Rangers pitchers’ youth is not an excuse.

Posted Saturday, Jun. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton There are no training wheels on a major league pitching mound.

No notes allowed from their moms. No bumper stickers, just for trying.

As Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington put it before Saturday’s game, “They’re young, but they understand that’s not an excuse.”

The season doesn’t wait. The pennant race doesn’t take a day off.

“If they’re going to be here,” Washington said of his young pitchers, “they’re going to have to help us.

“We’re not babysitting them.”

He wasn’t talking about any of his rookie pitchers in particular, but Nick Tepesch needs to be paying attention. For 24-year-old Tepesch, Saturday’s start was another clunker.

Though it took 11 innings and a Devin Mesoraco home run to win the game for the Cincinnati Reds 6-4, it was Tepesch’s spotty, four-plus-inning performance that put the Rangers in a hole to begin with.

It was only last Sunday that Tepesch gave Washington a solid, one-run start in St. Louis on national TV.

This one fogged away those memories right from the start. Shin-Soo Choo hit Tepesch’s first pitch Saturday into the left-field seats.

In Tepesch’s 11 starts, a span that goes back to May 1, he’s won once. The Rangers have ended up on the losing end of eight of those 11 starts.

We all know, especially Washington, why Tepesch is here and starting every fifth day. The Rangers’ planned pitching rotation has been beset by injuries.

Maybe lefty Matt Harrison, an 18-game winner a year ago, will be able to pitch again for the Rangers this season. But maybe not.

Maybe veteran pitcher Colby Lewis, who won 26 games in the Rangers’ two pennant-winning seasons, will be able to return from elbow surgery. But maybe not.

And maybe Alexi Ogando, who was 4-2 when he went on the disabled list three weeks ago, will be able to return soon and pitch pain-free. But maybe not.

In the meantime, therefore, the Rangers have to cross their fingers with Tepesch.

Justin Grimm is also a 24-year-old rookie and his starts have also tended to be inconsistent. He failed to get out of the second inning in the 17-5 spanking by the Red Sox on June 4.

But Grimm is coming off back-to-back winning, five-inning efforts against the Athletics and Yankees.

Grimm’s competitiveness shows often, even when he has to fight through a seven-run, save-the-bullpen night against the Blue Jays.

Likewise, rookie left-hander Martin Perez has held his own after having his season debut delayed by a broken wrist.

Tepesch, alas, has followed a troubling trend. In his third time through the opponent’s batting order this season, Tepesch is allowing a .446 batting average.

It happened again against the Reds. Tepesch plowed through the bottom half of the Cincinnati lineup, even showing an uncharacteristic strikeout pitch, but Choo, Zack Cozart and Joey Votto rapped hits against him to start the fifth inning, and that was that.

There’s no babysitting in this pennant race.

When Ogando returns, Tepesch could well be the odd man out and return to Triple A Round Rock. But so goes this season for Washington and the Rangers.

The bullpen has been thinned by injuries as well. Reliever Joakim Soria is said to be close to making his season debut. But on Saturday night, Washington found himself having to put the 11th inning in the hands of the 25th man on the roster, reliever Kyle McClellan.

Mesoraco proved that was wishful thinking.

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

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