The Rangers blew another lead last night, only to have their comeback hopes fall short. The usually composed Scott Feldman had a great game through six innings, but things quickly got ugly in the seventh inning. Texas went on to give up 8 total runs in the seventh and eighth, and lost 8-7 in another close one. The real bad news came after the game: Excellent lead-off hitter and all-star Ian Kinsler is on the disabled list and could remain there for the rest of the season. Initially, doctors have told him that he has a sports hernia and will most likely need surgery. Kinsler is seeking a second opinion. This officially ends all playoff hope, yet there was little left after being swept by the Red Sox two weeks ago.
While it may be a little too soon to be discussing next season, we here at DallasDedicated can't help but get excited of what things could be in the Texas Rangers 2009 season. We all know pitching was dreadful, especially in the starting rotation. What you may not know is that next year's pitching group is, dare I say, looking pretty solid. With the young pitchers on this team and the veterans becoming healthy, it is not a reach at all to put Texas in World Series contender talks for next season. Let's take a look at what the ideal starting pitching rotation should be next season:
Kevin Millwood: Yes, Millwood is only 6-7 this season with a 5.58 ERA. What you have to keep in mind is that he has been troubled with injuries all year long and his played has been effected by it. Kevin came into this season as the ace of the club and the number one spot, and the Rangers organization still feels that way about him. He is a veteran pitcher who knows how to shorten innings and get batters to swing at things they normally would take. A healthy Kevin Millwood has not been seen since mid-season last year.
Vicente Padilla: Although he struggled on rare occasions, Padilla has proven to his teammates that he has grown quite a bit since Texas took a chance on him in 2006. His ERA may be at a sub-par 4.85, but his record stands currently at 12-6 heading into tonight's matchup against ex-Rangers prospect Armando Galarraga. The reasons for his struggles last season were his lack of commitment in the offseason and his shakiness as baserunners emerged. He not only worked on his off speed pitches in the offseason, but also he worked on meditation and not becoming frustrated late into innings. It has been quite beneficial, as he has seemed to get out of tight innings with runners on by taking his time between pitches. He can only improve this offseason on these things to becoming even greater of a pitcher.
Brandon McCarthy: Rangers fans have not yet seen this highly rated pitcher, as the last two seasons have come and gone with McCarthy lingering around on the disabled list. The wait could be over soon, as reports are coming in that McCarthy will be added to the rotation in a couple weeks. Brandon has been trying to get the rust off as a part of the triple-A minor league team Oklahoma Redhawks from surgery and countless injuries the past two seasons. In 5 starts in the minors, he has been great at times (2 straight games pitching 13 scorless innings) and rusty (9 runs in 8 innings pitched in 2 games). At only 25 years old, the effects of injuries should not linger like they do with older veterans. A healthy McCarthy will definitely improve this Rangers pitching core.
Matt Harrison: A inexperienced rookie pitcher will always have his share of problems, and Matt Harrison has just that in his first month's work as a MLB pitcher. With 24 innings pitched in July, Harrison gave up 20 runs (7.40 ERA). In August however, Harrison has been pretty spectacular. Against great teams like the Yankees and Rays, Harrison has settled down and has an ERA of 3.72 this month. Saturday night, Matt Harrison showed Arlington just how great he can be. In 8 innings of work, Harrison had 8 strikeouts and no runs against him. In a year where rookie after rookie has been called up and cracked under pressure, Harrison has earned a spot on next year's rotation.
Who will earn the 5th spot on the rotation? It is becoming clear that the pitching will dramatically improve, but 5 quality starters is beneficial. Having one spot open once the season begins hurts any chance of playoff baseball in Arlington. Here are a few players that will be gunning for the final spot on the rotation:
Neftali Feliz: Right-hander Neftali Feliz is 8-5 with a 2.80 ERA in Class A and Double-A this season. The only issue is this: Feliz has a great fastball but he lacks a Major League breaking ball and changeup. He must work on these pitches if he has any shot of leapfrogging past Triple-A and into the majors.
Elizardo Ramirez: With already 145 innings under his belt for Triple-A Oklahoma this season, Ramirez has 10 wins with an ERA of 4.21. He was given one start for Cincy in 2002, and after a miserable game, he was released. Texas found something in him and have given him quite a chance in the minors.
Any starter currently with the Rangers has a chance as well, all that it would take would be improving on the ins and outs of ball control in the offseason. Dustin Nippert, Eric Hurley, Scott Feldman, and Luis Mendoza are all possible solutions. Whatever the case may be, this Rangers team will be better on the mound and be a playoff contender come 2009. Just wait and see, you can thank DallasDedicated later...