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Will Rangers fill in 'potholes' on road to six-man rotation?

'Big Sexy' Bartolo Colon says he wants to help Rangers win

Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon said that he is back in a big-league clubhouse with the Texas Rangers -- at nearly 45 years of age -- because he loves the game of baseball. He participated in the first day of the Rangers' spring training in Surprise
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Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon said that he is back in a big-league clubhouse with the Texas Rangers -- at nearly 45 years of age -- because he loves the game of baseball. He participated in the first day of the Rangers' spring training in Surprise

You're better than this, Arizona.

The weather so far this week has ranged from decent to completely unacceptable. The 15 hours of rain that hit the greater Surprise area Wednesday and into Thursday is largely unprecedented to those who have covered spring training.

So far, it's been too cold to wear shorts. Jackets are mandatory. Shoes have been muddied.

Like I said, completely unacceptable.

The weather was so not spring training Thursday that the Texas Rangers' first workout for pitchers and catchers had to be altered. No pitchers fielding practice, which surely crushed the pitchers, and no on-field batting practice.

Somehow, the Rangers and media survived. The weekend looks pretty solid, but low- to mid-60s are forecast for next week.

You're better than this, Arizona.

Here's the Surprise Five from Thursday.

1. Jon Daniels confirmed what was anticipated all off-season, especially at the height of the Shohei Ohtani pursuit: The Rangers will attempt to use some form of a six-man rotation this season.

Their data shows that their pitchers are better with extra rest. Common sense says that two potential members of the rotation were relievers last year and would benefit from not pitching every fifth day.

But this won't be easy to pull off, manager Jeff Banister admitted. He spoke of "potholes" and "hurdles" that exist on an obstacle course to having six starters, and many of them will be mental.

The veterans who have been pitching in five-man rotations will have to adjust. Maybe not all of them. Cole Hamels' personal preferences, for one, will be considered by Banister.

Matt Bush and Mike Minor are the two 2017 relievers. Bush has never started. Minor has and has the scars — a shoulder injury and two missed MLB seasons — to prove it. But at least he's done it.

The Rangers don't know what they have in Bush as a starter. The plan is to stretch him out to three innings and make a decision from there. But with all the six-man talk Thursday, it seems the decision has been made.

There are others hurdles that come to mind. First up is the extra days have that have been built into the schedule. Outside of the first two weeks, when the Rangers play 14 straight days, it seems like there is an off day a week.

If all the off days are honored, meaning no pitcher is kept on four days' rest, that would seem to provide enough rest. A six starter might actually complicate scheduling around the extra off days, though perhaps Bush and Moore are asked to work in relief once between starts.

The Rangers have looked at the six-man rotation in a number of ways, but they can't say definitely what it would look like. Throw in an injury or two, and it might go up in flames with their lack of pitching depth.

It's not a question of if a Rangers starter will be injured. It's a question of when.

And it's not like the Rangers have been loaded with quality rotation depth the past few seasons or this one.

The good news is they have six more weeks to figure it out.

2. Bartolo Colon could, theoretically, be in a six-man rotation if it is determined that Bush should in the bullpen. Or if Minor needs to be in the bullpen. Or if Martin Perez has to start the season on the disabled list. Or if some other pitcher opens on the DL.

When's the last time a Rangers pitcher opened on the DL? The better question is when's the last time a Rangers pitcher didn't open on the DL? Without looking it up, I'll go with 2012.

Here's the thing that struck me about Colon: He knows exactly what he is at this stage in his career. He doesn't throw hard but commands every pitch, he's knows he's not an Adonis but has had this body type for 15 years, and he doesn't like rounding his age up from 44 to 45.

Hamels is struck by how mentally strong Colon appears to be. Colon throws fastballs and throws them around the plate. Every hitter knows it, and yet he does it anyway.

Hamels said that fearlessness comes only from confidence. Colon is confident, too.

For those who are into optics, Colon has a locker next to Hamels, followed by Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Perez, Mike Minor and Matt Bush. He's in the conversation, and it looks like he's a bigger part than Daniels is letting on.

Perez, by the way, isn't yet doing upper-body weights and will be held out of pitchers fielding practice until his broken right elbow heals up some more. As far as his throwing program, the left-hander is on schedule.

3. So, Seung-Hwan Oh might not be signing with the Rangers, or at least that's the deal's current status after Daniels said that there is "nothing imminent" regarding an announcement of the one-year, $2.75 million deal.

The deal was pending a physical, and maybe there is something wrong with some part of his body. The shoulder or elbow would be likely sources of concern for the Rangers.

With Oh a potential no-go, the desire to find a closer could turn into an internal search of candidates. Right-hander Keone Kela has the stuff, but not the health. Alex Claudio checks off the durable box, and he was pretty good last season closing.

Jake Diekman could be the other choice, though he said he isn't thinking about being a closer.

You know who else might do better in the role? Matt Bush.

4. Jurickson Profar is neither a catcher nor a pitcher, but his name came up Thursday during the morning session with Banister. Just what is it that Profar will be doing this spring?

Banister said that the Rangers want Profar, who spent time in Curacao and Miami this off-season, to be their utility infielder. As such, he will focus on shortstop this spring rather than hop around the diamond.

Banister believes a less crowded plate provides young players a chance to develop. In that vain, Drew Robinson will focus on the outfield early in camp. Once things get late and roster spots are on the line, perhaps that will change.

With six starters and seven relievers, that would leave a three-man bench in which versatility would be at a premium. Profar and Robinson have that.

5. There are multiple veterans invited to camp who have a big-league track record and seem like really swell guys. Right-handed relievers Steve Delabar and Kevin Jepsen struck me as cool dudes, and Colon did, too.

Darwin Barney and Trevor Plouffe aren't in camp yet, but here's betting they fall into the same category.

Delabar is a former All-Star. Barney is a former Gold Glove winner. Plouffe has two 20-homer seasons, two 80-RBI seasons and two seasons with at least 35 doubles. Jepsen has been a key setup piece for contending teams.

Here's a question: In what the Rangers have said isn't an all-in season but a season where they need to evaluate young players in the system, should the veteran non-roster invites in contention for roster spots?

The answer is probably parts yes and no.

Yes, assuming they can get outs. The veterans can also use their experiences to help the young players learn, especially the relievers. Since the Rangers say they aren't tanking and plan to compete for a playoff spot, the veterans might be options early on.

If one of the veterans has a respectable showing, perhaps he can be flipped to a contender for a prospect.

That would be where the no decision comes into play later in the season should the Rangers fall out of contention. For instance, if they are 10 games out of the wild-card hunt, is it better for the franchise to see Delabar or, oh, Ricky Rodriguez enter in the seventh inning of a one-run game with the bases loaded and no outs?

For now, those veterans are contending for roster spots. They should win them if they deserve to win them. But if the season were to go south, they would become eminently replaceable.

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