The Texas Rangers have a plan as to who will follow C.J. Wilson in the rotation.
While the order has yet to be specified, the rotation to start the season will be: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter.
Neffy will be returned to the bullpen; not for lack of his talent in the rotation, but for the Rangers' lack of talent in the back of the bullpen. With ample options for starting pitchers, and an uncertainty of what lies in the bullpen, Neftali Feliz is the more solid selection here.
Neftali Feliz was set to make his final rotation audition Thursday, and possibly stretch out as far as he could go in preparation for the season. But once again, it was someone else’s performance that dictated what Feliz’s role in 2011 would be.
Alexi Ogando, the leader in the clubhouse for the ninth inning had Feliz been allowed to start, blew his opportunity recently. Mark Lowe, who came over from Seattle along with Cliff Lee last Summer, has struggled to show he belongs on the 25-man roster as the closer for a pennant-winning team.
The Rangers are set to go with three lefties and two righties, which is a good move. Historically, lefties have been more effective in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. While these five guys will not likely be the five guys who finish the season in the rotation, these are the best five starters for the Rangers, right now.
Right-handers Tanner Scheppers and Eric Hurley, along with left-hander Michael Kirkman, figure to make Arlington auditions at some point in 2011.
Scheppers is expected to make an impact at the back end of the bullpen with his plus curve and fastball. Hurley and Kirkman however, could make their splashes in the rotation or bullpen depending on the need and whenever the Rangers' brass deems them ready.
Many pundits are picking the Rangers to fall back to the middle pack of the American League, due to the overachievements of the pitching staff of 2010. I personally believe it's overblown—whatever the Rangers lack in consistent starting-pitching options, will be made up in quality starting-pitching depth.
So while the rotation is more competitive with Feliz included, the sum of the whole pitching staff would suffer. Feliz will not start games in 2011; he will finish games in 2011.
The starting five of Wilson to Harrison may start the season, but there‘s sure to be many alterations to the pitching staff. That includes Tommy Hunter, who is already shaking things up with a groin strain. It's unclear what his status is—all he knows is that “it doesn’t feel pleasant.”
In 2010, the Rangers used 10 different starters; 2011 will be likely be no different in the quantity of starters, just the quality and depth.