Tepesch’s injury scary in more ways than one

Posted Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton Only a bruise, the announcement said.

No dislocations. No broken bones. No surgeries needed, or so they think for now.

For once this season, the Texas Rangers felt they could whistle in the dark and bless their good fortune.

But it had looked and sounded scary Saturday night, the second-inning laser drive off the bat of Jesus Montero that struck Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch on the wrist and caromed all the way to right-center field.

The crowd of 43,025 audibly gasped when the ball struck Tepesch. We can only imagine what manager Ron Washington immediately said.

As of Friday night, the Rangers have three would-be members of their starting pitching rotation on the disabled list. Tepesch could still end up being the fourth, though the early diagnosis Saturday was that he had only suffered a contusion on his throwing wrist. He will be examined further Sunday.

Until then, the Rangers can only hope. A similar morning-after examination of lefty Martin Perez, who was struck on the forearm during spring training, was discovered to be a fractured forearm. Doctors said it would take eight weeks for the bone to heal.

Perez, who has a difficult recovery ahead, might be able to pitch again in in late May. Maybe.

Colby Lewis, who underwent flexor tendon surgery last July, may be able to return sooner. But left-hander Matt Harrison, the club announced Friday, will undergo back surgery Tuesday and will be out at least three months.

That removes the Opening Day starter from the Rangers’ rotation as well as Backup Plans B and C.

Tepesch was already Plan A and, while not overpowering, he has been a pleasant surprise as the club’s No. 5 starter. Before he was struck by Montero on Saturday, Tepesch had faced seven Seattle Mariners and struck out three. He has earned his spot in the early-season rotation.

But with Harrison’s April troubles, the Rangers had already been forced to summon Justin Grimm from Round Rock.

Grimm started two games for the Rangers last season. Tepesch’s start Saturday was his third.

That’s no way to tackle the hairy gauntlet of the American League West, of course. Harrison has won 32 games over the past two seasons.

Without Tepesch, there’s what?

Montero’s liner through the box appeared to skip off Tepesch’s arm and barely lost any momentum as it bounced into the outfield. Washington and medical chief Jamie Reed all but sprinted to the mound to check on their pitcher.

“He really wasn’t saying anything,” Washington said later. “He wasn’t showing any emotion at all. He’s a tough kid. ‘He said, ‘Let me finish the inning,’ but there was no way I was going to let him do that.”

In the clubhouse later, under prodding, rookie Tepesch showed the damage the ball had done.

“I’m all right,” he announced. “It’s a little sore, but not too bad. I think it scraped me a little more than made solid contact, I guess.”

Scraped would be one description, but a more accurate one might be that the back of Tepesch’s wrist looked as if something had bitten a small, bloody chunk from it.

It was solid contact by the Mariners’ Double A shortstop, Brad Miller, that ended Perez’s impressive spring.

After the announcement of Harrison’s impending surgery, general manager Jon Daniels again affirmed the club’s plan to fill the rotation void from within the organization. That’s understandable, considering there are no pitching bargains on the trade market in April.

But to plug the rotation leaks from within, Grimm has to pitch like a major leaguer, something he hasn’t always done in his abbreviated two seasons. And Alexi Ogando will have to display more consistency.

Plan B is Lewis, who has been out for nine months after major surgery. Plan C is Perez, whose left arm had been immobile for two months.

We may have seen Plan D on Saturday night, when 39-year-old Derek Lowe spelled Tepesch with four innings of hitless, Wayback Machine relief.

Tepesch will be examined again today. In the meantime, the Rangers were acting thankful for small blessings.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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