Gil LeBreton

Rangers’ roller-coaster series likely means wild ride at home

Were it not for an early spring training setback, Derek Holland wouldn’t be pitching today.
Were it not for an early spring training setback, Derek Holland wouldn’t be pitching today. Star-Telegram

Six Flags and the Judge Roy Scream roller coaster won’t begin daily operation for another five weeks.

But in the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, may we present the Texas Rangers.

It’s hard to say what exactly bedeviled the Rangers during their miserable spring training exhibition season, the worst of any team in baseball. But the four games in Oakland this week provided a microcosm.

Starting pitching ranged from the promising to the disillusioning. The lineup ran the gamut from productive to overmatched.

Some guys seemed ready to start the regular season; some did not.

An intriguing home opener, therefore, awaits.

Has any major league team’s home opener ever featured two teams that had both been shut out twice and one-hit once in the first week?

The Houston Astros escaped being no-hit by four Cleveland pitchers with a ninth-inning homer Thursday, just as Ryan Rua’s eighth-inning single was the Rangers’ lone hit Monday.

It may happen again, of course. The Rangers did not exactly leave Arizona firing on all cylinders. And pound for pound, no division in baseball has better starting pitching at the front of its rotations than the American League West.

Friday’s Rangers starter, Derek Holland, belongs in that discussion. Were it not for an early setback in Surprise with his shoulder, Holland would have started one of the games in Oakland.

Coming out of spring training, four Texas starting pitchers seemed to be poised for the regular season. Two who didn’t, Yovani Gallardo and Ross Detwiler, were battered around this week by the Athletics.

Gallardo hasn’t pitched well all spring. Detwiler’s best work seemed to come in B games.

The four starters who did appear ready to pitch well were Holland, Colby Lewis, Nick Martinez and Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez. Because of Detwiler, I’m guessing, the Rangers elected to have the poised and precocious Gonzalez start the season in Triple A.

But so goes the season agenda. The Rangers are destined to be a work in progress ... until they aren’t. The roster and lineup are likely to remain fluid.

And that’s a good thing, for now, because the 10 names that will be on the lineup card Friday probably won’t be the same 10 that will start the franchise’s next postseason game, whenever that is.

Just look at the starting pitchers for recent Rangers home openers:

Tanner Scheppers, Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Scott Feldman, Kevin Millwood, Jason Jennings and Robinson Tejeda.

Holland doesn’t appear to remember it, but he did start the 2013 home opener, beating the Angels 3-2. The starting lineup that day included Lance Berkman, Craig Gentry and A.J. Pierzynski.

The Rangers have won six of their past 10 home openers, which includes last year’s 14-10 pitching meltdown against the Phillies. Before that, they had won five home openers in a row.

The home park used to matter a lot more to the Rangers when Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz were aiming at the fences. But an architectural adjustment and a seasonal change in wind directions have lessened the alleged homefield advantage.

Who knows which way the winds will blow this season for the Texas Rangers?

For now, they’re a wild ride, a work in progress, as the four games in Oakland hinted.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your 2015 Texas Rangers.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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