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Rangers Recap: Does Griffin's Injury Put Six-Man Rotation Talk On Hold?

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The Leadoff

What does the Drew Stubbs acquisition mean? More than anything else, it creates a clear path for the Rangers to option the struggling Delino DeShields to AAA if he doesn't turn things around soon. DeShields provided the team with necessary centerfield depth and, as a bonus, speed off the bench, both roles Drew Stubbs can fills.

Stats of the Week

*Prince Fielder's .470 OPS when batting 4th ranks 43rd among 44 qualifying players.

*The collective efforts of those batting 8th in the team's lineup this year have produced a .304 batting average, best in the AL, and 20 RBI, second best in AL.

*The Rangers have converted 18% of their conventional double play opportunities, best rate in MLB.

*MLB's average exit velocity is 89.2 mph. The Rangers' collective average exit velocity so far is 88.2 mph.

*17 of Ian Desmond's 27 hits have been to the opposite field.

Quote of the Week

"I wanted to be back...I really wanted to be back." -Bobby Wilson on rejoining the Rangers' organization.

Minor League Spotlight

*Ryan Cordell, OF, AA-Frisco: The Texas League April Player of the Month is building on a head-turning Spring with a great start to the season. He's batting .346 with a 1.056 OPS powered by 6 HR and 27 RBI in just 27 games. Cordell is a freak athlete with dynamic speed and athleticism that has translated well for the converted outfielder. In the past he'd struggled with his two-strike approach, swinging at everything under the sun and striking out a lot. He's still stuck out 29 times, but that number is much more manageable with the success he's had at the dish.

Covering the Bases

*A.J Griffin was placed on the 15-day D.L. (right shoulder stiffness). The Rangers have options with how they'll adjust the rotation. They can either use the Thursday off day as a rotation spot or they can honor the off-day and use a spot starter. If they went that route, they would then have flexibility of when to use the spot starter as they wouldn't necessarily need to use him in Griffin's rotation turn.

*The Rangers re-acquired Drew Stubbs on Saturday. I briefly discussed what it means in "The Leadoff" portion of the blog.

*Oh, the bullpen...the reality is this group really has underperformed expectations which, in fairness, were probably set unreasonably high. With the stretch of starting pitching the Rangers have received, they should be better than 18-14. The bullpen certainly isn't in crisis mode, but might stand to benefit from an upgrade at some point. Externally, not much can be done until July when a gauntlet of quality relievers on non-contending teams are made available. Internally? Here are some names to consider: Luke Jackson, Andrew Faulkner, and Matt Bush...

*...Speaking of Matt Bush, I think those who expect Bush to ride into town and take over the reigns from Shawn Tolleson as the team's closer are misguided. Does he have closer stuff? Yes. Does he become a closer eventually? Perhaps. But the guy has never even pitched in a Major League game and is battling way more than just the guy in the box sixty-feet, six inches away. Can he help this bullpen? No doubt. But I think those expected him to be the next great closer in baseball need to sit tight just a bit.

*Rougned Odor has done a great job filling the leadoff void. Does he profile as a typical leadoff hitter? No. Neither did Ian Kinsler and both with the Rangers and the Tigers he's been one of baseball's best at the top. I wonder where Odor ends up when Shin-Soo Choo returns. Odor's proven he's a highly capable run-producer. Does Choo, who has had success at the top of the order, take that role and bump Odor down to the middle? The team has options, but they're great options.

*Speaking of options, do the Rangers have any with Prince Fielder? He's struggled so far this year and is doing so in a crucial spot in the lineup (3rd or 4th). His lack of speed limits some of his lineup versatility, in a sense, but if he continues to struggle, the Rangers have to do something about it, right? The next step, I'd have to believe, is finding a different spot in the order for him. I wouldn't be opposed to batting Prince 6th until he figures stuff out.

*Joey Gallo, it was announced earlier in the week, will miss 3-4 weeks with a grade 1 strain of his left groin. He suffered the same injury with his right groin in 2013. This hopefully doesn't impact him too much outside of that window. Gallo has had a great start to 2016, most notably for me with the plate discipline. While he has struck out 21 times in 20 games, he's also walked 17 times. His current 600 plate appearance pace is 150 strikeouts and 121 walks.

The Walkoff

A.J. Griffin got hurt Saturday. For the second straight Saturday, the Rangers had an injury likely influence a "logjam" situation. Last week it was Josh Hamilton's setback which paints a much clearer outfield picture. This week, Griffin's injury probably calms the six-man rotation conversation. With that said, Griffin will hopefully return after 15 days or shortly thereafter, so I still want to consider the merit of having a six-man rotation for a period of time.

Before we do, let's lay out the circumstances that even having this conversation makes sense.

  1. A.J. Griffin comes back healthy and all other remain healthy as well.
  2. The production of the five non-Yu Darvish starters remains strong to the point where there isn't an obvious odd man out, as much as the Twitter majority wants to bump Derek Holland and Martin Perez seemingly every time they start.

So long as one of those two hold, I want the Rangers to try something I've been against for a long time.

My biggest concern about a six-man rotation has always been that there's no reason to get less starts from your best pitchers. I still feel that way and that's why I want the team to return to a five-man rotation when August rolls around through the remainder of the regular and post-season. With that said, I think using a six-man rotation in the months prior can be of great benefit.

Of the six starting candidates, five of them will be within two years removed from significant injury. Even starters with a clean bill of health start to run out of gas towards the end of the year, let alone pitchers who haven't pitched a full season in some time.

-Yu Darvish: Fresh off of Tommy John

-Martin Perez: Not even a full season back from Tommy John

-A.J. Griffin: First year back from Tommy John

-Derek Holland: Shoulder injury and knee injury the last two years.

-Colby Lewis: Old, bionic hip, old.

While an extra few starts in the middle months from Hamels and Darvish would be nice, I'd also rather them have more bullets to fire down the stretch and into the post-season. A few fewer starts might leave a little more gas in the tank.

In order for this to happen, you need "buy-in" from your pitchers. We know Yu wants this and I believe Cole would sign off on it based on conversations that have been had with him. Outside of those two, frankly, none of the other guys are good enough to have the type of say to put the kibosh on a team-related strategy.

Again, I think it is important to distinguish that my endorsement is only for a few months and nothing more. But for those few months, I think the team stands to gain a benefit felt throughout the year.

Chances are that one of those two scenarios come into play and this isn't even a conversation. But, of course, the conversation is what makes this great.

Until next time, Peace Be the Journey

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