The Big Mac Blog

Good/Bad: The Rangers are not kidding themselves about a pair of crucial lefties

Texas Rangers starting left handed pitcher Matt Harrison is hoping to return on June 1; he has had major back surgeries in each of the last two years.
Texas Rangers starting left handed pitcher Matt Harrison is hoping to return on June 1; he has had major back surgeries in each of the last two years. Star-Telegram

First, let’s go to the good news: The Texas Rangers are privately not planning to get much of anything from Martin Perez or Matt Harrison this season. This is quite realistic.

Now let’s go to the bad news: The Texas Rangers need Martin Perez and or Matt Harrison this season.

The Rangers have three solid big league starters at the top of the rotation - Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and the recently acquired Yovanni Gallardo. After that, who knows? But they cannot expect a thing from Perez or Harrison, both of whom are coming off major surgeries last season.

The safer bet to provide anything this season is Perez, who last season had Tommy John surgery. Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said after the team worked out on Wednesday at the Ballpark that the target date for the lefty’s return is the All-Star break. But even Levine concedes that to expect Perez to be the same guy he was at the time of the injury is unrealistic. The Rangers expect Perez to be that guy again in 2016.

As for Harrison, he makes Tony Romo’s return from two back surgeries in 2014 look like a comeback from a popped zit.

“No one has done this before,” Harrison said Wednesday.

Harrison, 29, had spinal fusion surgery last year, and now readily admits this is his last shot at playing baseball again. It was his second major back operation in two years. He said after he had the surgery last year he did consider retirement. If it the symptoms flare again, he’s done. He is looking at a quality of life issue that trumps ball.

“I couldn’t get out of bed,” he said. “It wasn’t worth it.”

Harrison, a former All-Star, has been limited to six starts over the last two years because of injuries. He keeps telling the Rangers he feels great and is ready to go, but both the team and the doctors are telling him to slow down.

There is no plan for him to do anything during Spring Training, and the earliest we may see him is June 1.

“I feel good about it,” he said. “(Teammate) Colby Lewis was the first one to do that (type of hip resurfacing) surgery and he did it.”

This is true. Two years ago Lewis had his hip resurfaced, and no one knew what the results would hold. He did not pitch for the Rangers in 2013. No one had had that surgery before to resume a big league career. Injuries like that normally ended careers. Lewis returned last season to make 29 starts, and he threw 170 innings.

The Rangers are not expecting anything like that from Harrison this season. If they get anything from him at all, this season or next, it will be a pleasant surprise.

The problem for the Rangers is that their rotation needs Perez or Harrison to be in there and be the pitchers they were before injuries put them on the bench.

They are following the more realistic plan to expect nothing from either, which is both wise, and scary.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof

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