Texas Rangers

Smyly injury said to be mild, but missed time again exposes this major Rangers problem

Here’s a refresher course on the state of the Texas Rangers’ starting rotation and their rotation depth before the season started:

It was bad.

And in a span of only two weeks, things have gone from bad to worse.

Left-hander Drew Smyly became the latest starter to hit the injured list, finding the 10-day IL on Tuesday with left mid-arm nerve tightness. He was scheduled to start Wednesday against the Oakland A’s, a start that, as of press time, has been filled by TBA.

Smyly joins right-hander Edinson Volquez on the bench and places further burden on a minor-league depth chart that is currently headed by Oh Geez, Never Heard of Him and Not Ready Yet.

And then there is Gio Gonzalez, the two-time All-Star lefty who is a free agent again after opting out of the minor-league deal with the New York Yankees.

“Unlikely,” a Rangers source said.

The good news, according to those who know these things, is that Smyly might miss only Wednesday’s start. The nerve tightness is a common ailment that dissipates quickly.

With Smyly coming back from Tommy John surgery and coming off a start Friday in which he threw 102 pitches in 3 2/3 innings, the Rangers are being extra cautious with him.

Long man Kyle Dowdy was in line for the emergency spot start Wednesday, and fellow righty Wei-Chieh Huang was recalled from Double A Frisco. The Rangers could choose from righties Ariel Jurado and Phillips Valdez and lefty Taylor Hearn if Smyly needs to miss a second start. Or a third.

Manager Chris Woodward assured the media that the medical staff assured him that Smyly’s issue isn’t a major issue.

“They said it’s an easily treatable thing that should go away,” Woodward said. “That leads me to believe that hopefully it’s only one start. We’re not looking at something that’s going to linger on for the whole year or something like that. Nobody was really alarmed.

“Hopefully that’s the truth and they’re not just trying to make me feel better.”

Hope is a good thing, especially considering the Rangers’ options.

Jurado pitched well his last time out for Triple A Nashville but struggled in spring training and didn’t pitch well overall last season in the Rangers’ rotation. Valdez hasn’t been stretched out to handle a starter’s workload, but the Rangers like him.

Valdez is not on the 40-man roster.

Hearn is the prospect closest to the major leagues, and he has pitched well despite a 1-3 record and 4.05 ERA. He has 26 strikeouts in four starts, which ranks fourth in the Pacific Coast League.

The Rangers, though, are hoping they can hold off on Hearn until he logs more starts at Triple A. The goal was to wait until midseason before considering him.

They will be able to do that if the Smyly injury is as mild as the Rangers are saying. If not, the depth will continue to erode away.

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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.
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