Texas Rangers

A.J. Griffin returns to mound in Rangers’ time of colossal need

Rangers starter A.J. Griffin delivers a first-inning pitch against Boston on Saturday night at Globe Life Park.
Rangers starter A.J. Griffin delivers a first-inning pitch against Boston on Saturday night at Globe Life Park. Special to the Star-Telegram

A.J. Griffin returned to the mound at Globe Life Park on Saturday night for his first start since May 7.

His return came at a good time. It was just a few days ago that two-fifths of the Texas Rangers’ rotation was placed on the disabled list after injuries to Colby Lewis and Derek Holland. They joined Yu Darvish, who has been out with right shoulder soreness since June 9.

Griffin had been on the DL with right shoulder stiffness since May 8.

He went 4  1/3 innings Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox before running out of gas in the fifth. He was charged with two earned runs on four hits and a walk. The right-hander struck out six and threw 91 pitches — the most he had thrown since May 2.

With Lewis out for at least a couple of months and Holland out for at least a couple of weeks, the Rangers will be relying on Griffin, Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez, who will start Monday’s opener against the Yankees in New York. It will be Gonzalez’s first start for the Rangers in 2016.

My job is just to go out there and give us the best chance to win every time I take the hill.

Rangers starter A.J. Griffin

The trio are tasked with helping to keep the ship afloat while others heal. For Griffin, who was 3-0 with a 2.94 ERA in six starts before the injury, picking up the slack isn’t part of the equation.

“My job is just to go out there and give us the best chance to win every time I take the hill,” he said. “You can’t really concern yourself with stuff like that, but it’s unfortunate to lose a couple quality pitchers like that. It’s kind of the nature of the beast. It’s tough, but we’ve got some good ballplayers and we’ll pick them up.”

Gonzalez is 3-6 with a 5.04 ERA in 14 starts for Triple A Round Rock this season. His high ERA is a bit deceiving, as he allowed nine earned runs in 2  2/3 innings May 13. The right-hander has pitched well in six of his seven starts since.

He stepped up big for us when he first came up last year, and just the overall body of work.

Manager Jeff Banister on Chi Chi Gonzalez returning to the majors

“He stepped up big for us when he first came up last year, and just the overall body of work,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said of calling on Gonzalez. “It kind of plays into the philosophy of a three-pitch or less mentality, get the ball on the ground. I think we can manage those innings and have the opportunity, given the overall choices, I felt like he was the best fit for us right now.”

With three of the starters in the rotation less likely to go deep into games, the roles of Tony Barnette and Luke Jackson could become bigger in the coming month. Both will be used as long relief pitchers. Barnette pitched two perfect innings Friday, and Jackson was able to induce a 5-4-3 double play in the fifth to preserve a 3-2 lead Saturday night.

The Rangers scored three runs in the fourth behind Ian Desmond’s solo homer and a two-run single by Mitch Moreland against Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright. They added five more in the fifth to knock Wright from the game. Two Red Sox fielding errors and singles by Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder sparked the rally.

“Losing those two guys is going to hurt for sure,” said Elvis Andrus, whose bases-clearing triple in the fifth gave the Rangers a 7-2 lead. A wild pitch allowed Andrus to score to make it 8-2. “It’s part of baseball; we know injuries are around the corner. We’re lucky to have a lot of depth on our team.

“Griffin has been really good for us this year. Whoever is on the mound, we know he’s going to give his best and everything he’s got. As position players, we’re going to help him and try to give them some breathing room early in the games.”

The “breathing room” didn’t come until the fourth and fifth innings Saturday night, but Griffin wasn’t complaining.

Rangers pitcher A.J. Griffin's new keyboard arrived Tuesday and he wasted no time. He played a few tunes, including Led Zeppelin's You're Time Is Gonna Come. He also is proficient on the guitar (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

Shortstop Elvis Andrus said that the Rangers will have no problem forgetting about the 8-7 loss Friday in which the bullpen blew a three-run lead with two outs in the ninth (video by Jeff Wilson).

Rangers manager Jeff Banister said the he decided to give Sam Dyson another night off to help keep the closer healthy for the rest of the season (video by Jeff Wilson).

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

Rangers vs. Red Sox

2:05 p.m. Sunday, FSSW

Rangers vs. Red Sox

2:05 p.m. Sunday

TV: FSSW

Radio: KRLD/105.3 FM, ESPN/1540 AM (Spanish)

Rangers LHP Martin Perez (6-4, 3.57 ERA) vs. Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz (3-7, 5.83)

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