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Texas Rangers Spring Training Preview, Part Two of Five: Starting Pitching

March 9, 2010

The success of any team in Major League Baseball revolves around one very important group of people:

Starting pitchers.

For as long as I have been a Rangers’ fan their pitching has been a topic of much discussion, and limited group success. Last year proved to be a diamond in the rough as numerous young pitchers had good outings for the big club.

The further success of this team is largely contingent on these same young arms. There have also been some additions that should aid the team this season.

Scott Feldman is the leader of this pitching staff as I see it. He is the senior starting pitcher on this staff, and he has proven that he can pitch with the best. With Millwood gone (woo hoo!) this is his staff to lead.

He led the team with 17 wins last season and was amongst the league leaders in numerous statistical categories. He did all of this very quietly for the most part. He is not a big flashy pitcher, but he comes out and throws strikes, and plain and simple gets it done.

There is no question in my mind that he should be the Opening Day starter based on his history with the team. Rich Harden may have had the better stuff in his past, but he has not proven himself as a Ranger, yet.

I for one was thrilled when I heard Harden had been signed. I remember his days in Oakland and the dominant pitcher he was. We are all aware of his injury issues, but he has had a couple of decent years recently.

In 2008 and 2009 he threw the second and third most innings of his career tossing about 140 innings both seasons. The Rangers are hoping he will be closer to 200 this season, something he has never done, but I guess there is always hope.

The real exciting thing to look forward to is that he pitched better in the American League than he did in the National League. He should also provide some veteran leadership for this young staff.

Colby Lewis is back with the Rangers following two years of pitching in Japan. He has looked good so far securing the number three spot in the rotation.

Lewis’s first stint in Texas was less than stellar as he holds the record for worst ERA by a rookie at 7.30. Having gained some experience he should do better than that number, but we won’t really know until he gets a few games under his belt.

The final two spots in the rotation are the focus of discussion amongst the Rangers and their fans. Tommy Hunter, Brandon McCarthy, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison appear to be leading the race, with others, notably CJ Wilson and Neftali Feliz, on the outside looking in.

Tommy Hunter came into camp lighter and focused on winning the fourth spot, and after his first outing he appears to be the front runner. He pitched two solid innings allowing only one unearned run. I loved watching him pitch last year, and look forward to numerous starts this season.

The Rangers continue to hope that Brandon McCarthy will find some success and not get injured.

He has only thrown more than 100 innings once in his career, he threw 101 in 2007, his first season with the Rangers. Since then he has only started 22 games because he always seems to be injured. He has also never had an ERA under 4.00.

I was never a huge fan of McCarthy since we gave up John Danks to get him, and his performance in Texas has not helped my feelings. Maybe his new cut fastball will help, but I think it is just time for the Rangers to cut their losses and move on.

Derek Holland started off the spring with a minor injury that kept him from pitching in a game until yesterday. It was a less than stellar outing giving up four runs, one earned, on two hits in a third of an inning.

It has to be tough mentally to feel behind everyone else, especially when you are so young, so hopefully he can catch up quickly and show us what he really has.

Holland struggled at the end of last season, but showed us how great he can be in stellar performances against the Red Sox and Angels. The fact that he is a lefty should also help his cause.

Matt Harrison is another lefty that showed moments of brilliance last year, but reminded us how young he was at other times. He has started off the spring in a brilliant fashion.

He threw two scoreless innings allowing only two hits. He was another pitcher that I thoroughly enjoyed watching last year, and am excited to see him further prove himself this year.

CJ Wilson is someone that I have never really enjoyed watching. He had decent numbers last year, and through a lot of innings out of the bullpen, but for some reason I cringed every time he came into the game.

I don’t know if he just gave up some big runs at crucial times or what, but I have no faith in the guy. His cocky comments this spring didn’t help my perception of him either.

He has no business in the rotation, and would only be taking away innings from the young guys that need them.

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