ANAHEIM -- Rangers pitcher Adrian Sampson summed up the clubhouse feelings toward Edinson Vólquez, who was placed on the injured list with a sprained right elbow on Friday.
“Obviously, it's an unfortunate situation,” Sampson said. “The guy worked his tail off rehabbing. I went through the same process. When you hear the news, it makes you feel sick. I hope he can come around, get better and help us.”
So what now? Here are the questions and possible answers.
Q: What’s next for Volquez?
A: He will be examined in Arlington by Dr. Keith Meister. The best-case scenario would be that Volquez rest for 2-3 weeks, then resume a throwing program. He could be sidelined for at least a month. Worst case is that he has another torn ligament. Volquez has already had two Tommy John reconstruction surgeries, and he said he’ll retire rather than go through it again.
Q: Who takes his place?
A: Sampson will pitch next Saturday against Oakland. He had a good spring and allowed one run in six innings of relief against the Astros on Monday. Having rediscovered his slider as a swing-and-miss pitch makes him a much better option than last year.
Q: Who is behind Sampson?
A: Ariel Jurado pitched in 12 games for the Rangers last season with a 5.93 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. He is the only starter at Triple-A with Major League experience.
Q: What about Taylor Hearn?
A: Hearn, Texas' No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is one of the crown jewels among starting pitchers in the upper levels of the Minor League system. The others are Double-A right-hander Jonathan Hernandez (No. 8) and left-handers Brock Burke (No. 9) and Joe Palumbo (No. 7). The plan was to give them more development time so as to not rush them to the Majors before they are ready. The Rangers ran into that in the past with Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez, Tanner Scheppers and others. Their patience will be tested again.
A: Not necessarily. Lance Lynn missed 2016 because of Tommy John and he is back at the top of his game. The rate of success from Tommy John runs the entire spectrum, depending on the pitcher.
Q: Were the Rangers pushing their luck with three Tommy John cases in one rotation?
Q: Did Jason Hammel retire prematurely?
A: Mendez has a sprained left elbow and Farrell has a broken jaw. Neither has resumed throwing. Mendez is not expected back until mid-season. Farrell could return quicker because his wasn’t an arm injury, but he lost a lot of strength while his jaw was wired shut for three weeks and is still trying to get it back.
Q: Is there anybody who could surprise?
A: Wes Benjamin. He is a left-hander who was a fifth-round Draft pick in 2014. He has had some injuries but has also posted decent numbers through the system: 3.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Benjamin is in Triple-A Nashville’s rotation, and if he can find a good breaking ball, he could be a pitcher to watch.
Q: Is Dallas Keuchel an option?
A: Don’t see it. He wouldn’t provide immediate help, since he probably needs a month to get ready to pitch in a Major League game. Beyond that, the Rangers weren’t motivated to pursue him in the offseason and that’s probably not going to change for immediate gratification now.
Q: Are there any other free agents still looking for work?
A: Seems odd that James Shields didn’t draw much interest this offseason. He pitched 204 innings for the White Sox last year, with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. He could at least eat some innings for a club that doesn’t want to rush its young pitching. Look, if the Athletics can keep putting together a rotation with smoke and mirrors, there is hope for the 29 other teams.