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Derek Holland, LHP
The biggest offseason injury news involved Derek Holland injuring his knee while playing with his dog. He needed microfracture surgery to fix the damage, keeping the left-hander on the shelf at least until midseason.
That's a huge blow to Texas' rotation heading into the season. Holland had a breakout campaign in 2013, posting career-best totals in innings pitched (213), strikeouts (189), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.95), ERA (3.42) and FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (4.8).
As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs noted after Holland's injury, the internal options for the Rangers aren't anything to get excited about.
Now, figure Holland’s out for half the year. That’s something in the neighborhood of 90-100 innings, innings that could now go to guys like Nick Tepesch, Colby Lewis, and Michael Kirkman. That’s not a disaster, but it is a downgrade, because it basically has to be. Those arms aren’t thought to be replacement-level, but it’s easy to envision a loss of about a win or so.
Going from a solid No. 2 starter to a No. 5/replacement-level arm is a drastic drop in talent, even for just three months. The Rangers will have to tread water in the rotation for a few months, but the good news is they've upgraded the offense enough to potentially offset some lag in pitching.
Colby Lewis, RHP
Colby Lewis was a huge part of Texas' rotation when the team made consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. He hasn't been healthy since halfway through the 2012 season but took a minor league offer from the Rangers with an invite to spring training in the offseason.
During a radio interview in January, via The Dallas Morning News, Lewis said he feels as good as he has in years and is ready to step up in Holland's absence.
It’s one of those things that’s really unfortunate for the ball club. It kind of opens the door for me to kind of squeeze in and help out and get back in the swing of things. I think for me, I’m doing great. I’ve been running. Everything is great. The hip feels great. It’s the best I’ve felt in four or five years.
As long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks in camp, Lewis is going to be the favorite for the final spot in the starting rotation. If he doesn't get that job, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Rangers try using him as a long reliever out of the bullpen.
Matt Harrison, LHP
After two years of stellar performance in 2011 and 2012, including an All-Star appearance and a top-10 Cy Young finish, Matt Harrison's 2013 can only be described as a disaster.
The left-hander only threw 10.2 innings in 2013 before going on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back, which Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said likely led Harrison to change some things in his mechanics to compensate, leading to elbow problems, via USA Today Sports.
Despite missing virtually all of last season, Harrison told Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News that he should be back at full strength when spring training starts.
With Holland out for at least three months, the Rangers need all the starting pitching depth they can get. Harrison's return will be a much-needed boost.