Gil LeBreton

March 24, 2014

Injury pileup making Rangers’ camp the worst ever

Camp Gloomy’s claim on Geovany Soto’s knee is the latest anxiety-inducing blow to the club.

Like a horror movie run amok, Camp Gloomy claimed another victim Monday.

Oh, the humanity.

On Sunday, it was promising second baseman Jurickson Profar who was ruled out for 10 to 12 weeks with a torn shoulder muscle.

And Monday it was starting catcher Geovany Soto’s turn after doctors diagnosed a torn meniscus. He, too, will be lost to the Texas Rangers for 10 to 12 weeks.

If you’re a Rangers fan, consider yourself warned:

The following paragraphs contain graphic descriptions of torn ligaments, locked knee cartilages, stiff necks and fractured tibias. Discretion is advised.

“You can’t sugarcoat it,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Monday. “It’s a tough day from the medical side.”

Daniels had just learned that Soto would be undergoing surgery Wednesday to repair the cartilage in his right knee — the same one that locked up on him, oddly, during Sunday’s exhibition game.

Two days, two starters lost for what could well be three months. Add to that the growing feeling that staff ace Yu Darvish’s stiff neck may prevent him from pitching next week’s season opener and the news that young outfielder Engel Beltre had a fractured tibia, and it is clear that the Rangers’ 12th spring training camp in Arizona has gone horribly wrong.

All that’s missing is the part where JD takes the team hiking in the woods and they all get eaten by wolves.

Darvish is Darvish, a solitary but dedicated craftsman. A betting man would wager that he will do what it takes to be ready to pitch against the Phillies in next Monday’s season opener.

Likewise, shortstop Elvis Andrus will have rested and rehabilitated his sore elbow enough to rejoin the starting lineup.

But the losses of Soto and Profar in the camp’s final week leave voids that can’t be easily filled.

One thing that won’t happen right away, Daniels said Monday, is promoting 20-year-old Rougned Odor to play second base. Rougned’s professional career, now in its fourth year, includes only 30 games above Class A.

“From a makeup standpoint, he probably could handle it,” Daniels said. “But we’re going to let him play at Frisco to start the season, and we’re going to prioritize his development and make sure he’s ready.

“He may be considered at a later point, but we’re not going there now.”

Instead, it appears that manager Ron Washington is kicking the tires on a possible second base platoon of Josh Wilson and (left-handed hitting) Kensuke Tanaka. Wilson has won the manager’s confidence with his glove work, and Tanaka had been sent down to the club’s minor league camp last week. He had a career batting average of .286 in 13 seasons with Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters, Darvish’s former team.

In a one-month cameo, a Wilson-Tanaka platoon could plug the lineup hole. But Daniels is wise to leave the door open for Odor, possibly in a May call-up.

Filling the void at catcher, on the other hand, may push Daniels to go outside the organization. One weak bat at the bottom of the lineup seems tolerable. But two might be handcuffing the Rangers’ offense too much.

And damaging to the defense as well.

“The pitching staff will miss him,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said of Soto.

The 10- to 12-week recovery prognosis for his shoulder injury seemed to take young Profar aback.

“That’s a lot of time,” he said Monday. “It [stinks]. At the same time, it’s probably good for me to get it done so that I can be 100 percent to help my teammates later on.”

Actually, Profar used a more colorful verb than that. But he’s right — it stinks.

For the kids in the Rangers’ Cactus League clubhouse — even the big kids like Soto and Darvish — this has become the worst camp ever.

Camp Gloomy.

Oh, the humanity. Oh, the injuries. Oh, the pitching.

And next week they really do get led to the wolves.

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