Hunter Out At Least Six Weeks, Rangers Reopen Rotation Competition
Hours after announcing the rotation to open the 2011 season, Rangers starting pitcher Tommy Hunter suffered his latest spring training injury.
A right groin strain will keep Hunter out of the Rangers plans until mid-May at the earliest leaving the Rangers to try and pick a 5th starter from a group of prospects and veteran hurlers.
At the moment the leader in the clubhouse appears to be left-hander Michael Kirkman who was in consideration for the rotation until the middle of the week and not sent to AAA until the Rangers announced the rotation on Friday.
The Rangers are also reportedly considering Alexi Ogando for the role but that appears highly unlikely for the same reasons Neftali Feliz will stay in the bullpen, especially with left-handed setup reliever Arthur Rhodes leaving the game Friday night with left-wrist tendonitis.
The Rangers had been somewhat lucky for most of the spring in the injury department but now find themselves with question marks in the rotation and the bullpen.
Now before anyone hits the panic button I want to point out the best place the Rangers can survive a few injuries is in the pitching department where the club enjoys quite a bit of depth.
Even though Hunter is the guy the Rangers wanted in the rotation, the club has more than a few options capable of winning a few starts in his absence.
I believe Kirkman gets the nod but I have to agree with some who want Eric Hurley to get his shot in the rotation while Hunter is out.
Hurley was very impressive this spring, pounding the strike zone like few other pitchers in camp with efficient pitch counts.
I'm not sure why Hurley wasn't given more of a look in Rangers camp but my guess is they want him to continue to build up his arm strength at AAA Round Rock and possibly prove he's healthy.
Another guy who can step into the rotation is veteran starter Dave Bush who has quietly had a spring good enough to warrant consideration.
For his career Bush has gone 56-68 with an ERA of 4.66; certainly fifth starter numbers over a career but probably not worth the risk given the other options the Rangers have.
Unlike in past seasons the Rangers won't be able to just skip the 5th starter with off days in April, whoever they pick has to be able to hold down the spot until either Hunter or Brandon Webb are able to return.
This brings me back to Kirkman or Hurley, the two guys I think are best suited for the role with an edge to Kirkman.
The Rangers are trying to win again this season and don't have time to break in another prospect like Hurley when they have the battle tested left-hander Michael Kirkman in the mix.
Kirkman, however, has been inconsistent this spring so the argument for Hurley would be going with the hot hand at the time.
Either way the Rangers go they still have more depth at AAA Round Rock and can make a change in late April if the guy they open the season with isn't working out.
Just when they thought they were all set to start the season Tommy Hunter's right groin throws a wrench into everything.