Rangers' staff needing to 'step up' after rash of injuries

May 12th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ARLINGTON -- On Sunday, the Rangers are set to conclude a nine-game, 10-day road trip to Kansas City, Oakland and Denver. Though they're 22-19 heading into the series finale, they’ve lost a lot more than expected along the way.

Three members of the Rangers' pitching staff landed on the injured list during the road trip: , and .

Eovaldi was expected after he left his last start -- a win over the Nationals on May 2 to finish off the last homestand -- with right groin tightness. The right-hander went to New York to see a specialist and be checked for a sports hernia, but they just found a strain of his groin. He quickly rejoined the team on its road trip, and manager Bruce Bochy and the Rangers don't expect the 34-year-old to miss more than his minimum time on the injured list.

Sborz and Dunning, though, were unexpected. And both injuries may have significant impact, especially on the heels of Eovaldi’s injury.

Bochy unexpectedly announced Dunning’s placement on the injured list with a right rotator cuff strain on Wednesday, ahead of the Rangers’ doubleheader in Oakland.

Sborz exited Game 2 of the doubleheader against the A’s with right shoulder tightness after throwing eight pitches, seven of which were balls. His velocity was down 3-4 mph across all of his pitches as well. The right-hander already spent time on the IL earlier this season with a right rotator cuff strain.

The Rangers now have 13 players on the injured list:

Starters: Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Tyler Mahle, Cody Bradford, Eovaldi, Dunning

Relievers: Sborz, Austin Pruitt, Brock Burke, Carson Coleman

Position players: Josh Jung, Justin Foscue, Wyatt Langford

“We’re covered,” Bochy said. “You hate to see this happening with our starters, but we think we have coverage.”

It’s hard to question Bochy, but “covered” may be a stretch.

The Rangers have just three healthy big league starters now: Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney and Michael Lorenzen. Prospects and are positioned as depth options, and reliever José Ureña, who started Tuesday’s win over the A’s, will likely be an option to move to the rotation for the time being.

That being said, while White is already with the big league club, he allowed three runs without recording an out in his season debut against the A’s on Wednesday. Leiter looked better in his second big league start, but he was still tagged for six runs (four earned) in four innings.

“We’re thin,” Bochy said. “And you have to work around it because you don’t have a choice. That’s why you saw Owen White and Jack Leiter and these guys come up here. Because we need them. We’re going to need these guys to step up and help us. That’s where we’re at right now. Every season you probably go through something like this. We’re getting our share of it, so these young kids are going to get a chance to show what they can do up here."

Ureña has a 3.86 ERA in 25 2/3 innings this season, mostly out of the bullpen, though he dealt five strong innings to pick up his first win of the year in Oakland. That being said, he has also been a starter for much of his career, entering 2024 with a 4.89 ERA across 199 games (143 starts).

“He’s shown me a lot,” Bochy said of Ureña. “I mean, that was some kind of effort he gave us [in his start against the A’s]. We thought he had about 60 pitches, and each time he came up to me and said, ‘I'm good. I'm good.’ Yeah, he went out there and gave us five solid innings and got better as he went. So the stuff, I thought he maintained it too. You lose a guy like Dane Dunning, it's good to see someone like this step [up].”

It’s hard to ignore what Sborz’s placement on the injured list means for the bullpen at this juncture as well.

Texas only has one lefty in Jacob Latz in the bullpen with Burke landing on the injured list on April 13. It’s not something Bochy has expressed concern about, but it’s something to point out nonetheless.

Of players on the 40-man roster -- if it’s to be assumed that Leiter returns to take a spot in the rotation -- the only other healthy pitcher is left-hander Antoine Kelly, fresh off an IL stint of his own at Triple-A Round Rock.

With Ureña likely making another start, there are few reliable arms -- maybe just Latz and José Leclerc -- to go along with the high-leverage veteran duo of Kirby Yates and David Robertson.

The Rangers are going to need somebody to step up, in more ways than one.

“I mean, there's no even talking about it, it has to happen,” Bochy said. “These guys don't dwell on somebody going down. We feel like we have depth here, although we're using everybody and then we're gonna have to probably make another adjustment. I'm proud of these guys for how they don't focus on what happened; they focus forward, and that's how it has to work.”