Texas Rangers

Two young pitchers. Two quality arms. No clear path to Rangers’ 2020 Opening Day roster

The Texas Rangers have only two more day games left at Globe Life Park.

With any luck Sunday’s afternoon tilt was the last miserably hot game in club history.

The remaining day games are Sept. 26 and the ballpark finale Sept. 29. It’s likely to still be warm, but not 96-at-first-pitch warm.

Next season, of course, the Rangers will have the option of closing the retractable roof at Globe Life Field. They haven’t established the parameters for closing, but anything above 85 seems like a good target.

So, say goodbye to those sun-soaked, heat-stroke days in the stands. Also say goodbye to the Oakland A’s, who won’t be back to visit and torment the Rangers until April 27.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-1 loss and a three-game sweep.

Palumbo returns

Joe Palumbo did not start Sunday’s bullpen day for the Rangers, and he isn’t likely to log much more than the two innings he completed on 38 pitches in any outing the rest of the season.

The left-hander was effective in his first outing since Aug. 20, when a blister developed on his thumb and took him right out of the rotation. He struck out four and walked two.

“It definitely felt good to go out there,” said Palumbo, who hopes to pitch “as many time as possible to get as many innings under my belt as possible” the rest of the season.

Palumbo is part of a three-lefty clot of starters with Brock Burke and Kolby Allard. A fourth, Taylor Hearn, barely pitched this season and will start 2020 in the minors.

One of Palumbo, Burke and Allard will, too. Maybe two of them will, depending on how the Rangers shop this off-season for starting pitchers.

They need to sign at least one veteran right-handed starter, and there are several who won’t break their bank the way Gerrit Cole would.

If Globe Life Field plays anything like Globe Life Park, left-handed hitters will have an advantage. So, the Rangers might be inclined to go with three lefties in their rotation and selected two from the Palumbo-Burke-Allard threesome.

The problem with that is the Rangers play 57 games against the A’s, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels, whose best hitters are right-handed. Why give Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Khris Davis, Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman an extra glance at lefty?

Finances might be the ultimate factor in the Rangers’ lefty/righty rotation balance.

No one knows for sure how wide ownership will be opening their wallets.

Hernandez should start

The box score shows that Jonathan Hernandez allowed three runs in 2 2/3 innings as the opener for the Rangers. He didn’t allow anything the first two innings, but surrendered a two-run homer to Marcus Semien and an inherited runner scored after he exited.

Hernandez mixed speeds, pumping fastballs into the upper 90s and dialing in changeups in the upper 80s, and at times was effectively wild. A starter in the minors until July, Hernandez looked comfortable at the start of the game.

For a team still trying to develop starting pitchers, the Rangers shouldn’t close the door on Hernandez starting.

He has worked to do, primarily finding mechanics that allow him to repeat his arm slot and have better command of his pitches. That was part of the purpose behind moving him to the bullpen in the first place, with mechanics easier to repeat in shorter spurts.

As a reliever, he knows he can give max effort, and his max effort can be hard to hit. A overpowering multi-innings reliever is coveted these days.

But not as much as a home-grown starting pitcher.

So, stretch him out for spring training. If it doesn’t work out, fine, stick him in the bullpen. But with the best of the Rangers’ right-handed starter prospects no higher than Double A Frisco, Hernandez should at least be given one more chance to start.

Here’s the catch

The Rangers are considering adding a catcher from the minor leagues to end the season in case Jeff Mathis’ lower back strain is slow to heal.

They can probably wait until next weekend for him to get better. The Rangers are off Monday and Thursday, so Jose Trevino can handle the games Tuesday and Wednesday at Houston and the opener Friday at Oakland.

He probably could handle the Saturday game, too, before manager Chris Woodward would feel compelled to give him a day off next Sunday.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the backup catcher again, though he hasn’t caught in nearly two months. He could be a foul tip to Trevino’s toes or hand from being the No. 1 catcher.

And that’s the fear, that the Rangers suddenly find themselves with only one catcher. They could summon Tim Federowicz or Tony Sanchez or Jett Bandy from vacation for a week of MLB duty.

That’s pretty good pay, by the way.

The Rangers would need to create a 40-man spot, which they can do fairly easily.

Plan A, though, is waiting for Mathis’ back to feel better.

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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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