Elvis Andrus: Astros rotation showed an edge
An off day Monday became a needed respite for the Texas Rangers after their lost weekend in Houston.
Emphasis on lost.
The Astros did everything better than that Rangers en route to a four-game sweep that possibly vaulted George Springer to the American League Player of the Week award ahead of Hunter Pence.
It also left the Rangers 1-5 on their nine-game road trip that resumes Tuesday against the Kansas City Royals, and a season-worst four games below .500. Oh, yeah, the Rangers are also last in the AL West.
The Royals are 13 games below .500, so perhaps the Rangers and some of their struggling players can find some positive mojo against their spring training roommates.
After six weeks, it could be time to shake a few things up. Here are three possibilities:
The thought Sunday morning was that a day off followed by a scheduled off day might give Rougned Odor a chance to recharge his mind and hopefully his swing after posting a .137 average so far.
Granted, the second baseman missed a few weeks with a knee injury and isn’t to 100 at-bats yet. At 95, it’s probably safe to round up.
Since coming off the injured list April 26, Odor is 6 for 53 (.113) with 29 strikeouts and four walks. His slump might be starting to affect him defensively. His first error Saturday was not the first instance in which he didn’t make a play he should have.
The Rangers could make Danny Santana their starter at second base. He’s batting .273 in his past 13 games, though that’s off the sizzling pace he set when first promoted after Odor was injured.
Logan Forsythe might be a better option, especially since the Rangers don’t have true center fielder on their roster.
The Rangers’ current plan for Shelby Miller is to keep him in the rotation, but cap him at 70 pitches. That could change if he is more effective, or he could end up as a reliever in the beleaguered bullpen if he isn’t.
He was encouraged by his last outing Wednesday at Pittsburgh, when he worked three scoreless innings before allowing two in the fourth. He limited the damage in that final inning, and that’s something to build upon.
But he needs to keep building, or his ultimate destination could be the bullpen.
Miller isn’t the only problem in the rotation, which the Astros exposed, and it’s difficult for a team with only two solid starting options to carry a starter that is limited to 70 pitches.
Mike Minor and Lance Lynn will give the Rangers a chance to win on most nights. They opted to use Jesse Chavez as the opener Saturday to give Drew Smyly one less time to face the right-handed thunder atop the Astros’ lineup. Adrian Sampson struggled again Sunday.
The Rangers could swap Miller, Smyly or Sampson for Ariel Jurado, though the longer he goes in the bullpen, the smaller his pitch count becomes. Of the starters in the minors who are on the 40-man roster, left-hander Joe Palumbo might be the most reliable option.
There isn’t much wiggle room here.
By using the opener Saturday, the Rangers were down an arm in the bullpen later in the game when they really needed one. Instead of going to Chavez when down only 2-1 in the sixth, as might have been the case without the opener, the Rangers selected Kyle Dowdy.
Dowdy was still on the mound in the seventh after Ronald Guzman’s three-run homer trimmed the Astros’ lead to 6-4.
Houston added three runs.
Even if the Rangers hadn’t gone with an opener and even though Shawn Kelley (infection) should return soon, the Rangers could use an upgrade in the bullpen. They again are limited in their available options, though they signed right-hander Josh Fields last week.
He is coming off consecutive seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers with a sub-3.00 ERA. The problem is he would need a 40-man spot. Getting him on the 25-man roster wouldn’t be quite as tricky, but would still have some pitfalls.