Apr 23, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) high fives A.J. Pierzynski (40) after defeating the New York Yankees during the xx inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Sox are riding about as high as 17-17 team can ride right now. They took two close games from the Cincinnati Reds in their last at-bat and look to keep their momentum going as they start a three-city, nine-game road trip with a three-game set at Globe Life Ballpark against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have certainly had their share of injuries this season as well. Starting pitchers Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Tanner Scheppers have all spent time on the disabled list.
Texas made a big splash in the offseason, picking up Prince Fielder in a trade for second baseman Ian Kinsler, which may not seem like spending a lot of money, but the difference between their contracts was $76 million. Though he has started to hit better of late, Fielder has not lived up to the billing as of yet. The primary reason for moving Kinsler was to find a spot for super-prospect Jurickson Profar, who has not been able to get on the field this season.
BSI: There is a challenge for a manager always to operate at less than
full strength. The Rangers have had a slew of injuries on both sides
of the ball, the most in the majors. Are any moves, whether they be
callups or trades, being talked about at this time?
NW: I don’t know of any trade negotiations at the moment; however, skipper Ron Washington has made it very clear he needs another arm in the bullpen and hopes to have one by the deadline. Before Wednesday night’s game the Texas Rangers purchased RHP Scott Baker from the minor league affiliate Round Rock Express and placed LHP Pedro Figueroa on the 60-day DL. As if the Rangers needed any more injuries, one of our second baseman replacement players, Donnie Murphy, suffered a strained neck after running and tumbling over first base and was placed on the 15-day DL. The Rangers also designated INF Josh Wilson, who was the other second base replacement. With those moves, Texas purchased RHP Justin Germano from Round Rock (AAA) and INF Rougned Odor from Frisco (AA) to play at second base. The Rangers also recalled INF Luis Sardinas from Frisco, who made his ML debut in late April when Jim Adduci was placed on the 15-day DL.
BSI: Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder have both gotten off to slow starts, Andrus has already been moved down in the order Can the team do anything to get Fielder back on track?
NW: Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder have started off slowly, too slowly for most Rangers fans. Skipper Ron Washington even had a talk with Andrus about his slump, which apparently Andrus didn’t even realize he was in. Their chat happened on May 3rd before the second game in Anaheim where once again Andrus didn’t produce. The following day Wash took him out of the 2-slot and placed in the 9-hole. Since then, Andrus has performed much better. Entering Wednesday’s game, Andrus was 3-for-10 with two walks. We saw this with Elvis last year in April, too. Although, I thought it was due to the signing of his big contract. Which brings me to Prince Fielder. Many fans are concerned that the Tigers have now gotten the better end of the deal. I’m not convinced that all is lost. I think that with all of the changes that come with being traded it just takes time. I think the key to Fielder doing what Fielder does best, hitting moon shots to right field, is patience and keeping him in the 4-slot. Fielder performed better as of late batting .318/.423/.409 in last seven games where he was in the 4-spot in six of those games. I believe that once the weather starts to warm up and the Rangers start getting some of the injured back, Fielder won’t feel the weight of the team on him and will start hitting like we know he can.
BSI: The Red Sox will be seeing Rangers ace Yu Darvish for the first time this season. He is sporting a 2.87 ERA for the season, but a 4.76 ERA over his last 4 starts. Could his thumb and neck injuries be hindering his performance? Might Ron Washington try to limit his pitch counts to preserve him for the long haul?
NW: Yu Darvish seems to be doing better and he looked like the old Darvish in Anaheim. Although he allowed two homers to the first three batters faced and threw 51 pitches over the first two innings, Darvish went into the seventh inning having thrown only 54 more pitches. Darvish has never been the type of pitcher who cared about his pitch count, but he did state during spring training that he wanted to keep his count low this season. I’m not sure if that is him talking or the coaches, but he did accomplish this during his first few outings. His thumb hasn’t appeared to bother him since before his start at Oakland on 4/21 and I haven’t heard of any complaints about his neck.
BSI: The Red Sox get talked about being in a tough division but the Rangers have the high payroll Angels and the division-leading, pitching-rich Athletics to contend with for a playoff spot. To get back to the playoffs, and possibly see the Red Sox, when are the Rangers expecting their key pieces like Jurickson Profar, Derek Holland and Tanner Scheppers back from the disabled list?
NW: I agree with you that the Red Sox have a tough division, but it seems like everyone who was expected to be “The Team to Beat” is struggling in one way or another. Luckily, Texas has had some good news in the injury department. Jurickson Profar, who suffered a torn muscle in his right shoulder, began swinging a bat and a throwing program on May 7, and is expected to return mid-to-late June. The last update, May 2, for LHP Derek Holland showed he had started a throwing program and is participating in fielding drills. The return of Holland is still expected to be around the All-Star break; however, if he has it his way he’d back sooner than that. RHP Tanner Scheppers, who was placed on the 15-day DL due to right elbow inflammation, threw from 105 ft. on May 5th, will throw off the mound by May 11th. My personal wish is that once Scheppers does return that he will be back in the bullpen as the Texas Rangers’ main setup guy.
Pitching matchups: Friday 8 pm – Buchholz (2-2, 5.63) vs. Darvish (2-1,2.87)
Saturday 8 pm – Lester (3-4, 2.59) vs. Perez (4-2,3.59 )
Sunday 3 pm – Lackey (4-2, 3.72 ) vs. Ross, Jr. (1-3, 4.67)