Texas Rangers

Rangers continue quest for pitching depth

Yu Darvish is expected to return in May, and the Rangers believe he won’t encounter the same pitfalls as many others who have returned from Tommy John surgery.
Yu Darvish is expected to return in May, and the Rangers believe he won’t encounter the same pitfalls as many others who have returned from Tommy John surgery. Star-Telegram

News these days is hard to find at Globe Life Park, where general manager Jon Daniels and the rest of the Texas Rangers’ front office punch the clock as baseball’s off-season enters the home stretch.

The tasks Daniels has left to complete this winter aren’t glamorous — among them, preparations for a pitching minicamp and the annual trip to the Dominican Republic.

From a player acquisition standpoint, free-agent outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton aren’t coming to town — with their anticipated multiyear contracts beyond the Rangers’ budget — and neither is right-hander Yovani Gallardo.

A source said that a trade with Miami for outfielder Marcell Ozuna also isn’t likely.

Colby Lewis, though, will sign up for 2016 next week on a one-year deal worth $6 million, assuming he passes a physical exam scheduled for Monday. Adding another veteran bat, along with depth pieces at catcher and in the infield, is under consideration.

And there’s this possibility: another starting pitcher in addition to Lewis.

A team can never have enough pitching, or so they say, and the Rangers learned that in both the disastrous 2014 season and in 2015 — when their top two starters to open spring training ended up on the disabled list by the first week of the season.

Colby Lewis must pass a physical exam Monday before he can sign a one-year, $6 million offer for 2016. He had surgery in October on his right knee.

Derek Holland came back. Yu Darvish is expected back by May. The Rangers, meanwhile, are exploring all options to keep their starters healthy, and that includes having a surplus of arms at the ready.

“The only guy in the rotation that had a full healthy year last year was Cole Hamels,” Daniels said. “Even Colby had off-season knee surgery. There’s risk there. I think that’s why we’ve focused on building that depth.”

Darvish, who has returned from Japan and is working out in Arlington, is the most intriguing of the Rangers’ starters as he attempts to come back from Tommy John surgery last spring.

Assuming he rejoins the rotation, the Rangers are well aware of the pitfalls with stuff and command that Tommy John recipients can encounter early in their returns.

But the Rangers also believe that Darvish is in the same class as elite pitchers who have returned from Tommy John and had fewer issues.

The performances of Matt Harvey, Adam Wainwright, Jose Fernandez and even John Smoltz in their first season after Tommy John have buoyed the Rangers’ hopes for Darvish, who will resume his throwing program next week.

“The No. 1 priority is to get him back to full health, and we’re on a good path toward that,” Daniels said. “I look at upper echelon starting pitchers who have come back from Tommy John, the cream of the crop which he clearly fits in, there are a lot of guys who don’t have problems.”

12 Starters used by the Rangers in 2015. They used 31 pitchers overall, second-most in the American League.

Nevertheless, the club will keep close tabs on Darvish, and he won’t be alone. Neither Holland nor Perez has pitched a full season since 2013. Holland made 15 starts the past two seasons, and Perez started 22.

While Darvish’s late start to the season should satisfy the workload concerns for his new elbow ligament, there is some concern that Holland and Perez might not be able to handle a full workload.

That’s where the extra arms come in.

A.J. Griffin and Cesar Ramos join a group that already includes Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez, Anthony Ranaudo, Phil Klein and Myles Jaye. Daniels said that there are some affordable options still on the market who interest the Rangers.

I’m looking forward to seeing Nick, Klein, Ranaudo and Chi Chi, and see what steps forward they can take.

General manager Jon Daniels

The Rangers used Gonzalez, Martinez and Ranaudo a few times last season as spot starters to give the regulars a break in a quasi six-man rotation — a five-plus-one situation. It’s an option in 2016 as the Rangers consider how to manage their rotation, and consider acquiring another starter in addition to Lewis.

“All of that is on the table,” Daniels said. “We’ve got to get to camp and evaluate our staff. But that’s why it is so important to build that depth.”

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