More big-inning blues sink Shelby Miller
The Texas Rangers probably didn’t want to be off Monday after outscoring the Seattle Mariners 29-2 on Saturday and Sunday. They are probably welcoming their off day Thursday.
It comes after the Rangers lost twice to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who entered the interleague series on an eight-game losing streak. The Rangers helped cure their woes Tuesday with a bullpen blowup.
The culprits Wednesday were the usual suspects. Hey, at least it didn’t rain.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 7-5 loss.
1. Drew Smyly should be back in the rotation by Sunday after his mid-arm nerve, whatever that is, was given time too cool off. He threw 37 pitches of live batting practice Wednesday and declared himself good to go.
His arm was overcooked the last time he pitched, as he threw 102 pitches in 3 2/3 innings against the Houston Astros. Smyly hopes this break on the 10-day IL is good enough to get him through the rest of the season.
The Rangers need that to happen, though it seems like that could be a tough one to pull off, as they are stretched thin with their rotation depth. They also need Shelby Miller to figure things out.
At times, it seems like Miller is on the cusp of breaking through. His first three innings Wednesday were his three best of the season, as he was efficient and flashed command power stuff.
But then the fourth arrived, and so did his troubles. A leadoff single turned into a four-run Pirates rally and made for short day for Miller, who lasted only 3 1/3 innings.
Manager Chris Woodward said that the pitching coaches are going to help Miller figure things out. They really don’t have a choice, unless they further want to deplete their depth by giving a rotation spot to Ariel Jurado and punting Miller.
“I feel like I’ve given him a lot of rope early on, and I’ll continue to do that,” Woodward said. “I don’t think we’re in a position to keep pulling the plug anytime something happens.”
That’s good news for Miller. So were the first three innings. The issue came once runners reached base. Miller lost his command, started falling behind in counts, and the Pirates started sitting his fastball.
Trouble ensued, or at least enough of it to make Woodward want to go to Jurado.
Pull the plug, so to speak, on Miller’s day. Just not on Miller as a member of the rotation.
2. The bullpen’s woes Tuesday night, starting with Jose Leclerc’s blown save that has cost him his job (probably temporarily) as closer, helped sink the Rangers on Wednesday, too.
Woodward dug deep in the bullpen after Ariel Jurado got them out of the fourth and fifth innings. Wei-Chieh Huang tossed a scoreless sixth in his second MLB appearance, but Kyle Dowdy surrendered three runs in 1 1/3 innings after the Rangers had scored once in the sixth and three times in the seventh.
He was allowed to pitch the eighth in a one-run game in a spot that normally would be reserved for Shawn Kelley or Chris Martin. They both worked Tuesday ahead of Leclerc, and only Kelley had a manageable workload.
Woodward was sitting on Kelley for a save opportunity with Leclerc both unavailable after Tuesday. Martin threw nearly 30 pitches Tuesday in a scoreless eighth inning, and Jesse Chavez wasn’t available after his long night in the 10th and 11th.
Does the final outcome change if the Rangers have their full arsenal? There’s a pretty good chance.
But every reliever has to be able to get outs.
“There were some guys we wanted to stay away from,” Woodward said. “I have no trouble putting in the guys in put in there. It’s a good test for them.”
Jurado and Huang could be up and down from Triple A Nashville and Double A Frisco throughout the season as they have minor-league options. Dowdy is a Rule 5 pick the Rangers don’t want to lose, so expect him to stick with the Rangers all season.
That’s manageable with an eight-man bullpen. It gets a little trickier with a standard seven-man bullpen, and the Rangers will soon be faced with that.
3. That’s because first baseman Ronald Guzman is supposed to be back next week.
General manager Jon Daniels said that Guzman will return to the active roster, which creates a bit of a roster crunch.
The Rangers can quickly alleviate that by going to a seven-man bullpen. So long, Huang.
But the Rangers are having trouble getting by with eight relievers. They could use 10.
That’s only half the problem.
Infielders Logan Forsythe and Danny Santana are out of minor-league options. If designated for assignment, they likely wouldn’t make it through waivers. If they did, they would strongly consider taking free agency.
“I’m hesitant to make a move that is irreversible,” Daniels said.
It could be a bad time for a position player who has minor-league options remaining, but Forsythe and Santana have been too good to just cast aside.