Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rangers May Be Down Yet Another Starting Pitcher in Harrison, Could be Helpful for Oakland

Yet again as in almost every previous year to date the critics have gushed over the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to win the American League Western Division Title. This year, with the signing of Robinson Cano, among others, they are even throwing the Seattle Mariners into the mix. So why not the back to back AL West Champion Oakland Athletics? 

Two years in a row the Athletics have won the AL West and still all this talk, talk, talk of how the Rangers are better with Prince Fielder or how Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will bounce back for the Angels, etc. It's clearly insanity right? The A's have a great team with a stellar rotation and arguably one of the leagues best bullpens. They make be lacking in a major power hitter but if guys like Brandon Moss, Coco Crisp & Josh Donaldson can bring their 2013 successes to 2014 and Josh Reddick can return to his 2012 form the A's should be just fine, as usual ... And as is also usual they will have to do it in underdog (and unappreciated fashion).

Harrison (Image courtesy of Getty Images)
On another note the Rangers MAY have lost yet another starting pitcher from there rotation today, leaving them with only two starting rotation spots filled by Yu Darvish and Martin Perez. Here's a quick story I did for MLB Nation on starting pitcher, Matt Harrison's possible sidelining: 

Before pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona for the Texas Rangers' spring training camp there were already questions regarding the team's starting rotation. RHP Colby Lewis is expected to be fine for the season but he is just coming off of a hip surgery that no other pitcher has had before and it is not known if it will have any affect on his delivery or if he will remain healthy leaving Lewis fighting to take back his spot in the rotation. LHP Derek Holland is out until at least mid season due to knee surgery after an injury he acquired at home, tripping over his dog. For LHP Alexi Ogando there is no guarantee that his arm can hold up an entire season in a starting role. That left Texas with three proven starters, RHP Yu Darvish, LHP Martin Perez and LHP Matt Harrison.
Now it appears that the Ranger may be down another starting pitcher. Southpaw Matt Harrison was expected to return to camp this season at 100 percent after having three surgeries, two of them on his lower back to repair a herniated disk, that kept him out of the game for almost all of the team's 2013 campaign. He began experiencing stiffness in his neck on Tuesday. Being cautious this caused the team to keep Harrison from throwing his first live bullpen session of the spring.
It has been reported Thursday that the stiffness and pain Harrison had been feeling has now moved down to his lower back near the area where he had the two surgeries and that the Rangers are taking no chances with their proven starter. He will have an MRI today and will be returning to Texas on Monday to see team spine specialist, Dr. Drew Dorsett, who performed two of Harrison's surgeries last year. Harrison is being sidelined until at least a prognosis is given by Dr. Dorsett. On the subject Harrison told Associated Press reporters,
 There is obviously some concern there from what happened last year. I just hope that it's not a serious issue and something I can take a few days down and stay on top of my core program and get right back out there.
Hanson (Image courtesy of Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
The loss of Harrison could greatly strain the already ailing Ranger's starting rotation. There are other possibilities for them to use in starting rolls such as, the just signed, RHP Tommy Hanson. Hanson had a terrible year in 2013 going 3-4 with a 5.42 ERA in just 15 games with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He had been losing velocity on his fastball and also had a family tragedy that derailed his season. As of now there are no guarantees that Hanson will take a starting role, but it is  likely considering the injury count continues to build in Texas. Also fighting to fill the emptiness in the Rangers' rotation are Robbie RossTanner ScheppersNick Tepesch and Michael Kirkman. However having to use Ross or Scheppers would deplete the bullpen strength leaving the Rangers weaker later in games.
Harrison was a star back in 2012 winning 18 games for the Rangers and posting a 3.29 ERA. He was the strongest of the Rangers pitchers going into the post season that year. As the Rangers pitching woes continue it is being questioned if they can really make a run at the American League Western Division Title this year.
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