Texas Rangers

Elite starter or position player? Woodward explains which he would rather have for Rangers

Weather wasn’t an issue Tuesday at Minute Maid Park and won’t be an issue Wednesday night, either.

The retractable roof was protecting the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros from the rain that was falling from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Imelda.

The storm came ashore south of here Tuesday afternoon and is moving northward. Imelda could drop up to 12 inches of rain in the greater Houston area through Friday.

Great.

While baseball games will be played, travel for the Rangers on Wednesday and for the beat writers Thursday might be a little dicey.

Great.

Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 4-1 loss.

State your position

1. The daily pregame session with manager Chris Woodward produced two interesting debates.

The first was whether to drink soda from a can. Woodward doesn’t think soda should be consumed at all, but especially not from a can because of the potential hazards coming from aluminum.

He’s also not a fan of the sugar, but he’s OK with a bottled soda or fountain drink.

During the conversation, Edinson Volquez walked past Woodward’s office with a can of Coke.

Pretty funny.

The second debate was much more baseball-focuses: Would he rather sign an elite free-agent starting pitcher or third baseman?

“I think it’s hard not to go with the position player because they impact more games,” said Woodward, a former MLB position player. “An elite starting pitcher is valuable, there’s no question. I just always feel like pitching is a little more volatile when it comes to health.”

The Astros had both Tuesday. Cy Young front-runner Justin Verlander tossed six scoreless innings, and Alex Bregman hit one of three solo homers off Lance Lynn.

But if a top-flight starter is injured and misses two months, he goes from 30 starts to 20 starts of 162. If a position player misses 20 games, he’s still going to play 130 or 140 games.

The Rangers are likely to sign a veteran starting pitcher, though there might be only one ace available. That’s Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole, who could be joined by Stephen Strasburg if he opts out of his contract with the Washington Nationals.

Yu Darvish can opt out of his contract with the Chicago Cubs, but he’s probably not in the Cole-Strasburg realm. The Rangers’ realm might be Zack Wheeler or a veteran like Tanner Roark.

Third base could be where the Rangers make a splash with Anthony Rendon. Josh Donaldson will also be a free agent. Don’t lose track of the first-base market, which will have Jose Abreu and could have Edwin Encarnacion.

The Rangers need that right-handed pop, and both might come on shorter-term deals.

A position player is where Woodward would spend.

And no soda from cans.

200-200 update

2. Two two starts apiece remaining, Lynn and Mike Minor are both going to reach 200 innings.

Lynn needs 4 1/3 more innings, and Minor needs 5 1/3 more.

Lynn has already piled up 200 strikeouts, and Minor is 12 short.

They could join the Houston Astros as the only MLB team with two 200-inning, 200-strikeout pitchers with Verlander and Cole. Strasburg and Patrick Corbin could do it for the Nationals.

“When you show up to spring training as a starting pitcher, it’s 200 innings and 200 strikeouts,” Lynn said. “That’s grown-man stuff.”

The 200-strikeout mark isn’t too rare, as 19 pitchers have already reached the plateau. Only three pitchers have 200 innings, and 12 might be the max.

Woodward said that he is going to give Minor as much rope has he can to reach 200 innings.

“If he gets caught up in trying to strike guys out instead of just executing, it’s going to go down a wrong path,” Woodward said. “I would like to get him there, but at the same time I want to be mindful that I leave him out there for too long or have go into the off-season with a negative finish to the season.”

But to have two 200-innings pitchers is a rare thing, especially in an age when teams get antsy letting a starting pitcher go through a lineup three times. Hello, Los Angeles Angels.

Woodward said that teams might eye 180 innings as a limit, and either skip starts or use the injured list to make sure a pitcher isn’t stretched to 200.

Lynn and Minor, though, have saved the Rangers’ bullpen in a season when they haven’t had great starting pitching depth. As the Rangers go into the off-season, assembling a rotation will be easier because they know they can count on Lynn and Minor to carry an above-average workload.

“It’s not an easy task nowadays,” Woodward said. “For Mike to get to 200 is a big deal. Two years ago he was in the bullpen and not sure if he would start again. Lance has always been a workhorse, but to prove to the rest of the league that he’s only getting better with age, he takes a lot of pride in that.”

Pittsburgh problems

3. For all those Rangers fans who strongly dislike a third straight losing season, Rougned Odor, Jon Daniels, turf at Globe Life Field and whatever else, be strongly grateful that the Rangers are not the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Were they a college team, the NCAA would put them on probation for a lack of institutional control. The athletic director and head coach would lose their jobs.

That could very well happen to the general manager, Neal Huntington, and the manager, Clint Hurdle.

The latest Pirates embarrassment, though no fault of Huntington or Hurdle, was the arrest Tuesday of closer Felipe Vazquez, who allegedly solicited sex from a minor. MLB has placed him on administrative leave, and real jail time could be in his future.

Nothing else that has gone wrong in the clubhouse has resulted in criminal charges, but are a sign of something gone wrong in Pittsburgh. Not surprisingly, former Rangers reliever Keone Kela was involved in two of them.

He was suspended two games after an altercation with a staff member, and he was suspended 10 games for his role in a brawl with the Cincinnati Reds.

Does everyone understand now why the Rangers were willing to trade him at the first chance they had?

They are better off without him.

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.
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