It’s been a rough few weeks for the Rangers. They got thumped by both the Mariners (21-8) and Athletics (12-1) within the last week and are just 21-22 since an eight-game winning streak in the middle of April. Texas has already lost Neftali Feliz for an extended period of time due to an elbow sprain and today they lost another young hurler, southpaw Derek Holland with left shoulder fatigue according to Jeff Wilson of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The 25-year-old Holland had already been battling a stomach virus that reportedly cost him 10-15 pounds and apparently also some giddy-up on his fastball*. He allowed 18 runs in 19.1 innings across the four starts immediately prior to this shoulder issue, contributing to the team’s skid. Scott Feldman — 7.01 ERA and 5.48 FIP in five starts and five relief appearances — is already in the rotation for Feliz, and now Holland’s injury forces Alexi Ogando into the starting staff per Jeff Fletcher of Bay Bridge Baseball. Relief prospect Tanner Scheppers will come up to fill out the bullpen.
* The PITCHf/x data actually doesn’t help up much in confirming this. The classifications have Holland throwing a four-seamer in past years but a sinker this year. None of our velocity charts are able to show a drop on a start-by-start basis on one nice, clean plot.
Ogando pitched well as a starter last season but he’s thrown no more than two innings and 39 pitches in an appearance this season, so stamina — at least in the short-term — is a concern. In the long-term, the Rangers are hurting for quality starting pitching depth with Feliz and Holland out. Prospects Martin Perez (4.36 FIP) and Neil Ramirez (5.00) haven’t pitched all that well Triple-A and journeymen Zach Jackson (5.11 FIP) and Greg Reynolds (5.41 FIP) don’t inspire much confidence.
All of a sudden, Roy Oswalt has become an extremely importance piece of Texas’ pitching puzzle. He was expected to make four Triple-A tune-up starts before rejoining the rotation and has just one under his belt so far, though the veteran right-hander will get the ball again tonight. Oswalt is still at least two weeks away, which means Ogando will have to hold down the fort until then. That puts a lot of pressure on an admittedly stellar bullpen, one that will now rely a little more on left-hander Robbie Ross (3.26 FIP) for multi-inning work.
Despite this recent hiccup, the Rangers remain an excellent team if not the best in the game. Their starting rotation has been compromised due to injury and the top reinforcement is a 34-year-old with two degenerative discs in his back and zero AL innings to his credit. Feldman and Ogando opened the season as arguably the best sixth and seventh starters in baseball, but right now they’re the numbers four and five. Oswalt’s arrival is now more important than anticipated, especially if Feliz’s elbow problem and/or Holland’s shoulder issue start to linger.