If the Texas Rangers wind up winning the American League West race in 2011, the rival Angels and Athletics will probably look back on the recently concluded six week stretch when Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Neftali Feliz and Julio Borbon hit the disabled list as the primary reason why.
When Josh Hamilton broke his arm April 12th, the Rangers were on top of the American League standings but not exactly cruising in the AL West race causing many, including myself, to wonder how big of a hole the Rangers would find themselves in when he rejoined the team; especially when Feliz, Cruz and Borbon followed the reigning AL MVP to the DL the next few weeks.
The Rangers have now gone from the top of the American League to one game over .500 over that stretch thanks to a victory in Philadelphia to finish off the road trip.
The team is very fortunate to still be in first place in the AL West and the other contenders in the division cannot be very happy with such a missed opportunity.
The Rangers starting pitching has been solid, but the bullpen hasn't been consistent and losing a third of the regular batting order has caused a drought of epic proportions in the Rangers offense, yet here they are; in first place and showing signs of righting the ship.
In a way this is a lot like teams facing an ace starter in a given game; get him early or you might as well forget it.
Well, the Angels and A's had a golden opportunity to bury the Rangers in the standings but failed big time.
The Rangers will activate both Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz before the homestand begins on Monday giving the Rangers back their powerful lineup that torched the American League the first two weeks of the season.
With an improved Mark Lowe and talk of putting the veteran Dave Bush in the 8th inning setup role, the Rangers may finally have found a bullpen combination that can at least find some consistency while Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels finds some help on the trade market.
I for one love the idea of giving Bush a shot at the eighth; there's a sentence I never thought I'd say.
Bush is a veteran that has given the Rangers some quality innings out of the bullpen so far this season and he also allows Texas to use Lowe earlier in the game if a starter needs to be relieved.
Say what you will about Lowe's start, I know I certainly have, but the guy seems to have figured things out with his stint at AAA Round Rock and certainly can't do any worse than the other guys that have pitched in middle relief this season.
However, Daniels has got to find a match that works on the trade market to give the Rangers that last remaining piece to make them World Series contenders again; a shut down bullpen.
The Rangers have reportedly put Heath Bell at the top of their list, which would be an incredible move for the Rangers provided they can extend Bell's contract beyond this season.
Dealing for an established closer like Bell, putting him in the 8th inning in front of Feliz and retaining him beyond this season as the closer when Feliz is placed in the rotation is frankly the optimal scenario.
Whether Daniels can pull it off remains to be seen, but after the magic he's pulled off over the past few seasons I'm not going to count him out of anything so I fully expect some moves over the next two months to fix the Rangers bullpen.
I'd also like to point out that both Cruz and Hamilton were hitting the cover off the ball on their rehab assignment which is huge for Cruz as he seems to have found his timing again.
If Hamilton and Cruz come back on fire and the Rangers bullpen experiment with Bush works out, the Rangers will finally stop wasting so many good performances from the starting rotation.
They could also leave the Angels and A's in the dust thinking what could have been.