate, the Rangers have an issue most teams would love to have. But it is something that should be addressed soon. Scheppers may need to be prepared to temper down his fastball in order to go deep into games.
The final two or three frames of a ballgame will prove to be difficult for opposing lineups however they decide to roll them out.
*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
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