Texas Rangers

Smyly threw 102 pitches in less than four innings, but he’s not Rangers’ top concern

By the time Kyle Dowdy recorded the third out of the fifth inning Friday, the game was two hours old and the cynical side of Rangers Reaction had the following thoughts:

1. Man, the Texas Rangers have to bat five more times.

2. At least the Rangers have a hit.

3. How many more pitches can Rangers pitchers possibly throw?

4. Would it be rude to sneak in a quick power nap?

5. Time to start writing.

There were others, some of which weren’t fit to print for a family newspaper but would probably get some good web hits.

The Houston Astros recorded some good hits, and Justin Verlander didn’t give up very many.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 7-2 loss to the Astros.

1. Entering Friday, the Rangers seemed cautiously optimistic that left-hander Drew Smyly had cleared most of the hurdles a pitcher coming off Tommy John must get past upon his return to game action.

His between-starts bullpen was said to be really good, a session in which he could put his pitches wherever he wanted. Command is one of the last things to return to pitchers after they have their ulnar collateral ligament replaced.

They might be less sure now after Smyly logged 102 pitches in 3 2/3 innings, though with eight strikeouts after he finally found the feel for his curveball. He allowed four runs, three after the first three batters of the game.

He acknowledges that he needs to be more efficient. So far this season, he is averaging 23.8 pitches per inning. The goal is 15.

“It’s taking me a lot of pitches to generate outs right now,” Smyly said. “There were definitely positives to take out of it. I’m improving every game, but I’m having a hard time being efficient.”

The Rangers have been more concerned about Shelby Miller, also coming back from Tommy John, and fellow right-hander Adrian Sampson, who started the season at Triple A Nashville.

They might not have a lot of time to turn things around.

Sampson, scheduled to start Saturday, and Miller, set for the finale Sunday, might not lose their spots in the rotation but might become part of a piggyback system in which the Rangers use a number of different young pitchers from the minors as relievers.

Brett Martin could be one of them. So could Jeffrey Springs. So could Taylor Hearn.

This wouldn’t be a form of The Opener, but rather a chance for the Rangers to minimize the damage against Sampson and Miller but also to break in some pitchers who are thought to be key pieces in future seasons.

The Rangers have a history of attempting breaking in their best pitching prospects in the majors out of the bullpen. Derek Holland and Martin Perez come to mind.

The prospects need to continue to pitch well in the minors, obviously, but they will become real options as the season progresses and they gain more experience. Hearn, it stands to reason, would be first.

That plan gets blown up if Smyly, Sampson and Miller begin to log innings and pitch effectively. They’re going to get chances to do so, but Sampson and Miller might not get too many more of them.

2. Did anybody else wonder why manager Chris Woodward allowed Smyly to throw 102 pitches in 3 2/3 innings. According to the research of T.R. Sullivan, that was only the seventh time in franchise history since 1989 for a pitcher to pull that one off.

But according to a Twitter follower who was an eye-witness in Chicago, Smyly was actually outdone Friday at Wrigley Field.

Arizona Diamonbacks starter Merrill Kelly threw 109 pitches in 3 2/3 innings against the Chicago Cubs. He allowed three runs on six hits and seven walks while striking out five.

Maybe Woodward and Dbacks manager Torey Lovullo had a bet going.

Woodward had a non-gambling purpose.

“He was building a little momentum in the inning before,” Woodward said. “He struck out the last two. I wanted to see him to what he did in the [third] inning. I’m glad he went back out, and he finish on a strong now. Hopefully that will carry over into the next outing.”

3. It wasn’t all bad Friday.

Solo homers were hit by Danny Santana and Joey Gallo. Santana hadn’t hit one since 2017, and Gallo hadn’t hit one since Tuesday.

Martin worked a scoreless ninth inning in his MLB debut, retiring Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel on three ground balls.

Dowdy was effective, though he allowed a runner he inherited from Jeanmar Gomez to score. It come on a double by George Springer on a ball that appeared to clear the fence. Umpires reviewed it and the original ruling was upheld.

Left-hander Cole Ragans, the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2016, is scheduled to throw live batting practice Saturday in Arizona. It will be the second of four scheduled live BPs, and his first rehab start is tentatively scheduled for May 8.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.