Injuries haven’t defined resilient Rangers

Posted Tuesday, May. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton No matter the game, no matter the league, the team that stays healthiest is usually the team that wins.

Just another baseball adage that this Texas Rangers team is hoping to foil.

Like the widely criticized “130-pitch limit.” Like a lineup with three left-handed hitters in a row. And like the club’s bust-the-wave TV commercials.

Adages don’t win pennants. Octobers do.

Injuries? The Rangers haven’t viewed their myriad of disabled list visits simply as injuries.

They’re ... opportunities.

“You know you’re going to need that depth in your organization,” general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday. “You just don’t know when or how or why or how often, but it’s going to play a big role in your season.”

Three pitchers expected to be in the Rangers’ starting rotation are on the disabled list. A fourth, Colby Lewis, started 64 games during the pennant-winning 2010 and 2011 seasons and hasn’t pitched since last June.

Yet, the makeshift starting rotation began play Tuesday allowing opponents only a .241 batting average, third lowest in the American League. The staff overall has the league’s second-best ERA, 3.59.

At the season’s one-quarter mark, Lewis, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Martin Perez have started only 11 games — and nine of those were by Ogando before he was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis last week.

Now, it seems, somebody named Ross Wolf will start for the Rangers today in the series finale against the Oakland Athletics.

Ross Wolf — previous major league ledger, 25 innings.

It’s been that kind of season for the Rangers.

“The roster depth comes from everywhere,” Daniels said. “It’s your own guys that you draft and develop, or you sign from Latin America. It’s minor league free agency. It’s small trades and the waiver wire.

“You’ve got to be diligent about always looking for talent, and you have to have people out in the field always looking for talent.”

Harrison’s prime spot in the rotation and Perez’s eagerly anticipated place have been filled — capably and, at times, impressively — by Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm.

The two rookies, both only 24 years old, started exactly one-third (15) of the team’s games through Monday.

Grimm won three games in April and was named the AL’s rookie pitcher of the month.

Both Grimm and Tepesch had relatively undistinguished college baseball careers at the universities of Georgia and Missouri, respectively. The Rangers selected Grimm in the fifth round of the 2010 draft and Tepesch in the 14th.

Grimm had a 5.00-plus ERA at Georgia, but scout Ryan Coe and Kip Fagg, the Rangers’ director of amateur scouting, felt that the potential was there.

“Grimm is a real good story,” Daniels said. “Our scouts thought he was a lot better than his numbers showed in college. We drafted him and turned him over to our development system. It’s been a true scouting/development story, as far as working hand-in-hand.

“I don’t have to tell you how much Grimm has improved.”

The Rangers were far from being injury-free a year ago, too. But in 2012, Roy Oswalt ended up starting nine games, Ryan Dempster 12, Scott Feldman 21 and a not-yet-ready-for-prime-time Perez started six.

And whereas last year’s reserves included Brandon Snyder, Alberto Gonzalez, Yorvit Torrealba and a cadre of other guys who, for whatever reason, couldn’t get off the bench, this team has gotten notable contributions from Jeff Baker, Leury Garcia and Robinson Chirinos.

Perez is expected to be 100 percent healed and ready to go soon. Free agent signing Joakim Soria, who has 160 saves in five major league seasons, should be healthy and ready to join the bullpen by July.

Injuries are unavoidable, Daniels agreed.

But they don’t have to define a baseball team’s season.

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

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