Rangers’ Injury-Riddled Rotation Suffers Two Big Blows

The Texas Rangers’ starting rotation suffered not one but two major hits on Wednesday, as the club announced that starting pitchers Derek Holland and Colby Lewis will be the newest additions to a lengthy list of injured Rangers.

Holland was placed on the disabled list with left shoulder tightness, and that may explain the struggles he has had on the mound thus far in the season. In 72.2 innings of work, the left-handed Holland has pitched to a 5.20 earned run average, the seventh-highest ERA among pitchers in the American League that have started at least fourteen games this season.

Holland has dealt with ailments in the past, including left knee surgery that cost him all but a month of the 2014 season and a strain of his left shoulder that sidelined him from April through August of last year.

To take the place of Holland on the active roster, the Rangers have recalled Luke Jackson from the Triple-A Round Rock Express. The start of Jackson’s season was delayed by a stress reaction in his lower back, and he joined the major-league team when activated from the disabled list on May 16 and remained with the Rangers until June 9.

In his time with Texas, Jackson appeared in five games and allowed six earned runs in under eight innings of work. In his time at Triple-A after being demoted, Jackson’s opponents hit .178 against him in 22 innings.

Lewis exited his last start on June 21 against the Cincinnati Reds with what was initially said to be a right triceps cramp. Tests revealed worse, however, and Lewis is expected to be shelved for the next two months with a Grade 2 strain of his right lat. Lewis will be shut down for the next four weeks before having an MRI that, shall it display healing, will lead to a throwing program. Lewis received a plasma-rich injection on Thursday

Holland and Lewis join Yu Darvish as the second and third Rangers starting pitchers currently on the disabled list; Cole Hamels and Martin Perez are the only starters that have not yet had to deal with injuries this year. Darvish made his long-awaited return from ulnar collateral ligament surgery on May 28, but he was put back on the shelf about two weeks later after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder.

The Rangers haven’t publicly announced who will fill the vacated spots in their rotation over the following weeks, but there are a few options at the major-league and minor-league levels. A.J. Griffin is slated to start for Texas on Saturday against the Boston Red Sox in what will be his first start in the majors since May 7 after dealing with shoulder inflammation. Right-hander Tanner Scheppers, who has not pitched this season due to torn cartilage in his left knee, is expected to return to action at one point in the second half of the season. Nick Martinez and Cesar Ramos work out of the bullpen as relief pitchers for the Rangers and have made spot starts in the past.

In Triple-A, the Rangers have Kyle Lohse and Chi Chi Gonzalez. The 37-year-old Lohse signed with Texas in early May and is 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA in seven starts at Round Rock. Lohse is not on the Rangers’ 40-man roster, so promoting him is more of a hassle than someone who already is. Gonzalez and Connor Sadzeck are on the team’s 40-man and pitching in the minors. Gonzalez has an ERA of 5.04 in fourteen starts in Triple-A; Sadzeck has never pitched at the Triple-A level and is 6-2 with a 4.16 ERA in twelve starts with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.

If the Rangers decide that they need help from outside of the organization, they have adequate depth to package a trade for a proven starting pitcher. Delino DeShields, Joey Gallo, and Jurickson Profar potentially could be on the trading block to bring in a starter that would fit the Rangers’ needs, such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Jake Odorizzi, the Atlanta Braves’ Julio Teheran, or the San Diego Padres’ Drew Pomeranz.

With a ten-game lead over the second-place Houston Astros in the American League West and the trading deadline over a month away, there is no dire need for the Rangers to pull off a blockbuster deal at this time. That said, the Rangers’ rotation issues are still there, and the addition of a quality starting pitcher would only assist the team as it hunts for its fourth postseason appearance in the last six years.

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